I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety after my son was born ten months ago. But this story isn’t about that. And some of the people involved in this story didn’t even know I was struggling.
My husband and I moved to Houston several years ago for his job. We had both moved before, so we knew that to enjoy a new city we needed to make friends. I joined a book club and a running club, and we both started looking for a church. We found City Church, started attending, and quickly became involved in a small group (called a City Group) and in a Sunday morning ministry team. It took time, our most valuable asset, but we made friends. We’re fortunate to have a wonderful family and many close friends in other cities, but we knew we needed a community where we lived.
Fast forward two years when we had our first son.
I entered into motherhood with expectations. I expected it to be challenging, but I expected the joy to exceed the hardship. That wasn’t how it started out. My baby cried a lot. We now know why but we didn’t then. I also experienced some sadness and anxiety that I couldn’t reason my way out of. I feared the worst for my child, assuming each small task would result in an extreme negative outcome. I made a list each night of the ways I had failed my son that day. And I cried. I cried sometimes without the ability to stop.
Even without knowing my struggle, our City Group planned a meal train. We not only had meals coming throughout the week, we also had friends from our City Group taking out the trash and helping with other household tasks. As we learned that our son had a dairy and soy intolerance, friends changed their meals and even brought over special treats throughout the day.
One of our City Church deacons did know about my postpartum depression and went on to plan a “baby holding train.” Instead of providing meals, our City Group and others signed up to hold our baby so I could take a break from the crying. We were also moving during this time, so it gave me a chance to pack. One day a sweet friend held our son, who cried the whole time, just so I could take a shower. My friend did this so joyfully, as if we weren't a burden to her at all.
This same deacon helped me get set up with a counselor specific to my condition and schedule. I had not struggled with depression before and couldn’t understand how a counselor would help. She was incredible though, and I found counseling very effective.
My husband is also in another small group at City Church called a Focus Group. Despite his lack of time, he attends every week without fail. I don’t know what they discussed during this season, but I do know my husband came home each week refreshed and able to continue encouraging me.
Making friends is hard and forming a community is time consuming, but it’s so worth it. We have a wonderful, supportive family, and we still needed our friends. It’s uncomfortable to show up to a small group without knowing anyone, and attending church can feel like one more activity to squeeze into your week. But if you can commit to attending for one year, you’ll be amazed at the relationships you form.
Friends that did know about my postpartum depression helped me manage without judgement, offering encouragement and practical support. Friends that didn’t know also helped me and my family manage.
We were not designed to do this alone. Our life is better, more full, more rested, and more positive because of our community. The time we invested created authentic friendships with people who love us. I’m so thankful.