Tag Archives: Babies

LeAnn Gardner: The Gift of Suffering

About three years ago, I found myself in a place I never imagined: in the throes of Post-Partum Depression. The one thing I had wanted my entire life—a child—had been given to me. A healthy, red-headed, perfect little specimen of a boy rested upon my chest as I lay on an operating table, exhausted and out of my mind.

We marveled at him and I thought, “He is the cutest baby I have ever seen.” But did I feel an instant bond? No.

Suffice it to say, PPD invaded my life and rested its pinions there for a while.

In the days of suffering from PPD, the last thing I was thinking of was serving. I just wanted to get through the hell I was feeling and hoped that at the other end, I would be a good mother. The fears and anxieties were crippling.

In those early days, I had one paralyzing vision: that at my son’s first birthday party, I would be in the shadows of the crowd, being an observer, not an active participant in my son’s day (read: life) because I had not gotten better. I would not have the energy, or even worse, the affection for him, to plan his birthday party.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if you knew me, you would know that I love (L-O-V-E) to throw parties. Not being an integral part, the integral part, of my son’s first birthday party would be a sign that something was really wrong with me….and even worse, that I was not mothering him in the ways that were most authentic to who I was as a person.

That vision still makes me cry because it reminds me how bad things were for me after he was born.

But as the days passed (and it took a lot of days, strung together) I got better. It was not instant. It took a long time, but the light crept in and I was able to finally find my rhythm as a parent, as his parent. I gained confidence in meeting his needs, accepted that my life had indeed changed, and that suddenly my calling had shifted to being his mama.

And I embraced it….and him.

As the days turned to months, my secret leaked out, partly because I “verbally vomit” to process my issues, and word was getting out that things weren’t so rosy for me. Because PPD is a sore thumb amidst baby showers and pools of pink and blue, new mamas feel isolated and alone.

I imagine there were whispers of “LeAnn had a hard time; talk to her.” Connecting with other people in the throes of this darkness was key for my healing. Being a resource to those facing similar demons was healing for me, too.

Jesus is given many titles, but the Suffering Servant is one that seems to be the most reflected during Holy Week. Does this mean that Christ could not adequately serve without first suffering? We Jesus people preach the Incarnation- that Christ put on skin and walked among us, that he experienced our spectrum of emotions, including pain, grief and realities that did not meet expectations.

What does this mean to all of us (humans) who experience struggle? The essence of my faith rests in this notion: that my suffering not only mattered, but had also been experienced in and by Christ. There was a knowing in my soul that a Presence greater than me and my pain and anxiety was with me, minute by minute, day by day, until that string of days equaled a month and then months and then three years!

My second son was born 7 months ago. I found myself, again, lying on an operating table, in a cold sterile room, but something was different. My very being had been changed since the redhead was born. I was already a mother. I had been through hell and back with all of my insecurities and angst, and although I was not perfect, nor he, we together have forged a path of mama and son. That sweet little rosy headed boy has taught me so much (even to this day).

Christ is present in struggle. We know this. We preach it all the time. But it is different to walk it. To feel the pain in the fibers my being and know that Emmanuel has walked the ground where I have stood and suffered is life altering. May we be reminded of this miracle during this Holiest of weeks.

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LeAnn Gardner is a right brained social worker and minister married to a left brained engineer. Together they (sometimes) compose a full brain. She is mother to two boys, ages 3 and 7 months.

Jeanell Cox: Birthing Baby Jesus

I birthed baby Jesus three times. But before you move on to the next Christmas Eve post citing heresy, please bear with me. I have three boys who were each invited in turn to portray the infant Jesus in church Christmas pageants in two different congregations.

I have a distinct memory of being asked the first time. I was terrified as a first time mother at the thought of handing over my weeks old baby to the teenage girl who was playing the part of Mary. What if he was fussy? Hungry? Just wanted his Mom or Dad? What if she had never held a newborn before? Or, more honestly, what if I simply wasn’t willing to let someone else hold him?

I was at the very beginning of figuring out who this little baby was and how to respond to his cries. I had no intention of giving him to someone else for an hour. But I did, swallowing down my anxieties about the whole thing. And it wasn’t long before I figured out why.

As the young woman clothed in blue began to slowly walk down the candle-illumined aisle, my heart welled up and tears fell down my cheeks. There was my boy snuggled up in white muslin blankets, bright-eyed and cooing at the beauty of the lights against the darkened room. I was transformed in that moment.

Suddenly the fear was gone, and a renewed sense of the importance of Jesus’ arrival as a tiny infant filled me. The world needed an infant to see the love of God so mystically expressed in bright big eyes, round cheeks and snuggles. My sweet baby boy ended up quietly asleep in the arms of his caregiver for the rest of the pageant.

And the second and third times I handed my baby boys to the teen portraying Mary, the fear was gone, but the transformative tears remained.

Bearing babies into the world is hard work, whether they come by fostering, adoption, marriage, or otherwise. Bearing Jesus into the world is sometimes painstaking work.

It may require relinquishing the things that we most fear. It may ask of us things that we never thought possible. It may require working to manage the demands of ministry and the deep desire to care for one’s spouse, child, pet, or self.

It may sometimes require more energy or investment than we think we can muster. It may feel futile, even when God is most at work. It may feel like a risky adventure in uncharted waters. But in our persistence and our willingness to face the fears that come, we are transformed.

Yet we have the opportunity to discover that each and every time we bear Jesus into the world once more, he is also born anew in us.

Perhaps Meister Eckhart says it best:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

Go forth, and may Jesus be born in you and in the world once more this Christmas.


Jeanell Cox is a mother of three boys and a Board Certified Chaplain. She is currently a CPE Supervisory Education Student at Duke Hospital in Durham, NC.