I had a really bad day yesterday. Actually, this weekend, I think a lot of the feelings that have been building up in me culminated in an emotional explosion of sorts. I realized that I've been living in basically a low-grade depression for months, possibly years. When I was at the library the other day I checked out some books on post-partum depression because I experienced that during the months following Benjamin's birth. This is always a hard time for me, as sleep deprivation and social isolation, leads to a feeling of overall sadness for me, but this time it was different. I lacked motivation for life in general. My joy was gone.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
I'd like to avoid that same depression following my next birth in April. I began to read one of the books on maternal depression, not necessarily just post-partum depression, and it was quite eye opening. It talked about the effects of a mother's depression on her children. I felt really sad reading this, because I know how this feels. One of the symptoms of depression is hyper-irritability. Yesterday, I was definitely very irritable. Micah came back and told me later, "Mom, I felt scared when you were upset." He wasn't scared that I was going to hurt him physically, but my harsh words are wounding to him. I don't blame him. I just wanted everyone to be away from me, I wanted to talk to no one.
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
Some of my emotional volatility has to do with pregnancy hormones, and I definitely am feeling a greater intensity of feelings and emotions, crying is coming much more easily in these last couple of weeks (I've just entered the third trimester when I think the hormones are kicking in to gear even more). I do not want my children to grow up and remember having a mom that was up and down and emotionally volatile. God willing there will be more pregnancies in my future, more months of caring for infants who wake in the night and I don't get good sleep, and more seasons of hormonal changes and the subsequent swinging of emotions internally. I have to learn to deal with that and conquer it. I refuse to let it take over me.
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:26-28
One of the things the book said was that one of the steps towards healing from depression is taking ones eyes off of ones self. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that as I allow myself to wallow in my feelings of sadness and low motivation, I am being completely absorbed by myself. I'm not thinking a thing about my husband or my boys. When it is a rainy, cold day, and I allow the grey gloomy weather to cause me to feel sad, and then I mope around, lacking joy, I am thinking nothing of the effect that will have on my family. I realized all at once that I want to be thinking about, "How can I make Steve's day better?", "How can I make Isaac, Micah, Andrew and Benjamin's day better?" "How can I bring more joy, more laughter, more of Christ, into their lives?"
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1
Yesterday afternoon, while I was trying to prepare dinner and Benjamin (who is sick and miserable) was clinging to my legs and crying, and I was fighting back tears myself, I thought to myself, "I have chosen this life. I have said, "God, I'm willing to have as many children as you will give me." In saying that I have also said, "God, I am willing to put aside my own feelings and think of what is best for my husband and children. I am willing to go with less sleep, and be joyful about it. I am willing to be pregnant and experience all day nausea for 4 months, then shooting, stabbing pains in my leg when I walk. I am willing to hurt physically to bear these children. I'm willing to give up being able to write a blog post without being interrupted multiple times to discipline these boys under my care who are being disobedient. I am willing to cook for a large family even when I don't naturally like to cook. I am willing to live in a house that is messy more then it is clean. I am willing to be argued with over, and over, and over again, and to respond with patience and give the appropriate discipline."
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4
So when all those things occur, it isn't time to whine, or to feel sorry for myself, but to realize that I told God that I was willing to experience all these things, when I said, "I'm open to all the children that you will give me." It is so easy to say that, and just be thinking about the sweet smell of a newborn, the little tiny fingers and toes, the wonder of another child who is literally "one flesh" of you and your husband, of all the joys that do come when teaching your child to read or delighting over a flower together, or beholding some other wonder of God's creation together. But the reality is that with all the joys, all the pleasures, the beautiful highs of having children, there are the challenges, the emotional ups and downs, and sacrifices that come with it.
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..." Philippians 2:6-7
So, I woke this morning, and despite the fact, that I have the very same hormones, the very same flesh, that I had yesterday, the same children, the same challenges, the same dreary, rainy day, I awoke with a sense of purpose. To make my children's day a better day. To bring joy to them. To care for them. To hold Benjamin every time he needs it. To read and learn with enthusiasm. To think of them. Yes, just to think of them. Not of me. Not of how I feel. Not of what I want. But of them.
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." 1 John 3:16
Ultimately, I hope God is making me more of a servant. That is what I want. I want to forget about me and pour out my life as a servant. Like Christ did.