By: Erin Davis
You may know her as the woman who crashed her car into the White House a couple of weeks ago. She was killed by D.C. police after leading them on a terrifying chase. Her 18-month-old daughter was strapped in her car seat in the back seat.
Miriam was not a terrorist.
She was a dental hygienist from Connecticut with no known history of violence.
She was a momma, who cared enough to strap her little one safely in a car seat, but somehow gave into the urge to turn her car into a weapon while her baby watched from the back.
While the nation scratches their head about what would cause someone to take make such a dramatic and devastating choice, I keep picturing myself behind the wheel. Like Miriam, I struggled with postpartum depression. Like Miriam, I battled urges to do crazy things that were totally outside the realm of normal for me. Like Miriam, I found my mind in a brutal tug of war—with my love for my children pulling on one end of the rope and a nasty battle for a clear mind pulling on the other.
Research indicates that almost a quarter of new moms experience some form of depression. They may not all be ramming their cars into national monuments, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention. An alarming number of moms are struggling, really struggling in the wake of giving birth.
I struggled with postpartum depression for weeks after delivering my second child, Noble. That experience opened my eyes to how many women are impacted by this issue. Since then:
- My best friend has been battling pre-partum depression. It has been scary and heartbreaking to carry this burden with her.
- I counseled another friend who was fantasizing about leaving her husband and children after the delivery of her second born. I know her well enough to know that those urges were a result of her hormones, not her heart.
- I’ve learned that an older woman who I greatly respect and admire as a fantastic mother and Christ follower suffered terribly with postpartum depression twenty years ago. She confided in me that she met with a Christian psychiatrist for many months during that season.
- I’ve followed up with a woman who had postpartum psychosis with her first-born several years ago. She has gone on to have two more children without the mental side effects, giving me hope that there is a way out of this dark cloud.
When I started looking for stories of postpartum illness, I found them everywhere. That can be a scary thought, as so many women seem to be suffering in silence. But if you are among the women who has battled a significant change in your mental health since becoming a mother, I pray you will find deep comfort in knowing that you are not alone. You are not a bad mother. Your situation is not hopeless.
If I could grab coffee with Miriam and the other mothers struggling with postpartum depression, I would tell them the story of Jesus and the Garasene man found in Mark 5.
Jesus had just finished teaching a large crowd when He asked His disciples to get in a boat with Him. They didn’t know where they were going, but Jesus did. He was steering them all toward a radical encounter.
Mark 5:1-2 says, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Garasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.”
At one point this man had been bound with shackles and chains (vs. 4). But no chain could hold him anymore. So, he was banished to live alone among the dead (vs. 3). He seemed to be a lost cause.
Verse 5 says that this man could be found wandering the tombs at all hours of the night and day crying out and cutting himself with rocks. Clearly, this man had had a mental break.
The Bible is clear that he was demon possessed. Hear me: I not saying that women with postpartum depression are in the same situation. But if we will study his story, we find great hope for all of us who have ever struggled to hold on to mental clarity.
Jesus ultimately casts the demons out of this man. There were so many of them, that they called themselves “Legion” (vs. 9). Legion was a source of great agony him. Jesus went to the tormented.
Jesus was not freaked out by the Garasean man. He was not put off by him. He didn’t offer an unfeeling pat on the back or go out of His way to avoid him. Instead, He walked headlong into this man’s pain and suffering and intervened. At the end of the story we find the man “clothed and in his right mind” (vs. 15).
If you are struggling with postpartum depression you need to know that Jesus has the same reaction to you. You do not disgust or disappoint Him. What is happening in your mind is not outside the realm of His omnipresence or reign. He is willing and able to press in.
And for those of us who have been through this fire or have watched as postpartum depression has scorched the lives of women we love, it’s time to get very honest. The stories I am hearing compel me to blow the lid of this issue.
Who knows how things would have turned out differently for Miriam if someone had simply said,
“I’ve been there.” “Let’s pray to the God who points His boat toward the tormented.”
If you’re struggling, let me say those words to you. I’ve been there. It’s scary and hard and feels hopeless. But it is not hopeless. There is a God who sees you and is able to get you clothed and in a right mind.
To the rest of you, will you help me blow the lid off of postpartum depression? Will you check in with the new mommas in your world and lovingly ask them about their mental health? Who knows what a difference you could make. Let Miriam’s story motivate us to find out.
A popular speaker, author and blogger, ERIN DAVIS has addressed women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s Truth with others. She is the author of several books including Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves, True Princess: Embracing Humility in an All About Me World, The Bare Facts with Josh McDowell and the Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood As a Sacred Role. When she’s not writing books, you can find Erin chasing down chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.