A Life Postpartum
by Lisa Hardwick
“To the woman he said,
‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
In pain you shall bring forth children.’”
—Genesis 3:16, ESV
This pain of childbirth has been known for thousands of generations.
In pain we weep alone after the news of another miscarriage, ashamed of a body which will not respond to our greatest efforts or our longest prayers. In pain we cry out as the contractions steal our breath, sweat pours into our bloodshot eyes, and the hours press on. In pain we lay in the darkness of our solitude, the postpartum depression consumes our minds beyond the point of reality. In pain we hide the story of a stillborn, trusting no one else to share in our grief that will never truly end. In pain we mourn the loss of our identities as the nursing baby steals hour after hour of sleep, and with each sunrise we acknowledge another day of sacrifice. In pain we grow bitterness as the years pass with no conception, despite every needle, pill, and procedure we were promised would finally work.
In pain we push others away.
Only in love can we share our own pain with others. Only in love will we fall on one another’s shoulders, helpless under a burden much too heavy for one woman to carry. It is love that allows us to admit our weaknesses, to accept help, to come alongside the generation of women who will rise up after us and show them how to bring light to those lost in the darkness.
In love, I tell my story.
Birth and Pain
I gave birth to my daughter Lorelai after struggling through thirty-one hours of induced labor, and the following week I was re-hospitalized for a uterine infection. The IV antibiotics coupled with high stress levels began to wreak havoc on my GI system, and I experienced diarrhea up to thirty times per day for the next three weeks. When Lorelai turned twelve days old I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. Insomnia set in. I didn’t want my baby. I viewed her as an unwanted stranger. I couldn’t keep food down, and my weight plummeted at a dangerous rate. I stopped breastfeeding after only three weeks, which piled on additional undue guilt. I wept through my days, and I begged the Lord to take me away from this nightmare. I could see only darkness.
Hope and Help
At the height of crisis, the church stepped in. An acquaintance from Christ’s Church Mason contacted me to set up a meal train. I anticipated a couple casseroles, but what I actually received was a beautiful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The church became the hands and feet of Jesus that held our family together. People of the church, many of whom I had not met, agreed to bring our family a meal three times a week for the following six weeks. Women brought me hot meals and sat for hours on my couch until my husband arrived home from work. They cried with me. They listened. They didn’t give suggestions, or try to make me feel better. They held and loved my baby, and they spoke the truth:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV).
My husband began to bottle-feed Lorelai through the long nights so my body could recover. Nonetheless, I developed another infection and found myself in the emergency room on Lorelai’s one-month birthday. Physical and emotional recovery occurred within God’s perfect timing, which was slower than my desire for instant recovery. I began to attend a weekly support group for patients with severe perinatal mental health illnesses, and I was treated with an array of medications. I battled incessant thoughts of suicide as the enemy fought to keep me in the dark. His attempts to overcome my mind with fear were demolished as the children of God raised their voices in petition for my family.
I discovered the truth of this Scripture:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39, ESV).
Healing and Community
I was invited to meet with the church’s “Mom’s Group,” and I was welcomed into a group of women who surrounded me at my darkest and lifted me from the pit. I experienced firsthand the power found in Christian relationships as described by King Solomon:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, ESV).
These women became my village, and they invited me to live life with them. We lived and learned together while sitting around each other’s living room floors or cluttered kitchen tables. We showed compassion as we cradled each other’s crying children and spoke love into their eager ears. We read the Word together while little feet pitter-pattered and giggles erupted in the background. We laid hands on each other in prayer, and we cried messy tears. We asked the hard questions, and we answered each other in truth. We celebrated each other’s tiny victories, and we mourned the shared losses from our imperfect pasts.
In his timing, by his grace, my body and my mind healed. The veil of depression was lifted from my eyes, and I saw my daughter for who she truly is: a gift from God. Our love grew like wildflowers. I now hold sacred the intimate bond we share as mommy and daughter. I didn’t believe I would ever be able to love her, but now I walk in victory and treasure her as a blessed child of the one true King.
Lisa Hardwick is a wife, mommy, and Nashville native who loves coffee-fueled fellowship and authentic relationships.
Ed. note: Would you or someone you care about like to know more about how to get connected with the Mom’s Group at Christ’s Church? You can check it out here: