Postpartum Depression, Love, Joy, and Marriage

I’ve been making a point in this last year to be more transparent. There is a tendency among people and particularly among Christians, to pretend that all is well. That joy means happiness, that peace means a life without conflict. We all have problems, we all have conflict, joy is from knowing that these conflicts are the work of God, peace comes when we accept the things he has put into out lives – the good and the bad.

We had a baby girl this past December, and while it was joyous, we’ve had a difficult time with postpartum depression. My wife had a bit with our first child but it wasn’t quite as bad. Some of it is just due to differences between the two children, but I think (from hearing the same thing from many women who have had 4+ children) that girls are harder on the woman than boys are (even the Torah says the period of rest after childbirth is longer after a girl). So it’s been difficult. I’ve spent a lot of time at night praying, dreading when our daughter would cry, knowing that each time she screamed that Susan was battling with how she felt, struggling with thoughts she did not choose to have. It would be foolish for me to suggest that she was the only one struggling.

There has been an aspect of humility in all of this; I realized that I had not prepared my family in some ways for the challenges of a new child, that I had not been spending time in the Word of God with my wife like I should have been. I had let the world inform our minds on the value of the home, and on the value of children. And so there were many hours spent in prayer: Dear God please help my child to have faith so that she will not demand to be held constantly, please help my wife to call upon you, to cast her cares upon you, to take the thoughts she is having captive. Please help me to be wise in my words, prompt in my actions. Help me to be not so foolish as I have been, Above all else, thank you for this child, thank you for these sleepless nights, thank you for showing me my failures before they cost me more than they already have. It is getting better, much better, but it is still on occasion difficult. The real difficulty is in not falling back into old habits as I see improvement, in believing that the crisis is over, that I can return to my foolish ways without consequence.

There is more about these things that I would like to say, but they can come later. For now, this is sufficient. For those of you who read this, how does this compare to your own experiences? How did you deal with similar struggles?

The Equation of Love

Continuing on in the theme of love, here’s a challenge. Write down your simplest definition of love. Then read John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Now, here’s the challenge, examine your definition and see if it fits so that God loved the world and also loved his Son (who he was sending to die at the hands of cruel and hateful men). I think there are lots of “equations” like this in Scripture that force us to stretch our idea of something. As always, feedback is appreciated, and, Lord willing, will be responded to.

On the birth of my daughter

It’s Labor Day, and my wife is in the throes of delivery. At first glance, this is not a place for a man to be. There is pain, but I can not bear it, there is work to be done, but I can not do it. My love is lying in a bed and she is aching and I am reduced to holding her hand and watching the contractions come one after another. On the monitor beside the bed, the readout show each contraction’s intensity. They have been steady at 50 and 60 for several hours now, but numbers are often misleading. The scale goes up to 100, so 50 can only be so bad, I think to myself, knowing the foolishness of the thought even as I think it. For my wife, 50 means that she leans forward in the bed, her toes curling, her breathing rapid. When it’s over, she smiles faintly. “Thirty hours since the first contraction”, she says, “I hope it’s not much longer.”

It isn’t. It’s only ten minutes later that I hear a sound from Susan that I’ve rarely heard in the eight years I’ve known her. She is slumped sideways in the bed, and she is weeping. On the monitor thick black lines – two mountains – tower over the previous hills. They leave the scale at 100, heading off the chart for who knows where. I hug Susan. She is trembling, her lips parted, but no sound emerging and in that moment I am forcibly reminded of Genesis 3:16, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”. This is sin, I think, a down payment on death. A man and woman sinned, a piece of fruit was eaten and this exists to remind us. It exists for no other reason than that. It is the reason that there are thorns and weeds, it is the reason that men must work and sweat, it is the reason that my sister’s baby died. It is the reason that I and my wife and our children will die one day as well.

It is only a few minutes later that the midwife tells us that Susan can begin pushing and it is only an hour later when we first see our daughter. She is beautiful, with her mother’s dark almond eyes and my thick brown hair. The room is not quiet by any stretch of the imagination, it is bustling with people and activity, nurses cleaning and talking and clearing away the soiled detritus of delivery, but to me, the room seems silent. To me, it has become a sanctuary. I stand there, wearing what I am sure is a foolish smile on my face and I hold my daughter in my arms. Behind me, the contraction monitor is still, the thick black lines long gone from the screen, the thoughts of sin and death pushed aside by this glorious reminder of life. I stand in the room and hold my daughter and then I hand her to my wife. She is smiling.

On the stillbirth of my nephew

The broken child upon the bed,
The stains from where his mother bled,
The crown of tears wreathed round his head,
The ache and fear of faith misled;
On bended knee with arms outspread
With wordless cries my heart has said,
And wept the prayers this night has bred:
“O Lamb of God,” my son is dead.
“My God, that I had died instead.”

Night and day, grief and peace,
between each there is a moment that is neither one nor the other,
where both fit neatly on the same horizon,
or in the same heart.

The broken child lies on the bed,
The morning sky grows soft and red,
Bathed in the glow it’s softly shed,
I hold my son and stroke his head,
And think on words that David said.
This precious child – not broke, nor dead,
I’m promised that he sleeps instead,
Thus grief and joy are ever wed,
My grief and joy are ever wed.

Sodomy in the Church

Marriage is not about you. This life is not about you. Consider:

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebews 11:3

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33

Marriage is about Christ and the church. It is a witness. It is a symbol. We do not need to ask ourselves why sodomy is so rampant in our culture. We need only look at the marriages in the churches of our nation. With every husband that refuses to lead, with every wife that lifts her head to rule, we have shown the world how we can place a skirt upon Jesus Christ. We have shown them that the words chosen to frame the worlds, were poor in their choosing. We have said to the world, “the sexes are identical” and they have responded with the homosexual movement, a movement whose very name means “the sexes are identical”. Should it come as a surprise? Our attitude toward sodomy begins in the home and in the church. Our attitude toward sodomy begins everyday. Because marriage is not about us. This life is not about us. It is all about God.