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January 3, 2011

It’s February 2009. C is eight months old and I’m not doing very well. He doesn’t sleep well (“Screamfest 2009” I think we dubbed it) and I’m so tired I seem to have totally lost my ability to cope. I decide to see a counsellor, so give my handy Employee & Family Assistance Program a call. I tell them I’m a new(ish) mom struggling with some issues and want to talk to someone about it. They refer me to a counsellor, who calls to find out more about what I’m looking for. I tell her my story – fussy baby, not sleeping, feeling overwhelmed, etc. etc.

“Sounds like you’re suffering from postpartum depression,” she says when I’m done.

“No,” I say. Emphatically. “It’s not that. I’m really not interested in calling it that.” (I think I actually said that.) “I just need to SLEEP.”

I’m sure her first thought was something along the lines of, “Oh, this one’s going to be fun” but she gamely set up an appointment to see me.

I went for my first session and talked about my issues. I cried. A LOT.

“I really think you’re dealing with PPD,” she says again. “You probably need to see your doctor.”

I wasn’t interested. Didn’t listen.

All credit to this counsellor – she had me figured out. Professionally successful and used to feeling competent and in control. A tendency to be hard on myself. Dealing with unrealistic expectations. And dealing with PPD and totally unwilling to admit it or talk to someone about whether medication might help.

I spent every session talking to her and crying my eyes out. After each hour I had a handful of little wet, balled up Kleenexes, a blotchy face and the knowledge that I was going home to a kid who, if he was asleep at all, was going to wake up throughout the night and scream his adorable little face off.

I continued to see her for about six weeks. It helped a little, I suppose, but was more exhausting than anything else and I didn’t need any help being tired. The last time I saw her I told her I’d call her to schedule my next appointment. I never did, of course. She did call me – a couple of times. I know she was concerned and genuinely trying to help. But I told her I was okay and waited for the problem to go away.

Fast forward to December 2010. In the last two years, I’ve seen five doctors and three counsellors. I’ve come to terms with the PPD label and had asked for a referral to someone a friend told me about – a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum disorders – but I didn’t meet the criteria of having a child under one year or being pregnant. I’ve looked into a counsellor, recommended by this same friend, who runs a PPD program, but I didn’t meet the criteria for a referral to her either. So I’d given up, decided to stay on the meds I’d been prescribed, and cross my fingers.

One Monday early in December, C wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and refuses to go back to sleep. We’ve had a rough patch of sleep in the last few weeks and this puts me over the edge. I have one of those mornings where I can barely get myself out the door to work, then finally do get there and realized I’ve left my travel mug of badly-needed tea in my car. I go into my office, shut the door, bury my face in my hands and cry.

After that day – where the lack of sleep has tipped me over into a full-on scary PPD place again, where forgotten tea prompts a breakdown – I decide to make the call I’ve been putting off. I call the counsellor who specializes in PPD and agree to fork over the money to see her.

At my first appointment, I tell her why I’m there. I still can’t do it without bawling. I need someone who specializes in this to tell me if I’m nuts or not, I say. If this is normal. If it can be dealt with.

She listens quietly, patiently. When I’m done she pauses, as if waiting for more, and then says she’ll tell me what she thinks.

“I think you’re dealing with postpartum depression,” she says.

I cry with relief. Finally, someone tells me what’s wrong with me.

And I listen.


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