On Wednesday we heard from my daughter and her husband as they shared their birth story and the challenges that came with it. Today we’re finishing the “living room” conversation about the birth of their baby girl, and Ryan has practical tips for the dads from his own experience—even the third time around. This is a raw, real look inside our tight-knit family… and I think it will bless and encourage you.
Family and a caring community is so important during pregnancy and the postpartum. I’ll be honest: you guys, the first week of Junie’s birth was hard. We all know the weeks around having a baby are expected to be challenging, but adding the stress of this COVID situation is certainly not helping things. Savannah struggled with severe postpartum anxiety—and the Lord helped us through in some pretty amazing ways.
Many of us know someone who’s pregnant right now (you might even be pregnant yourself!) and I think you’ll be encouraged to hear Savannah and Ryan share their story—unfiltered—about what they learned and what they did that helped.
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
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- James 1:21
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Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Heidi St. John podcast. Today is Friday, May 15th. This is episode number 924. Today, I’m going to air part two of my interview with Savannah and Ryan Bates. We’re going to be talking a little bit about how you can care for a family that’s expecting a baby, both pre-delivery and postpartum. Stick around, I think you’re going to be encouraged
I appreciate you guys listening today. I know a lot of you have been really encouraged by Savannah and Ryan’s testimony and just their willingness to say, “Hey, sometimes it can be really difficult walking through a labor and delivery and postpartum.” We appreciate hearing from you. If you’ve got questions or you guys want to engage with us about this, you can do that by sending me a message at heidistjohn.com/mailboxmonday.
Today, we’re going to talk more about their experience and then pass on some of that information to you that you can use to really provide for, and care for, your family as you guys welcome new babies into your families. Also wanted to let you guys know that I’ve got an essential oils class coming up, talking about managing stress and anxiety, particularly in a time like it is right now. I know you guys are going to be encouraged. I’m going to be sharing my story along with several other teachers.
We’re going to talk to you guys about essential oils. I think we actually might hit on oils for labor and delivery and postpartum. It’d be another great way to do this. Savannah and Ryan have a lot of information on that, for sure. That is a class that airs on the 19th. The 19th through the 22nd, that’s a four-day class on Facebook, or we’re going to do another one on May the 20th.
Coming up just next week, we’re going to be having these classes. You can register for that at heidistjohn.com/oils. All the registration links are at the top of that page. All right? We’re going to take you guys midway into my conversation with Savannah and Ryan Bates.
[Heidi] Yeah, it was so good. Ryan, when you see your wife like that, and you realize, “I can’t fix this. I’m supposed to take care of her. I’m her husband,” I mean, I wonder for you, I think about the men who are listening to this right now, “Oh, heck no, I’m not taking my wife to my mom’s house and when hell freezes over.” You know what I mean? Was it hard for you?
I mean, obviously we have a good relationship, so I know that there are people listening who really do have bad relationships, who couldn’t do it, but for you as Savannah’s protector and her provider, what goes through your head when you’re watching her with a new baby and you think, “I got to do something different”?
[Ryan] Yeah. Yeah, as for the husbands out there, it is, it’s a really difficult place to be because you want to do everything you can to provide and support and protect. There’s a certain level of helplessness that you really feel because, frankly, the tears just keep coming. They just don’t stop. Even if you’re doing all the right things, you want to be able to just listen, but then it happens again and again and again. It’s really difficult.
At the same time too, most husbands through all this are sleep deprived. Most husbands have, I have my own emotional stuff that I’m trying to process through. It’s just an interesting weight, but I would add, I think it’s a beautiful responsibility at the same time to be able to be there, to really provide for your wife at just such a crucial and important moment. It’s a hard thing.
A couple of things that I would just encourage guys with: number one, expect it. Expect that this will happen. Expect that this will be difficult. It might not always look the same. There will be varying lengths of difficulty, but there will be tears. I can basically guarantee that.
[Heidi] It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
[Ryan] Exactly. Yeah, you’re not doing anything wrong. That’s perfectly normal and so expect that it will happen. Even biblically, Jesus says, He says, “Expect trials of various kinds.” Expect that this will happen. It’s abnormal if suffering does not come on us. You especially see that in a moment like this. Then secondly, there’s actually some biblically, I think there’s some encouragement that we can get from it in Romans 8. It talks about just really the analogy of birth as anticipating a new creation. It says that the earth groans.
I think, especially right now, we can look outside and we can see the groaning, right?
[Heidi] Hello, yeah. Sure.
[Ryan] We can see it. This beautiful, but painful and difficult process, it teaches us something about God. It teaches us something about where the world is heading and what God’s doing in the world in a really beautiful and profound way. That wouldn’t be true without the suffering. God, also He gives us encouragement in the midst of that. That same chapter, God says that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.
I’m pretty sure that postpartum anxiety, the stress of all of the postpartum stuff, that fits into the all things category and so be encouraged by that. Ways that husbands can be there for their wives, they can expect that this will happen. Number two: just be present. Be as present as humanly possible. Just be there. Just sit there. Just let her cry on your shoulder. Don’t give her a hard time. Just let the tears come. You don’t necessarily have to fix it. Try to find some things that work.
One thing that was just on a real practical level, one thing that was really helpful was Essential Oils. Right?
[Ryan] There was an oil conference in there. It’s crazy.
[Heidi] It’s Essential Oil moms going off in the house all the time.
[Ryan] Smelled like oils all the time. Yeah, exactly.
[Heidi] We did Bergamot behind your ears. That really helped. We did all kinds of things. We were diffusing. They were on your ankles. Oh, yeah.
[Savannah] We could do a whole podcast on just that.
[Heidi] We totally should.
[Ryan] Postpartum oils. Yeah. I was taking the oils too, man.
[Heidi] Yeah, you were.
[Ryan] I’m like, give me some of that stuff. Anti anxiety, baby! We definitely have some of that. There’s some practical things, so pursue those things. Figure those things out, but also anticipate that you’re not going to just find the solution. You’re not going to just apply just the right oil or give just the right medication that makes it all go away because it won’t. It just takes time. Just your presence is huge.
I know a lot of guys can be really independent and so being willing to sort of spread out that support group. Get as many people as will help your wife as possible. For me, it looked like at 11:00 at night, driving almost 45 minutes through the backwoods up to your house so that Savannah could just cry on your shoulder. That’s huge. There’s nothing I could do other than that. There wasn’t something I could say at that moment or that week that made everything go away. It’s just a hard season.
I think just endurance is a huge thing. Just enduring through it, being a shoulder to cry on. Sure, pursue some practical solutions. Then finally I would just say, know that it has an end date. Know that it will come to an end. This too shall pass— and that’s what it did. Because I think even for guys, it feels like this is forever. Do I get my wife back after this? Is she going to come back? Is she going to be okay?
[Heidi] Right, right, right. Because Savannah’s normally this sort of peaceful, normally sort of quiet. She’s the opposite of me. She’s like the swan, glides across the water, and you’ve got this sobbing Swan.
[Ryan] Oh, yeah.
[Heidi] You’re wondering, and I do think at one point I remember Savannah telling me, “It wasn’t like this with the boys.” I was like, “Yes, it was.” You don’t remember, but I do.
[Savannah] I don’t think it was that bad.
[Heidi] It was bad.
[Savannah] I do remember crying. I don’t remember the anxiety and not being able to sleep.
[Heidi] I do think that was different.
[Savannah] That was different.
[Heidi] Like the physical manifestation of anxiety was definitely worse this time.
[Savannah] It made everything worse. I do think part of it probably came from just all the COVID stuff going on.
[Savannah] I had extra stress on me for months, on months, for weeks before it even, feels like months. Feels like years.
[Heidi] I know, we fell down the rabbit hole. It’s like Groundhog Day every day now.
[Savannah] Oh my goodness, yeah. There was definitely extra things, but yeah, Ryan was such a support to me. It’s so important to have that. He was just there. I mean, I feel like when you’re in that spot, sometimes I didn’t know what to do, but other times it was like, like with going to your house, I’m like, “I need this. I know that I need it. I need it.” He’d be like, “Okay, we’re doing it.”
When we were in the hospital, he hadn’t eaten. We brought a lot of snacks, but you hadn’t had like a meal and they actually told him, “You can leave the hospital, go drive through somewhere as long as you’re back before 8:30.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, go do that. Get yourself some food.” I mean, I was like trying to share my..
[Heidi] Oh, I remember this. Yeah.
[Savannah] I was trying to share my hospital food with him, but I’m like really hungry because I just had a baby.
[Ryan] And hospital food tastes terrible.
[Heidi] Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, right.
[Savannah] It was gross. I didn’t even care. I ate it all. Anyway,-
[Heidi] All the applesauce.
[Savannah] I mean, he’d already been helping me so much, I’m like, “Yeah, go.” Then he went, he got his coat on and everything and he went to reach for the door to leave, and I just started. He looked over at me and I just started sobbing. I was like, “Please don’t go.” I could not handle it, the thought of him leaving me. He was just with me. There were some nights where I was sitting up because I couldn’t sleep, because I had such bad anxiety. I felt so bad, but I would end up just waking him up because I couldn’t be alone. I just couldn’t handle being alone.
[Savannah] I would just be like, “I don’t know what to do,” and he’s like, “It’s okay, I’ll go get you a glass of water.” You know what I mean?
[Heidi] Stumbling to the sink.
[Savannah] He was helpful and I was also struggling with engorgement as well, which was hard.
[Heidi] These are all things people don’t talk about. You know? It’s all, “Breastfeeding is so sweet.”
[Savannah] That was horrible.
[Heidi] It’s horrible, like the first few days are pretty horrible.
[Savannah] We went to see a lactation consultant and she was like, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. You are so engorged. It looks like it’s on the edge of mastitis.” I’m already struggling with all this stuff. Well Ryan, it’s just these little things that he did. Like, he started recording her on his phone so I could listen to it later.
[Heidi] So you wouldn’t forget.
[Savannah] Yeah, she was giving me so much information. He’s like, “I’m going to record this,” so he turned on and he was recording it. Then we got home and she had taught me how to like hand express and stuff, but I couldn’t figure it out. I was crying again because I was so discouraged, so he goes and looks up how to hand express milk.
[Heidi] He’s a Renaissance man.
[Savannah] Oh man. He was helping. It was just things. I mean, you never thought you’d be doing that. It’s like, I found this really awkward video.
[Ryan] No, it was terrible.
[Savannah] He’s like, “I am not watching it, but you watch this. I think it will help you.”
[Heidi] It did help you.
[Savannah] It did, yeah.
[Heidi] It did help you and I think that’s so cool.
[Savannah] It meant a lot to me. I was like, “Wow, I know this is really weird for you,” and just to think outside of the box of ways to help that were practical.
[Heidi] Yeah, I love that.
[Ryan] Yeah. I think a lot of it is just little things because again, there’s no big thing. There’s no magic formula. There’s no one thing you can say or one pill you can get. Little things, filling up her water bottle five times a day, because she drinks like a camel, so much water, so much water. Fill up her water bottle, ask if she needs anything, get her some food, even if she doesn’t eat it and then don’t get frustrated when she doesn’t eat it.
I think at one point I just grabbed, I was like, “All right, you can have this, this, this, this, or this. I’m going to get all of them and bring them to you and then you can choose, and so you get five things.” “I only want this one,” and then you have two bites of that and then we throw it all away. That’s all right. That’s okay, I get it. I think a lot of it really is just the little things. Just trying to do the little things as much as you can, knowing that it’ll pass.
[Heidi] I think too, you guys have done such a good job of kind of yielding to the situation that you’re in. You sort of bend to it and you adapt when you’re in it. We discover again, just that power of community and how important family is to be able to come around and just to have all those hands holding Juniper, so that if at some point you could fall asleep, Savannah, or Ryan could sleep at some point, you knew that that baby was being taken care of, so you weren’t worried about it.
Just, we were all together under one roof. It was loud. I’m not going to lie. It was really loud for a couple of days. I was like, “Wow, I forgot. I forgot how loud it is,” and we raised seven kids. You’d think you wouldn’t forget. I know there was a point, you and I, I couldn’t sleep one night either. I think there was probably a part of me that was taking on your stress a little bit and I couldn’t sleep.
[Savannah] My shed hormones.
[Heidi] Yeah, your shed hormones. Savannah’s just shedding hormones everywhere.
[Savannah] I swear, that’s a thing.
[Heidi] All over, all the women were crying.
[Savannah] Yeah. I was like, I’m so sorry. It’s from me I think.
[Heidi] It was a cry fest. It was a cry fest. I remember coming downstairs. I woke up and you had texted me and said you couldn’t sleep and you were having such a hard time. I got out of bed, went downstairs and sat down in the library, just kind of waiting for you. You came down about an hour later and we had a conversation and you were talking to me about a combination of drugs you were taking. I was like, “Oh my goodness. That gives me horrible anxiety.” It was like a light bulb moment.
[Heidi] We decided to have you stop taking it because you were taking it for pain, but you were doing better. We decided to have you stop taking it. I felt like The Lord, just at four in the morning, whatever, we’re sitting down there talking and it was like, “Oh, we should try that.”
[Savannah] Yeah, within 24 hours.
[Heidi] Yeah, you started making a really big change right around that time.
[Savannah] Oh, I know. Yeah. I think that the anxiety and stuff was already there, but I think that the drugs were…
[Heidi] Making it worse.
[Savannah] …making it worse, way worse. That was huge. That felt like The Lord. It was like in that moment when we were talking, I was like, “This is The Lord. Thank you, God.”
[Savannah] That was very encouraging.
[Heidi] It was really true. When you crested that hill and all of a sudden it was like, okay, we’ll do it. I know Ryan could see it, the next day we could absolutely see. Like, I think one point you went four hours without crying and we’re like, “You just went four hours without crying. That was amazing. We’re getting better.”
[Ryan] Here’s your trophy.
[Savannah] Yeah. Your trophy is happiness. Yeah. That’s when we started doing like way more of the Essential Oils. We really upped that. We really had started doing a lot of things all at once.
[Heidi] Yes, we did.
[Savannah] It all was definitely helping. Ryan and I had a moment too where we went and ran home to get some things. On the way back we just listened to worship music and we just blasted worship music in the car. We were praying together and just thanking The Lord for the things that we had seen Him in. Doing that was like, it was like with the essential oils, I was resetting my body and not taking those drugs and then resetting us spiritually and getting focused back on The Lord again. It was that time when I really started to turn a corner and it was huge.
[Heidi] I think it was just encouraging. Everybody could see it, but I guess, we’re going to be out of time here in just a second. I guess what I really loved about watching you guys do that is we saw The Lord moving and we saw Him answer prayer. When you started to feel better, you were like, “Oh, it really wasn’t that long,” because when you’re in it, you’re like, “Oh, it’s been two weeks,” but it was like two days. It was two or three days of just really awful.
I was so encouraged just as a mom to watch the two of you work together. I loved, loved watching Ryan take care of you. There’s nothing that parents want more for their kids than to see that relationship develop and flourish and grow because your kids are watching. They’re watching. They’re watching how you do family. You’re teaching them a lot right now. I think that’s awesome.
We’re going to kind of wrap this up, but I want just for a second for you guys to just maybe just one thing that comes to your mind, Ryan, and one thing that comes to your mind, Savannah, to the mom and dad who are getting ready to have a baby in the middle of the pandemic and they’re scared like you were. To the mom who is listening to this and maybe she’s a week out and she’s feeling hopeless and like, “What in the world I get myself into?” Can you just speak life? Maybe we’ll just have maybe Ryan, you could maybe just close this out in prayer too and we can just speak life over those families right now.
[Savannah] Yeah. I would just say that there are lots of things in life that are hard and it’s in different ways. Birth has been hard every time I do it, but God is so with us. He is so with us. It comforted me to no end, to know that Jesus understands suffering and He has walked that road. Not the road of giving birth.
[Heidi] Right. He created that road though.
[Savannah] He came, He came into our world. He didn’t have to do that. He died on the cross for our sins and He understood what it was like to struggle mentally. Even if you look at Him in the garden of Gethsemane, where He was crying and sweating blood, because He was so stressed, so riddled with anxiety over what He knew The Father was asking Him to do. When we go into birth and things, we’re filled with anxiety and that’s okay.
It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay. Christ knows what that’s like. He is our ultimate comforter and He is with us in those times. It really helped me to look at the ways that He was with us, because even through the hard things I could see, I could see His grace and I could see where He was answering prayers and where He was with us. He truly is near to the brokenhearted. There’s that.
Then also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be honest with people. I think that sometimes we can get kind of weird about birth, where we think that it’s supposed to be like Pinterest perfect and everything. Even on Facebook, you’ll see lots of cute pictures of Juni that I’ve posted. I have said, I said on there that I had struggled. I didn’t go into all of it because it’s Facebook.
[Savannah] I think that it’s so important that we’re honest with ourselves of where we’re at and that we’re able to be honest with our spouse, honest with our doctor, honest with our family and our friends, the people around us and that that is okay. It’s okay to struggle. You don’t need to feel guilt over it. I was just struggling so bad that I was like, “What were we thinking.”
Well, it doesn’t mean I don’t love my daughter. I’m so happy to have her, but in the moment I wasn’t feeling happy about it and that’s okay. I don’t need to feel guilt over that either. It’s just something that you have to walk through and it takes time.
[Heidi] It’s so good to have people around you when you feel that way, who can speak truth over you.
[Savannah] Oh yeah.
[Heidi] Who can speak life over you when you can’t hear it, because you’re so tired and sleep deprived and whatever else, just to have people around you that are speaking life.
[Savannah] Yep and listen to worship music. I couldn’t sit there and read my Bible.
[Heidi] That peace album.
[Savannah] Oh my gosh. Yeah. The peace album. We listen to it all the time and now Juniper loves it. When she’s fussy, I turn that on.
[Heidi] Is it Bethel, you guys? Who does that?
[Savannah] I think so, yeah.
[Heidi] I think it’s like all of their really awesome worship music. I remember telling you about it because someone had told me and I was listening to it. It’s like all their awesome worship music, just toned down, quieted down.
[Savannah] Yeah. It’s like lullaby type music, but it’s worship stuff and it’s just filled.
[Savannah] Oh yeah. That helped so much. Yeah, there’s that. Then for people, like if you know a mom who’s going to be giving birth right now, just have extra grace for them. Know that right now it is an exceptionally stressful time to give birth. You already are dealing with all the hormones and stuff, so when stuff is going on outside, like I was afraid. I didn’t know how to handle it. Like, do I let people hold her? All these things are racing through my mind.
I so appreciated people just having patience and grace with me, as I tried to figure out how we were going to handle the pandemic with our family in this time of giving birth. I was really good about quarantining us before we went to the hospital, because I didn’t want us to get sick with anything. I didn’t want to risk Ryan not being able to come with us.
[Heidi] Not like they tested him, but whatever.
[Savannah] Yeah. It’s like, you just do what you have to do. Everyone needs extra grace right now. I think especially moms who are going through that need extra grace because we’re all trying to figure it out. You also have hormones that are making you…
[Savannah] It makes it harder to figure things out. I will say that, but yeah. For other people, just reach out to those moms. It helped me so much to have you guys support me and it helped me so much to have Ryan supporting me. It only really lasted a week for me. It was very intense week, but I think if I hadn’t had that support, it would have lasted a lot longer.
[Heidi] No question, yeah.
[Savannah] A lot longer.
[Heidi] I think that’s really true.
[Savannah] The support made all the difference.
[Heidi] Yeah. I love that. Ryan?
[Ryan] Yeah. I would just echo much of what Savannah said. I just think really leaning into the presence of The Lord and leaning into the promises of The Lord. Suffering is really interesting in the sense that suffering always reveals what your theology is. It always reveals where you’re putting your functional trusts.
Even allowing a process like this, allowing something difficult like this to shift your functional trust so that you’re able to lean more and more on The Lord, because you realize, and we’re experiencing this during this pandemic as well, so many things that we’ve taken for granted, so many things that we trust in and that we count on being there, whether it’s our emotional state, whatever it is, so many of those things are being threatened or taken away. It’s an opportunity to just really press into The Lord.
So press into The Lord. Rehearse those promises, surround yourself with people who really can speak life, surround yourself with people who will be encouraging. If you’re in a situation where you as a husband or as a family member who is helping a mom who is going through some postpartum stuff, just continue to be gracious, continue to speak life. One of the things about truth is that even if it feels like it’s only scratching the surface, it’s not.
God’s Word does not come back in vain. God’s Word always goes out. It always has an effect. Yeah. Just trust that God is a God who is there. He’s there, not just in the sense that He’s there with you in that room right now. Yes, that’s true, but also one of the unique things about Christianity is that we worship a God who suffered and that is completely unique. No other religion, no other worldview can claim that. We worship a God who bled in the garden because of the anxiety that He was under. He was so anxious that He literally sweat drops of blood.
Trust that that’s the God that we worship. Then surround yourself, men, with support as well. Find a guy, find a father, somebody who’s gone through this, who you can talk to about what’s going on in you. Continue to trust The Lord through the process because it does have an end date and God brings just beautiful things out of this hardship, both in you and through you to others.
[Heidi] It’s so good. We’re going to go ahead and wrap this up today. I want to let you guys know too, I was thinking about, Ryan was just talking about the promises of God and I’ve actually written a book called, Bible Promises for Moms, and it’s really cheap. It’s like $3.99 on Amazon. We’ve watched people buy those in bulk. Get like 10 of them and just start giving them out to your mom friends.
This is a really great time to just lean into the promises of God. Ryan and Savannah, it’s just been a joy to have you guys here. I’m just really ridiculously proud of you and love to watch you grow in your family together.
[Savannah] Thank you.
[Heidi] It’s so good.
[Savannah] Oh, we love you.
[Ryan] Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you so much for your support through all of this.
[Heidi] You’re welcome. Well, it’s chicken soup day.
[Ryan] I may have died if it wasn’t for you.
[Heidi] Ryan, you mind praying us out?
[Ryan] I do not mind at all. Let’s pray. Father, we thank you so much for your faithfulness to us. God, thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for our beautiful baby girl. Lord, thank you for Savannah. Thank you for your faithfulness to us through this. Thank you that you are a God who knows what it’s like to be anxious. You are a God who knows what it’s like to be so stressed out to the point where it feels like it’s all consuming, Lord, but you are the One who is faithful to carry us through that. We just praise you for that, Lord.
I pray for all of the moms who are out there. I pray for the moms who are even going to be giving birth during this time, moms who are anticipating that. I pray for family members, Lord. I pray for support units, those who are. I pray for grandparents. I pray for parents of young kids during this time that you would be with them, Lord, that you would just infuse them with your grace, infuse them with your presence, God.
Just equip us and strengthen us to trust you, to lean on you no matter what, and to use this time to refine us, make us wiser, make us stronger, Lord, as we walk out, everything that you’ve called us to do, Lord, with your presence. We praise you. We praise you today and we love you, Lord. Amen.
[Heidi] Thanks for listening, you guys. We really appreciate it. Hope this has been encouraging for you. Something you don’t know about Savannah and Ryan, because I forgot to say it, is that they are the authors of KidsStrong, which is part of the MomStrong International Bible Study that’s released every month. They do an awesome job working together at helping you disciple your children.
If you want more information on that, you can find out about the ministry that is MomStrong International at momstronginternational.com. Thanks for listening today, everybody. I know it was a little bit longer, but it’s a pandemic. You got no place to be, so hope it encouraged you. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you back here again next time.
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Heidi St. John
c/o Firmly Planted Family
11100 NE 34th Cir, Vancouver, WA 98682
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