Postpartum

The False Dichotomy of Postpartum Mental Health Care for Christian Moms

Postpartum Mental Health
This week on the Motherhood Named and Known Podcast, I shared an interview with Sarah J. Hauser and a guided meditation for postpartum anxiety. If you or someone you know has struggled with any form of postpartum mental health, I encourage you to give those two episodes a listen to receive encouragement, grace, and camaraderie for your heart.

If you’re a Christian Mom and you’ve ever struggled with postpartum mental health, chances are you’ve found yourself caught in the clutches of this false dichotomy–is this a job for the church and my pastor, or is this a job for the mental health field?

The problem with this dichotomy is this: it gives you the imagined necessity of choice.

If you choose to lean into scripture, pastoral care, discipleship, and the church for your healing, the assumption is that you “don’t need counseling.” If you decide to lean into counseling, or even make the difficult choice to take medication, the assumption is that the church was insufficient in some way. 

Unfortunately, this dichotomy comes from a misunderstanding of the roles of these various forms of intervention. This misunderstanding leads to many Christian moms struggling with postpartum mental health concerns to receive lopsided care, and develop dangerously complicated relationships with either the church or the mental health field.

Let’s take a minute to hash out just a few of the directions a Christian mom could receive support in the wake of postpartum mental health struggles.

Pastoral Care:

The term pastoral care is linked in the scriptures with the concept of a shepherd. To put it simply, pastoral care refers to the ways a spiritual leader may ardently care for the flock–paying attention to their needs, potential dangers, and being willing to lay their life down for their well-being.

discipleship

The term discipleship literally refers to being a life-student of a person. As Christians we are called to be disciples of Jesus, and the term discipleship is used to denote the actions the church community takes to help each other live out this calling.

Church Community

The church community is the body of believers that come together in one local setting for corporate worship, prayer, and learning. The church community embodies the connectedness and collaboration of a diverse people to bring about God’s kingdom in their local communities. With the body as a metaphor, it is clear that the church community is intended to be diverse in strength and ability.

Counseling

Counseling is a process by which a person trained in specific conversational and therapeutic techniques can help a client sort through their internal experiences that may be blocking or hindering emotional health. Though counselors may at times give advice, the sole purpose is to give the client tools and reflection experiences so that they can find emotional health in the context of their own values, experiences, and beliefs.

The reality is this–Christian mothers struggling with postpartum depression don’t need to have pressure placed on them to choose the “right" way to receive help when she’s struggling.

This is a season for all avenues of support to rise up and rally for her, for that mama to be enveloped and lifted up with the unique strengths and perspectives brought by all levels of care.

  • The pastor can check in on her. Identify needs, and help her get those needs met by providing her with the right connections.
  • Discipleship can provide her with perspective on the life, grace, and calling of Jesus that might help her find meaning, purpose, and comfort through these struggles. 
  • The church community can rally around her with presence and diverse strengths to bring meals, care for children, provide companionship, and generally share life in a way that holistically supports the practical needs she has.
  • A counselor can provide her with tools and space for reflection to help her sort through her internal thought life, past experiences, personality 

If you’re a Christian mom struggling with postpartum mental health, please hear me when I say, there is strength in seeking support from a multitude of directions. All of these spheres touch and overlap in a dynamic relationship that is not exclusive. Each one has its merit and place in the healing process of postpartum mental health struggles.

If you’re needing to hear from a real-life mama who found support from her church and a counselor, check out Episode 1 of the Motherhood Named and Known Podcast. Sarah J. Hauser shares her experience with postpartum anxiety and depression, and shares where her support came from in those difficult times.

If you’re needing support in the midst of Postpartum Anxiety or Depression, I encourage you to check out Episode 2 of the podcast– an 8-minute guided meditation aimed at grounding you in the present safety and truth. 

You can also download a printable version of the grounding guide to save on your phone or computer for use if you can’t get to the podcast episode when your anxiety is rising.

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