Often, we don’t know we are in a dark cloud until we come out of it and are able to look back. Fifteen years ago, I was on Accutaine for my cystic acne. It was the only thing that cleared up my skin at the time, after trying dozens of useless topical creams. I was told that I may experience symptoms of depression and or fatigue while on the medication. I didn’t notice any changes in me while I was it, but after I ended the treatment, I couldn’t believe how much energy I had. I felt like I could have run forever- and I did run my one and only half marathon afterwards. Clearly, I had been sapped of my energy for those several months, but didn’t realize it until I got my energy back.
Eight months ago, I gave birth to my baby girl. I KNEW I was in a dark cloud. The fog of fear rolled in thick like bales of cotton. It was almost paralyzing. I didn’t want to leave the house, but we had to get groceries. If it weren’t for my husband and a dear friend and mother of three, I probably would have become an agoraphobe. How could I trust my tiny girl in that humongous carseat on I-95 among the crazy impatient Connecticut drivers? Road trips and excursions longer than two hours meant we’d have to stop somewhere so I could nurse her, and that made me anxious to have to feed her in the car or have to find a somewhat secluded area if we were out and about. If she napped longer than an hour, I’d sneak upstairs to check to make sure her chest was still rising and falling. Bath time was not relaxing for me between getting the water temperature perfect, keeping her upright, wrestling her slippery little body out of the tub and into a towel, drying her sufficiently enough so that she didn’t scream from the cold air blast when exiting the bathroom, and ensuring that the post-bath “baby massage” time was something we both could find relaxing. I constantly worried whether I was nursing her enough or too much, and whether cluster feedings were normal. If she slept longer than 4 hours at night, I’d wake up in a panic that she was starving and I’d kick myself for not waking up to feed her.
Despite my fears, she has grown over these last eight months. We’ve become more social. I’ve been blessed with a few more momma friends. People that would never have spoken to me before I had her, now stop me just to see this ginger-haired baby with the big blue eyes and long lashes. Right after Halloween, Noelle and I were at the closest drug store near us, although the check-out line is notoriously long. We got in line, and Noelle was in her stroller facing me. There were two people ahead of us, and three ladies behind us. I felt a presence at my back, and I realized that the lady behind me was leaning in for a closer look at Noelle. The lady had a stuffed Snoopy wearing a purple witch hat in her hand, and was dancing him around to Noelle’s giggly delight. Those giggles made her and the other two lades behind her laugh and break the tension of waiting in line. After I got to the register and was paying for my purchases, the lady who was behind me stopped me before I walked outside. “Can I give your baby this Snoopy?” she asked with pleading eyes. “She has just made my day, and I would love to give this to her,” she said now between happy tears. “Of course, thank you so much,” I replied. Noelle excitedly snatched the Snoopy from her hands and thanked her with a big toothless grin. I wanted to hug her, but I was battling a nasty sinus funk. I wonder what was going on in her life. Did she have kids and grandchildren who lived far away? Every time I go back to that store, I hope I see her again. I’m reminded with every day that passes, Noelle is a gift. Before we leave the house for a walk or an errand or a swim class, I want to remember to pray and ask that we have the opportunity to meet someone new. I am so blessed to call Noelle my daughter, and to witness the joy she spreads. The Lord didn’t give her to us for own enjoyment. He gave her to us to spread His love and His joy. We aren’t called to live in fear nor to live apart from others. Fear can make us hide away and push others out, and that is exactly the antithesis of what the cure is.
Two months ago, my friend who is the mother of three looked at me and told me that I seem better and back to my former state of calm and sense of humor. The statement took me by surprise. I guess I didn’t realize how long it took for me to come out of that dark cloud. And when it starts to roll in again, that’s when I know it’s time for Noelle and I to get outside and go talk to strangers.