Southern Seducer - Jessica Peterson

Chapter One


Present Day

“I think you’re depressed.”

Meeting the pediatrician’s eyes, the tightness in my throat becomes acute. The baby, squirming in my mom’s arms beside me, lets out a wail.

The tears I’ve been holding back all morning finally spill over.


Shit, shit, shit. I didn’t want to lose it today. I wanted to keep it together for Maisie’s four-month checkup. Show, well, I don’t know who that I can handle motherhood, and that I love it, the way everyone told me I would.

Seeing my tears, Dr. Yates gently cups my elbow. “I was waiting for those tears to happen. Come with me, Mom. Let’s talk.”

I feel my mom’s eyes follow me as the doctor takes me into an empty conference room at the back of the office. She leaves the door open, and we sit beside each other at a corner of the table.

Somewhere in the office, a baby is screaming. Younger than mine by the delicate, mewling sound of it.

My stomach clenches. I’m no longer sore from Maisie’s birth, but the weird numbness there reminds me of just how drastically my life—my body and my mind—has changed since my baby was born in November.

More tears.

“I think you’re right,” I say, struggling to keep my voice even. I don’t know what will happen if I totally surrender to the overwhelm. “I don’t feel great. But I also don’t feel like, you know, I’m going to hurt my baby or hurt myself.”

“Those aren’t the only signs of postpartum depression.” A fresh wave of tears hits me at that word. Depression. Dr. Yates hands me a tissue. “Other signs are irritability. Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Feeling hopeless.”

I mentally check each of those boxes. Yup, YUP, yup.

I nod. Swallowing hard, I hold the balled-up tissue against my right eye and take a breath. Then another.

“But isn’t that just…I don’t know, motherhood? Isn’t it supposed to be exhausting and overwhelming?” And awful, I silently add.

“Have you felt worse as time has passed?”

I nod again.

Dr. Yates hands me another tissue. “Then no. No, you’re not supposed to feel that way. Medication can make a world of difference for you, Annabel. It’s something you should consider.”

“I didn’t want to be the girl who got postpartum.” Just like I didn’t want to be the girl who had an emergency C-section.

So far, nothing about parenthood has gone to plan. Which, for a perfectionist like me, has been a bitter pill to swallow.

“A lot of new moms experience it,” Dr. Yates says. “The statistics tell us ten to twenty percent have clinical depression, but I’d say that number is higher. You are not alone in how you’re feeling. I want you to get the help you need.”

My throat loosens. Just the tiniest bit.

“I do want to be a good mom. I’m grateful Maisie is healthy and growing. We’re lucky in so many ways, I just—I’m trying. So, so hard. And I still feel like I’m drowning.”

“Of course you are. Let’s not forget you’re a single parent, Annabel. But that’s not the only reason you should get help. You should do it for you, too, because how you feel matters. Becoming a mother doesn’t change that.”

Ugh, more tears.

“I know you’re right.” My voice is thick. “But that’s not the message we’re given. As mothers, I mean.”

Dr. Yates gives me a wry look. “You too? You’re struggling to be the perfect mom the world tells us we’re supposed to be? I mean, c’mon. How the hell are we supposed to exclusively breastfeed our kids while working out around the clock to bounce back supermodel style while also leaning into our fulfilling careers?”

I laugh. It feels good, and the tears start to slow.

“No wonder women feel bad about themselves,” I say.

“No kidding. The expectations put on us—”

“That we put on ourselves, too.”

“Right. They’re ridiculous. I know you feel like you’re doing everything wrong at the moment, but my gut feeling is you’re probably not. Try really hard not to believe the lies you’re telling yourself, because given how healthy Maisie is, you’re obviously doing something very, very right. And no one will ever be able to love your baby girl as well as you do. But to take care of Maisie, you need to take care of yourself first. Give your OB a call and get those meds. Definitely worth talking to a therapist as well. I promise that it gets better. I had two colicky infants who are now ten and thirteen. For the first few months, I thought I was going to die.