Learning to embrace the struggle

In 2013, my life fell apart. Suffering from PTSD from childhood trauma, I totally crashed on Mother’s Day 2013 and spent the next two weeks crumpled in the corner of the couch shaking, self-harming and unable to care for my family – five children under eight-years-old as well as my husband. In May 2013, I was admitted to the AMHU (Acute Mental Health Unit) with severe anxiety and severe depression. My husband, who at the time was studying to become a Critical Care Paramedic with the Queensland Ambulance Service, was working full-time and studying full-time. I spent four days in the AMHU before being discharged, much improved.

Things were great after I was discharged – I coped a lot better and was on anti-depressants.

Then, that November I fell pregnant.

My husband and I were shocked and scared. We’d had such a big year with my poor health and his heavy work/study load. Now, a pregnancy. I self-lowered my medication immediately to prevent any side-effects to the baby, which wasn’t necessary, but I thought I had to do it. My life felt more and more out of control as I contemplated life with six children under nine.

Grief upon grief

Four days before Christmas at just five weeks pregnant, we had devastating news. A friend of ours had overdosed and was dead. She was so young and full of life with two small children. I was devastated. After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I came home to an email telling me that a another close friend of mine had finally succumbed after a long battle with leukaemia. This news wasn’t unexpected, but it added to my grief. Then, on December 28th, I began cramping and eventually miscarried our baby 24 hours later.

The grief overwhelmed me and, while my husband was on night shift on New Year’s Eve, I took as much valium and alcohol as I could before passing out for the evening. In the morning after his night shift, my husband had to break into our bedroom and call the ambulance because he couldn’t wake me.

After jumping out of the bathroom window to get away from the paramedics , I was convinced to get in the ambulance and head to the hospital. Again, I was admitted to the AMHU. It was New Year’s Day, 2014.

In the AMHU, they increased my anti-depressants and I got better with the help of therapy and exercise. I was released on January 9, 2014.

Moving forward

With our eyes firmly fixed forward, our family began to rebuild and I grew better each day.

Then, another positive pregnancy test.

I was utterly incredulous. I had discovered I was pregnant as part of the screening before having an IUD inserted. I was really angry with God, my husband and myself for getting pregnant. I was so fresh out of hospital and looking forward to a peaceful and happy future. But now, more struggle. More pressure. Six children! How was I ever going to manage?

I was the saddest most of all for my baby, who was the innocent party in all the mess. It wasn’t his fault he had been conceived. I wished desperately I could be happy and joyful about another baby, but I just couldn’t. Worry and fear assailed my thoughts.

Denial and delivery

I spent a lot of time denying that I was pregnant at all, busy with five other children. But slowly, I came around to seeing the baby as another blessing and I began to remember all the good things about babies.

Luke made his arrival into the world on the side of the road after a very short and sudden labour of 45 minutes on October 29, 2014. Once we’d recovered from the shock – my husband delivered Luke moments after pulling over on the side of the road – we looked into those dark little eyes and we loved him.

It was not easy. I was so tired and had five older children to manage as well as Luke. He is so different to all the other children, a real boy: noise, dirt, laughter, endless energy and joy. But I was amazed to watch him grow in his totally unique Luke way. When I think back to that year of his birth, I’m so glad I worked through the fears and trauma. I can’t imagine my life without my fearless, joyful little blond-haired blue-eyed boy.

What I have learned

I learned to trust God and His will for my life – not trust my own understanding. I learned that struggle is not something to be avoided, but something to embrace because on the other side of difficult times is blessing. During that difficult time I thought that, because I was struggling to accept the fact I was pregnant and struggling to be happy about my pregnancy, I wasn’t a good mum or a good person. But now I see the opposite is true.

To struggle is not something to be ashamed of or run away from, it’s how we learn to persevere and how we grow. It’s a sign of good things to come.

– by Julie Lawson

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Posted on

November 11, 2019

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