Will You Sweep Away the Righteous with the Wicked?

by Bill Mauldin, via Wikipedia

When I was in college, I thought America was pretty wonderful. As I got older, I was bombarded with the many ways she has fallen from her ideals, and I felt obligated to pretend that there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong, or at least nothing that we couldn’t overcome. To acknowledge America’s faults felt like a betrayal of my love for her. These days I’m working on detachment–loving what’s good about America, but not pinning my hopes on her when they should be elsewhere. I am reminding myself that America is just a country–a country with a lot of God’s truth at her core, and a country I’m lucky to live in–but still just a country: a country that comes and goes in the blink of God’s eye like any other.

For all who have felt my disillusionment, remember that detachment doesn’t mean that you don’t care about something; it just means caring about it only as much as is proper to its intrinsic worth. You can love America without being crushed by the idea that someday she will be gone. But whatever you may think about America today, it’s at least worth praying for. If God was willing to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of only ten righteous men, don’t you think He could find ten righteous things left in America worth saving, if we remind Him?

Bloghop! Good Catholic Moms and Maternal Depression

Hope for the Future 2 (1)

“This is what I’ve always wanted!  So why am I unhappy?”

This was my dominant thought when I was postpartum with my first child.  My husband and I both came from large families, and we had joyfully planned for a life like our parents’: lots of kids, starting right away, and a stay-at-home mom.  I felt shocked, angry, guilty, and disillusioned when my first year at home with my baby was horrible.

To begin with, I was bored.  I didn’t really know what to do with a newborn besides nurse him, and I didn’t know how to keep busy while I was holding him, and I felt guilty whenever I put him down.  And I do mean every time.  He would be sitting there happily, staring at the pictures on the wall, and I would look at him and think, “I’m a bad mother.”  Looking back, these were two tell-tale signs of depression: irrational guilt, and uncontrollable negative thoughts flooding my mind.  And always in the background there was the meta-guilt of my inability to enjoy motherhood the way I had pictured.

Two years later, my dread of another postpartum like that one outweighed my fear of pills, and I agreed to try antidepressants a few days after I gave birth to my second baby.  I clearly remember my ten-day checkup at the midwives’, when they asked me about my depression and I realized that I hadn’t cried AT ALL since giving birth.  Even for someone not prone to depression, that’s practically a miracle!  (I’m not trying to recommend antidepressants as a cure-all for everyone, but I do hope that anyone in this situation will consider them as a real option.)  The second step, in my case, was therapy.  The greatest gift my therapist gave me was to help sort out an identity for myself, separate from that of a wife or mother.  This allowed me to invest some energy into finding fulfillment outside of the sphere of motherhood, which is crucial.  If you’re at all prone to depression, anxiety, guilt, self-comparison, or low self-esteem (that covers just about everyone, right?), investing your self-worth entirely into some ideal of motherhood is guaranteed to invite depression.

Not everyone’s experience will be like mine, and therapy and antidepressants may not be the right course for everyone; but the important thing is to realize that something external must be done about your depression.  You can not pray or will your depression away, because its origin is not in your failings.  Maternal depression can feel like it’s your fault, because motherhood seems like something that should come naturally and easily; but this is a fallen world, and what’s natural is not always easy.  Even if motherhood is what you’ve always wanted, there is nothing wrong with needing help.

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Thank you so much to Katherine at Half Kindled for hosting this much-needed conversation!  I’m really thrilled to be a part of this.  Please read what my fellow bloggers have contributed at A Knotted Life, Call Her Happy, Half Kindled, This Felicitous Life, and Mama Needs Coffee.

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A few resources I have found helpful:

  • therapy: ask your midwife or OB/GYN for a recommendation.  They may be able to give you the name of a therapist who’s been recommended by other patients in their practice.
  • self-help books: I really appreciated Gregory Popcak’s book, God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy!, which is an extremely helpful and practical mix of tried-and-true psychotherapy techniques and spiritual advice and encouragement.  (I have a few reviews of Popcak’s books in the works.)  I haven’t read Aaron Kheriaty’s Catholic Guide to Depression yet, but it’s been recommended to me by so many trusted friends that I feel comfortable passing it on to you.  I hope to tackle it soon and review it for you.  I find this blurb extremely encouraging: “…the confessional can’t cure neuroses, nor can the couch forgive sins.  Healing comes only when we integrate the legitimate discoveries of modern psychology and pharmacology with spiritual direction and the sacraments….”
  • NaPro technology.  I know many people who have been helped by NaPro, which specializes in helping women overcome infertility, postpartum depression, and other reproductive problems through natural and morally permissible means, specifically through the Creighton method of natural family planning.  I know a few people whose postpartum depression was linked to low progesterone, and NaPro doctors were able to prescribe progesterone supplements that changed their lives. Here is a website for locating NaPro doctors in your area.
  • For those of you who are nervous about antidepressants during pregnancy or breastfeeding, I found these studies from Mass. General Hospital, which were given to me by my midwife, extremely comforting.

How to Lose Your Faith in Human Nature and Find Your Faith in Something Else

Today’s a snow day, and I’m reading Hemingway for the first time and wondering when it became acceptable for the majority of 20th century stories and novels to end with those vague, inconclusive observations on the meaninglessness of life.  My husband thinks it’s a result of the disillusionment that followed World War I and II, the disorientation that resulted from feeling betrayed by the efforts of church, law, diplomacy, and authority in general to prevent war.  People had “lost faith in humanity” and didn’t know where else to look, so their literary heroes were just as lost and wandering as they were.  Later on, they placed their faith in evolution, acknowledging that human nature wasn’t to be trusted, but declaring that it would one day evolve past its flaws–whether into socialist man, or into the enlightened explorers of the Star Trek universe, whose technological achievements would free them from the need for hatred, greed, war, and so on.  (Of course, in order to make this believable, Star Trek had to transfer the dark side of human nature onto the countless less-evolved species that their new humanity encountered!  Even Star Trek didn’t seem to believe in the possibility of a universe where everyone is good. ) These days we don’t have the same faith in politics as the generation before the world wars, and the utopian promises of socialism and technological development have failed to materialize; but we still seem to have a vague faith in “human nature” that is just as vulnerable to betrayal.  Social media is full of stories of stupidity, inhumanity, or appalling ignorance labeled “just lost my faith in humanity” or “I no longer want to live on this planet.”  Meanwhile, stories of people sacrificing themselves for the sake of strangers, treating animals with humanity, and standing in solidarity with the oppressed are guaranteed to “restore your faith in humanity.”  We seem to be still suffering from the same problem as our turn-of-the-century ancestors; since our highest faith is in humanity and its accomplishments, it’s awfully easy to have that faith crushed. How can we inoculate ourselves against this constant, emotionally-draining tug of war?  Put a little less faith in “humanity” and a little more faith in something else.  Remember who made humanity, or at least remember the eternal principles of goodness and truth that human nature in action often falls short of.  But don’t be like the post-war generation, and let your exposure to the very worst side of humanity make you toss the baby out with the bathwater.  Find something unshakeable to put your trust in, and you won’t be stuck scrambling to find enough good people to tip the scale. Thank you for reading!  I’ve got a lot on my mind.   Please stay tuned for thoughts on Langston Hughes, Bruce Springsteen, therapy and self-help books, original sin, natural family planning, existential crises, why I love the authority of the Church, and probably more Star Trek.