I’ve so enjoyed writing this series on postpartum preparation. It’s also been convicting and encouraging to me personally to be reminded of these truths during my own fifth postpartum season. And, writing alongside my friend, Lauren, has made it extra-special. Our friendship really started to blossom 7 years ago as we bonded over all things pregnancy and birth while Lauren was studying midwifery and preparing to welcome her first child (whose birth I had the immense privilege of attending, as well as the birth of her second daughter last fall). So, as you read this series, friend, know that these posts come from the heart of women who have walked this path and are right there with you. We’re cheering you on even as we run the race of mothering, experiencing first hand all that comes with it.
In case you missed them, here are part 1 and 2 from this series:
Postpartum Encouragement Part 1: Spiritual Preparation
Postpartum Encouragement Part 2: Mental Preparation
So far I’ve covered spiritual preparation and mental preparation. And in this final post I’ll be talking about emotional preparation.
Mental preparation is vital for the way we think during our postpartum season, and emotional preparation is vital for handling how we feel. Although these are very much intertwined with one another, they’re also distinct.
Just like thoughts come from the mind, emotions flow from what we would usually call “the heart.” Emotions are a good gift from the Lord, used to add depth to our lives. However, because we’re all affected by sin our emotions can be deceitful. They sometimes take the helm and cause us to come to wrong conclusions or make decisions we regret. Our feelings, just like our thoughts, must be brought under submission to what is true for them to do us good.
Emotions during postpartum can be extra tricky and wild with all those adjusting hormones combined with patchy sleep. We can get anxious and panicky like our world is falling apart (even when it’s not). We sometimes get cranky or grumpy even when no one is provoking us. We’re often sad even if there’s nothing to be sad about. We get easily offended if someone just looks at us funny, or we feel insecure about our interactions with others (well, speaking for myself at least). Emotions can become disconnected from reality, often for reasons that are outside of our control. The only thing we can control is how we choose to handle these emotions. Just like a boat on a stormy sea, these emotions need an anchor. And the ultimate Anchor is Jesus: the way, the truth, and the life.
Here is a two-fold way we can anchor ourselves and our emotions in Christ as we walk through the postpartum season (or any season, for that matter).
1. know what is true
We’ll be kept from being overcome by our emotions by being grounded in the reality of being a child of God. This starts with having minds and hearts that are full of biblical truth to cling to when our feelings are out of control.
That means we need to know the Bible.
Biblical truth is never-changing. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), and so we can be sure that the words found there are eternally steadfast. In Christ we find lasting hope (Colossians 1:27). So even when our emotions are confusing and unsteady, we have a solid foundation to stand firm upon.
It can be really helpful to memorize “anchor” verses, so to speak, that are tucked away in our hearts and ready to be used when our emotions try to run the show. These point our eyes back to Jesus, remind us that He cares for us, and often give us a clear way to bring these emotions under submission to the Prince of Peace.
Here are a few of mine:
When I’m anxious or afraid:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep;psalm 4:8
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
When I’m sad:
“You have kept count of my tossings;Psalm 56:8
ut my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?”
When I’m irritated or offended:
“Love is patient and kind…”1 Corinthians 13:4a
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”Colossians 3:12-13
When I’m discouraged:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,Psalm 42:11
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
I’d encourage you to choose ones that you know will help you when your emotions are volatile or confusing. The Lord will use this truth to encourage your heart as you look to Him.
2. believe (and do) what is true
My husband has used a phrase in several sermons that often comes to mind:
You do what you believe.
Emotions are powerful, and it often feels impossible not to act according to what they’re telling us. But this is where it’s vitally important that we listen to truth and not our emotions.
Remember: our emotions change, but God’s truth does not.
His truth is always right, and our emotions are very often wrong. So if our emotions are telling us something different than what God’s Word says, we must defer to Him. We’ve been given the indwelling Spirit of God to live out what is otherwise impossible. And it’s in these moments that God’s power is displayed most clearly.
We might say we believe God is in control, but if we’re acting according to fear and anxiety we’re showing at that moment we don’t truly believe He’s in control.
If we say we believe God can give us the grace to be patient with our kids, but we snap every time they do something that rubs us the wrong way, we’re displaying we don’t actually believe it when the rubber meets the road.
So first, we need to ask ourselves: In what ways am I living in unbelief?
Then we need to ask the Lord to help us live what we say we believe, and to know what that looks like in any given scenario. His grace is sufficient, and that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Does this mean that the feelings will always change or go away? No. Sometimes it will be a desperate fight to cling to what is true while our emotions still tell us the opposite. But as we take step-by-little-step of obedience, trusting in God’s grace, our experience will soon begin to align with truth instead of our emotions. We’ll find that anxiety doesn’t get the better of us, that patience and love are continually available through Him, and that sadness is mingled with hope.
I’ve shared this story before, but it’s worth sharing again.
When our fourth child was only a few months old my husband had to go out of town for nearly two weeks. During that time all my kids got dreadfully sick with the flu. I was up hour-after-hour, day-after-day tending to their soaring fevers and ugly coughs (that turned into croup afterward). I made 10 ER and urgent care visits in just 7 days—it truly felt like a nightmare. I’m someone who naturally struggles with anxiety (especially in relation to sickness) so there was a raging battle to keep my mind and heart grounded in truth. One evening several days into this ordeal, I was kneeling by my toddler’s bed and began to feel a panic attack creeping up on me. I knew a panic attack was the worst thing that could happen at that moment; these children needed me. But for anyone who’s experienced one, you know: you feel totally powerless against it. In desperation I put my head down, internally prayed “Lord, help me,” and with a grain of faith I whispered out loud, “No!” In an instant my throat opened and my tunnel vision dissipated. I knew I was experiencing firsthand the powerful grace of God as I chose to look to Him instead of listening to my overwhelming fear.
Over the next few days the battle over this anxiety continued to rage; again and again I stood in faith that the Lord would provide strength in my weakness over these panic attacks that tried to invade. And He did—oh, how He did. And although I wouldn’t ever choose to walk through that scenario again, I look back on it as a milestone in truly taking God at His Word. I learned personally that God is not just faithful to people “out there,” but that He’s faithful to me, too.
Friend, whatever emotional trial you face in your postpartum season, know this: God will be faithful to you, too. The way He demonstrates this may look different for you than for me, but He knows exactly what we need. He desires for us to find our rest, our joy, and our peace in Him—far more than we even want it! So as you rock that sweet babe to sleep yet again, cast yourself upon Him. And dwell on this beautiful truth from Jesus’ lips to His followers:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”John 14:27
I’m cheering you on, fellow mama. Let’s look to Jesus together, running with perseverance this race set before us (Heb.12:1-2).