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The Day I Finally Asked for Help With My Postpartum Depression

I walked into our family doctor’s office with my husband and our 5-month-old son.¬†The late afternoon sun was warm for September and not at all reflective of the¬†darkness I was feeling. We sat in the waiting room with other patients. My husband¬†had taken yet another afternoon off work to come with me to this appointment. One¬†too many panicked phone calls in the middle of the day tearfully begging him to come¬†home from work and here we were.

We had been in this waiting room a number of times over the last few months. Our¬†family doctor sees all of us, so we’d been to her recently for all of our son’s regular¬†baby checkups. This time was different. This time we were here for me. Sebastian¬†wasn’t going to be bouncing on my lap as a distraction. The nurse called my name,¬†and I followed her into one of the exam rooms. As I walked into the room alone, I felt¬†heavy and defeated. I was finally going to have to admit out loud the challenges and¬†sadness I’d been feeling postpartum.

My limited understanding of postpartum depression was that it meant that you¬†wanted to hurt your baby. I was exhausted and drained and often upset, but I was¬†posting happy mommy and baby moments on social media every day. Snuggles, cute¬†onesies, trips to the park, I really did feel joy in those moments. I never wanted to hurt¬†our son. We had tried and yearned for this baby for years. I loved him and was afraid¬†that a postpartum diagnosis would symbolize that I didn’t really love or want my¬†son. I wanted to feel happy and full of warmth, but I felt weighted down with sadness¬†and guilt. I later learned just how many levels there are within PPD.

As I waited for my doctor to come in, I tried to figure out how exactly I would say the¬†words out loud I’d been avoiding for months. I felt like I was at confession, and I was¬†ashamed that I couldn’t handle the challenge of motherhood. In the end, I just couldn’t¬†bring myself to actually say the words “postpartum depression.”

My doctor came in, sat down beside me and asked me how she could help. I told her,¬†“I’ve been feeling really sad. More sad than I think I’m supposed to be.” She nodded¬†kindly. I could tell that, thankfully, she understood my code. “Both Rob and my mom¬†really think I should talk to someone,” I added.

I was so relieved that she didn’t ask me more questions. The acknowledgement alone¬†felt like enough for one day. My doctor logged into her computer and looked up¬†potential psychiatrists for referral. We live in a large city, so it would be easy to get¬†access to psychiatrists that specialized in PPD and even PPD groups if I was¬†interested. (At the time of this appointment I was absolutely not interested in a PPD¬†group. I was embarrassed enough admitting my problems to my doctor, whom I¬†actually know and like.)

My mom and husband had been not so subtly hinting at me for awhile that I should¬†check in with my doctor. I hated that they were right. I felt so guilty that I couldn’t¬†handle being a mom. I was supposed to do one thing. Take care of our son. And I was¬†failing.

Before I left my doctor’s office, she reassured me that things would be OK and that I¬†would hear very soon from a local hospital with my psychiatrist referral appointment.¬†She made sure I understood I could come back and see her anytime and to let her¬†know if I didn’t hear from the hospital within the next few days.

That particular appointment was only a few minutes long, but it was a turning point¬†for me. The truth was finally out in the open, though I didn’t leave my doctor’s office¬†feeling magically better that day.

I was still scared, and I was still sad. All of those feelings of failure, darkness and defeat were still coursing through my body, and I was not optimistic that those feelings could change. They were simply too heavy. I was convinced my friends and family would judge me for not being strong enough to handle those first few sleepless months. I was afraid I had already failed.

Yet somewhere deep within my heart I knew asking for help was important. Healing could now begin, and there was a tiny truth that I was beginning to learn. 

Experiencing postpartum depression didn’t mean I didn’t love my baby.

I was asking for help because I loved my baby.

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