I have been spending my time on my parenting blog lately because I felt I had said all there was to say for now about my spiritual journey, because I was much more vested in my parenting, and because I had considered merging the two blogs together. This last point remains unresolved.
As for the other two points, I have come to realize that my spiritual drama, as recorded in the posts on this blog, was in no small way affected by my serious postpartum anxiety and depression. As it turns out, I had several risk factors for PPD, but due to the early breastfeeding... challenges, shall we say, it went undiagnosed during my postpartum midwife visits.
For starters, I had an awful time getting breastfeeding started with my daughter. Painful latch due to her being small (5#10oz) and having a low palate (read: I'd have to get the nipple down her throat to avoid it being munched on), resulting nipple damage (as in, piece of skin hanging off and blood trickling down), resulting in mastisis and yeast and breast abscesses needing drainage (twice), leading to the need to supplement with formula, which my idealistic personality did not take lightly ("I'm such a failure for not being able to fully nourish my child!")
Once breastfeeding finally started to get better, we sold our house and moved out of state. Not only was the move itself stressful (just because that comes with the territory, not because of anything in particular), but also because it meant a new place and environment (I hate change and am very slow to adapt and adjust), and social isolation (because I didn't know anyone, but also because I was exhausted from pouring myself into my new role as mother, unable to tolerate my daughter's cries.)
As I look back, this went on for months - six or seven, to be exact - before life started to gain a new normal and I finally began to have tiny pockets of time for myself that allowed me to think. And when this happened, I realized that I hadn't been nourshing my relationship with God, and I just lost any sort of connection to the strong faith I thought I had when my daughter was born.
I have met a friend who has experienced something similar. She used to be religious, or at least spiritual, but after the birth of her son, she has been completely blase about the whole thing. There's so much talk about people turning TO God after having a child, but to this day I can't find much information about the opposite phenomenon.
Long story short, I now see that my loss of faith was one of the casualties of my postpartum depression and anxiety. My daughter is now 3 years old, and it's only been about 4 months that I've felt at home again calling myself a practicing Catholic. The final push in the right direction happened at a spiritual retreat. I have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation every month since the retreat. I prayed daily until about 6 weeks ago, when my son was born, at which time prayer became much more sporadic, but is slowly finding its way back into my routine. I started enjoying the emailed readings of the day associated with daily mass (I had been signed up for years, but had been ignoring them). Mass stopped being a routine and became a joy again.
The thing I feared most during my "spiritually independent/Deist/Quaker-Reform Jew-wannabe" time is challenging my faith in a good way, it seems. I'm having to start explaining the basics of our Catholic faith to my daughter, and it's forcing me to truly consider what I believe - as a Catholic - and why, and how to best articulate it to her.
Am I back to where I was three years ago, spiritually? No. But interestingly, we went to our old Franciscan parish for Christmas Eve Mass last night, and both Alex and I agreed that we missed our current church! I was adamant when we moved that we'd never find another church community like Saint Francis, where our daughter was baptized. I have very fond memories of our time there. But now I see we have both grown in interesting ways and no longer thrive in a church that focuses on community fellowship. Instead, at our current church (OLPH), there's the community, but there's something much more meaningful at the center of it - a holy priest who sets the stage for a reverent Mass. It's a New Order Mass, and yet Fr. Erik manages to keep the occasion solemn yet joyful. His entire demeanor points to Our Lord in the Eucharist. He comments on the Mass, going off script. He pauses and kneels in front of the Tabernacle after Communion as the choir sings a "Communion Medidation". He speaks directly to us, the people, about what the Lord is revealing to him in his private prayer time. You can tell that this man spends time with the Lord, that he takes his calling seriously, and that he has a genuine love for the people God has entrusted him with. I love Fr. Erik, and I credit "his Masses" to keeping my interest piqued while I attended merely out of obligation or tradition.
At any rate, I am Catholic, but it doesn't mean I necessarily agree with everything that is taught "top-down". Nonetheless, I respect the reasons behind all the church teachings, and I certainly take them into consideration. What's more, I wrestle with things I disagree with and try to challenge myself as to why I disagree. Why do I give more credit to societal views over church teaching? Am I that much of the world that I value what's "PC" over what's being faithful to the church of God? Perhaps there are things I don't need to agree with, or undersand. I try to focus on those areas of Catholicism that bring me joy, that help me grow into a better person, and figure the rest may be there for others. Because there's something for everyone in the Catholic church.
Turns out that the Catholic church - like me - may be striving for holiness, not perfection.