This is nothing like a sister-wife. But I believe that having a pastor-husband saved me from the brink of nearly losing myself to postpartum anxiety after the birth of my second child.
My steady, anchoring husband has always been the one in our relationship with two feet on the ground, while I have a tendency to float around in the sky like a kite chasing the wind. The wind in my life before children included things like honey-do lists, adventures to have, projects to complete, gardening that took much longer than planned… nothing crazy. When I got excited and ran down the bunny trail, he ran with me, but helped me remain realistic when I needed it and could always pick me up if I tripped and fell down.
A beautiful example of Christ’s love, I know.
Fast-forward through having a first child with special needs and the journey that led to the birth of our second, one week after my husband got his Master’s of Divinity Degree (a.k.a. pastoral degree). I spent the summer home with just my baby girl, while my older one went to daycare. I navigated being a mom to a newborn much better than I remembered doing with my first, especially since I allowed myself to actually sleep when she slept most of the time.
Then I went back to work full time, just like I had done before. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the ugly illness and beast called postpartum anxiety moved into my body and mind and quickly tried to take over my entire life. For several months, I battled. We battled. There were moments that my thoughts were so dark and my anxiety was so overwhelming, I didn’t know how to survive it. How to move past it, cope better or differently, get a grip on what already completely evaded me.
My pastor-husband walked with me through each meltdown with such grace, understanding, love, concern, and acceptance. He ministered to me as no one else could; he was there for me more than I had ever needed him to be and more than I ever thought I could need anyone.
I was in therapy every other week, I went to my midwives, I tried medication. It seemed like nothing was helping. (In my case, my body completely rejected the medication, and it made me physically sick.) It seemed like the emergency brake on my emotional control train was broken, and when I felt overwhelmed and overcome by anxiety it seemed I had no other option than to let the train crash. At least I knew it would stop then. That’s a really terrifying place to be.
Although I had been going to therapy all through the pregnancy to learn more and new coping skills to help me navigate stressful situations and anxiety, when the postpartum anxiety moved in, it felt like the illness took my tools and put them higher than I could reach. I was so frustrated. I knew the tools were there, I knew I had worked hard to gain them, and yet I couldn’t access them.
My pastor-husband lovingly walked me through and helped me find tools that worked, even if it was just holding me while I bawled my eyes out and sat on the bathroom floor. He was my logical mind when the postpartum anxiety stole it from me. He helped me think clearly when I felt clouded and overwhelmed by the illness.
The postpartum anxiety lasted about six months before I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We realized my body could no longer handle dairy or eggs, so I eliminated them from my diet. I started doing yoga again and writing more. The fog began to lift and I started to do little things for myself again, like I knew I needed to do. The meltdowns became fewer and further between. I started to emerge from under the cloud of illness and felt more like myself again.
My pastor-husband taught me more about God and Jesus through his ministering to me, both through that season and since then, than I’ve learned in a long time. I experienced so much love and grace, acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement, hope and peace through my pastor-husband.
During that time, he was many times my pastor first (on-call 24/7) and my husband second. He stepped up and did even more than usual with meals, kids, and household chores. When I couldn’t do much because I felt so overwhelmed, he let me rest. He didn’t pressure or judge me for where I was. He never made me question whether or not he was in my corner.
My pastor-husband taught me what it looks like to love someone “in sickness and in health,” and he also showed me such incredible love from the Father God and “considering others as more important than yourself” like Jesus.
If you’re battling mental illness, either postpartum or in general, I hope this offers you encouragement and hope as I recall all of the ways God showed up and loved me and walked with me through this season.
Whether you have a pastor-husband or not, I pray that you have believers in your life with whom you can face the battle, so you don’t feel like you’re fighting alone. Jesus our Savior is the best pastor-husband that any of us could ask for, and he wants you to experience his love, acceptance, grace, mercy, healing, peace, redemption, and hope. Will you let him show you those things?