It’s a miracle. I have two hands so I can type this with my prior speed and efficiency, rather than with my newfound skill: typing with one hand. My almost 5 month old daughter has just fallen asleep after nursing. She is going through a growth spurt right now and is very demanding.
What is it like to be a new mom? I can say right away that being a mom for the first time is absolutely the most amazing and the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. It brings me such joy and it stretches me to new limits physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Hold on … she was stirring. False alarm! I can keep writing.
As I was saying, I am experiencing immense joy and I am experiencing this season of being stretched to new limits. Sometimes, though, I do not face the challenges with such grace. Sometimes I want to rip my hair out. Sometimes she rips my hair out. Most of the time, it is her crying. Sometimes it is me doing the crying.
I share my reality as a new mom and as a working mom not to get your pity; I share it because I know many of you have been here or are here. You have been or are currently in my shoes. I want you to know that you are not alone and that it absolutely does not make you a bad mom to reach out and ask for help. That is a truth that several wisdom mothers here in Juneau have shared with me. And thank God! That truth is freeing.
In this season of Easter and resurrection, I find myself thankful for my Christian tradition. It is the season of abundance and growth, a season I am in with my family. It is amazing to step back and observe myself in this new role as a mother: my love is literally overflowing out of myself as tangible love and care. That has been an amazing experience. Sometimes, I have experienced it as an overwhelming experience that includes a lot of pressure (internal and external).
May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, a month in which maternal depression is recognized. Women can experience maternal depression during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression includes symptoms such as tearfulness, depressed mood, lack of interest, feelings of guilt, insomnia, fatigue, poor concentration, appetite disturbance, recurrent thoughts of death, and suicidal thoughts. Postpartum depression affects 10-15 percent of the female population and can occur any time between delivery and the first year after delivery.
I feel that, even though I do not have a diagnosis, I do experience this depression every now and then. Thankfully, I have a support system that bolsters me up when I drown in this experience of an overflow of love and care. As I shared, if you, a family member, or a friend experience maternal depression, please reach out to someone you trust. Let them know that you need a break, lunch by yourself, help reaching out to a counselor or calling the doctor to finally get some care for that issue that has been on the back-burner. I finally went to the dentist and I am so grateful my four cavities are being filled (one Wednesday appointment at 7:30 a.m. at a time).
As I shared, it is the season of resurrection in my Christian tradition. It is spring and I am surrounded by abundance: the trees are budding, everything is greener, and I am reflecting on my last four years in this mysterious and magical place called Juneau. Juneau (and Douglas), the place and the community, has been a healing place for me and a place where I have experienced nurture, growth and new life. You have been a mother to me and have nurtured me as I have grown big with child and now am a mother myself. I will be moving down south to serve as a pastor with the community of Butte, Montana, very soon; but, I wanted to take time and say thank you, beloved community. Thank you for being a mother to me, for inspiring me to be a mother, and for caring for me as a mother.
• Rev. Melissa Engel serves as the pastor of Douglas Community UMC and the director of the Juneau Youth Ministry Cooperative.