Last week I talked about spiritual preparation for postpartum. I decided to start with the spiritual aspect, because I firmly believe that this lays the groundwork for preparing both mentally and emotionally for the postpartum months.
This week I’m focusing on mental preparation.
I know this topic can be a very sensitive one for those who’ve experienced significant mental health issues due to postpartum. So please know from the outset, my desire is to approach this with utmost love and care. God allows some to walk through deeper waters than others as their bodies adjust to life after birthing a child, and each story looks different.
Although there are changes happening that are outside of our control, I believe that the way we think about and prepare for these mental changes and difficulties can go a long way in helping us walk this road. God is our Creator; the One who heals and gives wisdom, and He should always be our first turn as we navigate (or ready ourselves to navigate) the often choppy rivers of the fourth trimester. (For practical ways to prepare yourself mentally for postpartum head over to Lauren’s post, part 2 of Planning for a Grace-Filled Postpartum. She has excellent gems of advice that every mama should tuck in their proverbial treasure chest).
[NOTE: If you are experiencing symptoms of severe PPD, perinatal mood disorders, or other mental health disorders resulting from childbirth, I would encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider. These should be attended to in a timely manner]
What does God Say about the Mind?
God has a lot to say about the mind in Scripture; how we as His followers are to think and think about our minds.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
God is in the business of transforming minds. For the believer our entire way of thinking is being sanctified, enabling us by His grace to think rightly about who God is, who we are, and about the people and world around us.
This doesn’t mean that the battle in our mind goes away. We are still affected by sin and wired to go rogue. So it takes intentionality and continual surrender to God’s Spirit to combat these natural patterns.
This is no different in postpartum.
In fact, this season is probably (generally speaking) far more difficult in regards to our minds due to the ever-shifting hormones, lack of sleep, and major life adjustments with a new member of the family. It’s all-too-easy for our thoughts to spiral out of control with anxiety or depression before we even realize it’s happening.
And it usually starts with just one thought.
I need to feed the baby again. Uh oh, I didn’t drink enough water today. What if my milk supply runs out? I’m going to starve them. If I can’t even feed them, should I be responsible for them? Maybe I’m not able to take care of my other kids either if I can’t even do something as simple as drink water to keep my milk supply up. I’m failing as a mom.
See what I mean?
It’s vitally important we prepare for this season by bolstering our minds with truth. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but we will be far more equipped to handle these struggles if we are diligent to turn our mind’s eye toward our Savior.
How do we go about this preparation?
1. Take Every Thought Captive
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5
Sometimes (like my little mental monologue above) it’s our own selves that raise “arguments and opinions against the knowledge of God.” We listen to lies, then begin to rehearse them back to ourselves. And in a season when we are more weak and vulnerable, these lies can do incredible damage very quickly. This is why we need to get serious about spotting and rejecting those deceitful thoughts the moment we realize what they are.
Ask God to help you spot these wrong thoughts. Then ask Him for the grace and wisdom to know how to take them captive and submit them to truth.
2. Fill Your mind with truth
This point goes hand-in-hand with the first. What will enable us to be quick to spot a lie is having minds already saturated with what is true.
This means a diligent, regular meditation on God’s Word; hiding Scripture in our hearts so that we are ready to combat those lies the moment they come.
I remember one morning several weeks after my fourth child was born. I was lying on my bed, panic and gloom intermingling to create a horrid combination. I didn’t want to move, to get dressed, to do anything but lay there in my overwhelmed state and cry.
As tears streamed down my face, the Lord in His mercy flooded my mind with this verse:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,Psalm 42:5
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
It wasn’t a shallow platitude or trite band aid: it was exactly what I needed. By faith I grabbed hold of that verse, said, “Thank you, Lord,” got out of bed, put my clothes on, and took one step at a time with my hope in the God who made and saved me.
The truth was what I needed most, even when my feelings were telling me something different. As I commanded my soul to hope in God and heeded His Word rather than my emotions, they, too, followed suit and submitted to Christ (I wish I could say I am that quick to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit every time. But nope, still learning).
You could pick specific passages or verses that speak directly to fear, anxiety, or depression to meditate on or memorize. But as 2 Timothy 3:16 says,
“All of scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
No matter what Scripture you hide in your heart, God can and will use it to point your mind and heart back toward Him.
3. Involve Others
Proverbs 24:6 says,
“For by wise guidance you can wage war,
and in an abundance of counselors there is victory.”
In the mind battle of the postpartum season it’s incredibly important to have wise voices speaking into our lives when we have a hard time speaking truth to ourselves. For me, this is usually my husband and two or three godly women who I know will come alongside me, pray for me, and lovingly point me back to truth.
When we’re downcast and discouraged it’s sometimes really difficult to hear the truth from others. Sharing in the first place can make us feel vulnerable and exposed. Lies can come in that tell us, “They don’t really understand,” or, “They’re not being sensitive enough,” or, “They think I’m just being irrational.” If we’re not careful it can cause us to withdraw, be hurt, and shut ourselves off from a necessary and life-giving source of grace. Yes, sometimes it will sting. But just like a doctor’s help requires painful measures at times, so does the help of those who love us enough to point us back to our Savior.
They may not do it perfectly, but God will give us grace as we humble ourselves to receive their counsel.
Ask God to show you who to invite to walk alongside you through the postpartum season. It might be a friend, your pastor’s wife, your mom (or mother-in-law), or an older woman in your church.
Ask for grace to share your struggles and listen to their wisdom. Ask God to help you to guard against hardness of heart or taking offense, and to know how He wants you to apply the truth they share to your situation.
4. Have Something to Look Forward To
This one is a bit more practical, but I’ve found it very helpful when coupled with the points above.
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the tasks of feeding, changing, washing, and surviving that comes along with the days of a new baby that we set everything else aside that brings life and “sparkle” to us. Sometimes this is necessary for a time, but I’ve found that having something to look forward to or work toward is a way to keep from falling into the “this season will never end” thought cycle.
This is why I continue to write during postpartum. It gives me a project to work on—even if just a little bit at a time—to keep my mind sharp and engaged. I also love keeping our plants watered and tended to. This only takes a few minutes, but keeps beauty flourishing around me. Or, having someone hold the baby while I paint my nails or do my makeup can go a long way in helping me feel more ready for the day.
It often needs to be simple or in small amounts, but God can use these little joys to brighten our days and keep thankfulness at the forefront.
For you, it might be coffee on your porch in the morning. Or maybe setting aside a few minutes to read a book or work in your garden. It could be planning a time to get a fresh haircut while your husband watches the baby. Then, intentionally practice thankfulness to the Lord for those parts of life that bring joy and beauty to your tired, full days.
God will not leave you or forsake you in these postpartum days. He will go before you, provide for you, comfort you, and sustain you by His grace. Keep your eyes fixed on Him, and you will find that He never leaves or forsakes those who look to Him in faith.
If this post was encouraging to you, would you consider sharing it? Many thanks!