I have had the pleasure of knowing Kimberlee Conway Ireton for about a year. Like in person.
When I began blogging and discovered another Christian online writer 30 minutes away in Seattle, I boldly contacted her and invited myself to her home for a visit. Kimberlee had written ‘The Circle of Seasons’, a book about the church year and I was interested in all of it. The ‘Circle’ book is a walk through the observances of each season in the church calendar—Advent, Lent, and so on into Ordinary Time. The practices were all new to me and my heart soaked it in.
When ‘Circle’ came out Kimberlee already two kids and her husband told her he wanted another one. All she wanted to do was get back to work on a young adult novel swimming around in her head (and maybe catch up on her sleep.) As God would have it, she did become pregnant. With twins.
|Ben and Luke Ireton
When we met the first time, the twins were about 18 months old. She told me she was writing a new book, but this time it would be about post partum depression. As Kimberlee and I kept in touch throughout the year I heard about the process and the soon delivery of this new book.
I have personally met many women in the church who have struggled with this and sad to say, the body of Christ has not responded well. “Cracking Up” would be an important book on a very necessary topic for all women, especially believers.
Once again I arranged for a visit to see Kimberlee, hug her, pray for and encourage her. Several weeks ago we enjoyed tea, I took pictures and we chatted about the birth of the newest book, ‘Cracking Up: a Postpartum Faith Crisis’.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to have twins?
“Let’s just say it’s a good thing I was lying down! It felt completely surreal. But you’ll have to read the book to find out all the juicy details.”
What was the biggest change in your life once the twins were born?
“Oh man. There were so many. I think the rampant anxiety was the biggest change. I’ve always had an anxious temperament, but this was unlike anything I’d ever known. It started gradually enough, but after seven or eight months of sleeping in one- or two-hour snatches, I was pretty mentally ill. I say that sort of in jest, but it’s true, too. Anxiety isn’t just “in your head.” For me, it was a full-body experience. I thought I was dying, which makes me laugh now, but at the time felt wholly believable, even true.”
What’s your biggest disappointment in having twins?
“The utter lack of personal space. I am a pretty strong introvert, and while having cuddly and super-attached babies (or, now, toddlers) has its compensations, it’s also exhausting to be constantly with other people. Most days I don’t even get to go to the bathroom by myself. Or, if I do, I have to listen to wailing on the other side of the door. But I don’t think that’s exclusive to twins. I seem to recall similar situations with my singletons. And you get used to it. I wouldn’t trade my four for anything in the world, not even a bestselling book. And that’s saying something.”
What would you say to someone with postpartum depression?
“Call your doctor. Tell him or her what you’re experiencing. Untreated, postpartum depression can escalate into a full-blown depressive disorder. You may even want to harm yourself or your children. So get medical help. If you’re part of a church community that doesn’t take mental illness seriously (and sadly, there are many, though I hope that’s changing), don’t let them stop you from getting the help you need, whether that’s counseling or medication or some combination thereof. Your baby needs you to be well. Youneed you to be well. Get medical help.”
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
“It varies from person to person, but if you feel anxious or afraid, if you cry a lot, if you have trouble bonding with your baby, if you’re not sleeping even when you can, if you don’t feel like eating, if your moods swing all over the place—all of these are symptoms of PPD. While these can simply be normal postpartum experiences, if you have several of them and they last more than a week or two, get help. Don’t wait like I did till the darkness takes over your mind.”
How did your church community support you?
“Oh my. How didn’t they support me? They delivered meals three or four times a week for almost seven months—from the time I was put on modified bed rest at 33 weeks until the boys were six months old. A woman from my church, Melody, came every Tuesday for four or five months to help me; she made dinner, cleaned my floors, helped me bathe my babies, took my older kids to the park. Two women, on a couple of different occasions, spent the night on my sofa and took nighttime feedings so Doug could sleep all night and so I could just pump milk and go back to sleep instead of having to stay up for hours with fussy, squalling babies. God bless them!”
(And the most important question)
How can churches come alongside new moms to help them?
“Make and deliver meals—one for the fridge and one for the freezer is ideal. Put together a cleaning crew and clean her house. She doesn’t have time or energy to keep the floors and the bathroom clean. Do it for her. If she has older kids, take them to a neighborhood park so she can nap when the baby does.
Be gentle and respectful, of course, but in general, women who are postpartum don’t have the energy to know what they need let alone what they want—they probably don’t know themselves. For me, when the darkness got really dark, I just wanted to not be alone, so friends from church came every day just to keep me company, to keep me from living too much in my (sick) head.”
What’s up with the faith crisis of your subtitle?
“Yeah, that’s an interesting question. (The milquetoast version was, “The Year of Tea and Jesus”, but that didn’t convey my thoughts well.) Anyway, I had the privilege of riding to Laity Lodge(a Christian writer’s retreat in Texas) last fall in the same car with John Medina, the neuroscientist, and I asked him the same thing: Why was it so hard to believe in God? He couldn’t answer that question exactly, but he said it’s not uncommon for depressed people to find their faith seems to darken with their minds. Why this should be so, that my faith would seem to flee when I most needed it, I don’t know. What I do know is this: my faith only seemed to flee. I had it still, even in the dark, and what is more, God had me.”~~~~~~~~~
Friends, if you know a new mom or a mom who is feeling overwhelmed or struggling with depression, get her this book.
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