Postpartum Anxiety: It’s for the Birds

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:26-29

Before having Winnie I had heard a good deal about postpartum depression (a very cleaned up, neatly packaged version of PPD) but no one had ever mentioned anything about the crippling anxiety that could come with motherhood. As a parent, of course we are always going to be concerned about our children and occasionally even worried. That normal, often healthy, feeling is not what I am talking about.

No one prepared me for the nights that I would lay awake watching my baby sleep in the bassinet next to me. I would labor in fear (irrationally) thinking my watchful gaze would prevent tragedy.

No one prepared me for the myriad scenarios that would play out in my head – over and over again – each time we left the house. These visions would ultimately lead to me being afraid to go anywhere with my baby.

No one prepared me for the fear that my body was now broken and I would probably die at any passing moment.

This was more than being concerned for the well being of my baby. This was anxiety and it was controlling my life.

When you go to your postpartum follow up appointments and your Well Baby appointments, they don’t ask you about feeling anxious. The questions they ask are specifically geared towards postpartum depression. So, on paper I was fine.

But I knew I wasn’t fine. I knew the thoughts I was having weren’t healthy. But I felt ashamed. I was afraid people would think I was a bad mother.

As a Christian, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was struggling with anxiety. I knew people would tell me to pray more and that would fix it.

I had been praying constantly. Multiple times a day I would ask the Lord to give me peace. But I still felt anxious. The scenarios continued to play out in my mind over and over again.

At the heart of anxiety is unbelief. Unbelief that God is in control. Unbelief that God has a plan for me and my family. Unbelief that God loves me.

But are you not of more value?

In order for me to move past my postpartum anxiety, I first had to remember my value. God provides for the birds each and every day. If I am of more value than the birds, should I not expect that God will do the same for me?

I firmly believe that Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 6:26-29 with people who struggle with anxiety in mind. When your mind spirals out of control and is stuck in the “what ifs” you need something concrete to grasp.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Jesus begins with a concrete concept that our finite minds can grasp before He moves on to the heavy, abstract idea of our value.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your span of life?

Why is it that Jesus’ rhetorical questions often carry the most weight and make you feel like the biggest dummy in the world?

Well of course Jesus, I cannot add an hour to my life by having anxiety. How silly do you think I am?

I apparently am very silly.

While this question is deeply convicting, it also gives freedom and release from anxiety. When I read this question, I am able to see anxiety for what it is – a lie. It is a lie of unbelief that taints how we see God.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.

The definition of toil is exhausting labor. Anxiety is exhausting labor of the mind and body. It is tiring, exhausting labor that yields no fruit. The lilies of the field do not toil or spin yet they are beautifully clothed (metaphorically). Worrying will not fix problems. Anxiety will not help you in hard situations. But belief that God is who He says he is will.

Friends, I would like to tell you that I am completely out of the anxiety forest – but I’m not. I still have moments when it tries to creep back in. The difference between now and when Winnie was first born is that now I am equipped to fight it off. I keep these verses tucked away in my heart and mind so that when anxiety strikes I am prepared.

Postpartum anxiety is real. If you are feeling anxiety at all, please talk to someone. Voicing my struggles to my husband was so freeing even though it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  If you feel stuck in a place where you are drowning in anxiety, please seek professional help. There is no shame in postpartum anxiety but there is freedom from its lies.

 

AUDREY KELLNER

Audrey, her husband Chris, and daughter Winnie currently reside in Grand Rapids, MI. Audrey enjoys playing chess with Chris and taking crazy amounts of photos of Winnie.

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