Ally wanted to be a mother her whole life, but a month before her daughter was born, she couldn’t have felt more resentment toward her pregnancy.
Week by week her Disney-esque expectations failed, and reality began to terrify her. She wanted the baby early, but her daughter, Maggie, came seven days late. The delivery lasted 26 hours.
Having once struggled with depression when she was younger, Ally was determined not to let it happen again. She grasped for control, but postpartum depression set in quick. Then like fire follows wind, her anger came. “She was an excellent baby, and I was a mess,” she says. “I couldn’t find joy in her.”
When Maggie cried, she’d yell. Then she’d scream insults. She never laid an angry hand on the baby, but yelling still scares the child. Her relationship with her husband, Nick, went much the same way.
She was screaming for help, she thought. The doctor dismissed it.
All the while, Ally and her husband were attending church at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue. Ally had believed in Jesus since she was a teenager, but says she never fully understood the gospel. She knew the line that Jesus was her Savior, but she never truly believed that she needed saving.
A few members of their Community Group tried to help, but she was angry that they would propose help. There was too much pride behind the pain, and she refused to acknowledge she needed help, much less accept their offers.
“I didn’t want people to think something was wrong,” she says.
But three months later, she couldn’t take it anymore. At a doctor’s visit, she filled out a postpartum depression form honestly. She was screaming for help, she thought. The doctor dismissed it.
The lack of response made Ally think she was crazy, and she says Satan used her honesty to whisper lies in her ear. She believed that she was a terrible mother, that her husband was going to leave her, and that her daughter hated her.
“It was like someone was accusing me all day long,” Ally says. “The lies I was hearing were so loud. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Even while she had been fighting him for months, Jesus still pursued her.
One day, a woman at Mars Hill unexpectedly approached her and just started talking about her own experience with postpartum depression. By God’s grace, Ally began to counter the first lies in coming weeks through a stream of emails with the woman, who assured her that no one was going to take her daughter away, that she wasn’t crazy, and that she wasn’t alone.
Ally gave in to God’s grace. She spent three months in counseling at the church and followed with Redemption Groups.
It was during this time she says she began to understand how deeply she needed Jesus’ grace. She discovered for the first time that his love was so deep, that even while she had been fighting him for months, he still pursued her. She says she found freedom in confessing her sin, and God changed her heart.
What’s more, she now saw her baby daughter no longer as a problem, but a blessing.
Her last step out of depression was at a women’s retreat in spring 2011. Angela Hurst, wife of Lead Pastor Thomas, spoke on Psalm 107:1–2:
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.
Ally claimed her redemption.
“I could feel Jesus was walking me out of a season of darkness,” she says.
After months of unpredictable behavior, Maggie has begun to trust Ally again, and Ally herself is no longer afraid. She misses the 10 months of her daughter’s infancy that were enshrouded in depression, but she doesn’t regret what she’s learned.
“There are a lot of women who struggle with this, but don’t know it’s OK,” says Ally, who now has a heart to reach out to other women going through postpartum depression. “I can’t be ashamed that I walked through this because there is a purpose.”
This was pulled from a poem Ally wrote a few months later:
I am with my daughter every single day.
I fall deeper in love with her all the time.
I love her so much it overwhelms me.
I have that love that I once only read about, but never felt.
The love that a mama has for their child, I have that now.
I feel connected to Maggie.
She trusts me.
She is not afraid of me.
I intend to keep it that way.
Struggling with depression or something similar? We believe the gospel of Jesus applies to all of life’s struggles, so talk with a pastor or leader at your local Mars Hill church today so we can help you find the right type of counseling for you. You can read more of Ally’s story on her blog.
Photo credit to Kaci Ingram.