Reading Present Over Perfect in the waiting room the other week, I overheard a young woman pushing a stroller quietly say to the receptionist, “I’m here for the Open Clinic. The Perinatal Mood Disorders one.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
She did not. Understandably so, given the title “Open Clinic.” She was just hoping to see someone, talk to someone. It didn’t matter who.
“I’m sorry, but we’re completely booked today. I know the title is misleading.”
As the mom’s shoulders collapsed, I could only imagine the effort it took her to get here at 8:00 am. She had showered and gotten dressed. Fed her baby. Changed and dressed her, too, before tucking her carefully into the car seat and loading that into the car. Along with the diaper bag and stroller, her purse. Drove to the clinic, unfolded the bulky stroller, clicked the car seat into it, grabbed everything else, admitted to a complete stranger that she needed help.
The receptionist was sympathetic, helped her to make an appointment for the next week or maybe the week after. I tried not to eavesdrop. But I know from experience that this “Open Clinic” is only available on Thursday mornings, and that it tends to book up weeks in advance. It’s not easy to get an appointment.
It’s not easy to make yourself call for one. Or to show up, like this brave mama. Especially when you’re struggling with the idea of struggling.
After my conversation with my sister, Dry Mama, I steeled myself to call the clinic’s behavioral health department. I politely requested an appointment with a nurse practitioner who had positive reviews online in regards to perinatal health.
It turns out it’s not that simple.
I had to make innumerable phone calls over the course of three days to get an appointment. Thankfully it was still spring break, so I had time during the workday to wait while I was transferred from department to department, sitting on hold listening to scratchy violin music for long stretches of time.
I couldn’t seem to get the right person on the phone and kept being redirected. Apparently I needed to be “interviewed” before I could make an appointment to be “screened” at which point I could make another appointment to create a “treatment plan.” The nurse who did the interviews never seemed to be at her desk and she wasn’t the best at returning calls.
I was frustrated, angry, and ready to give up. The Engineer and Dry Mama pushed me to keep pushing.
Be your own advocate, Dry Mama repeated. I didn’t feel like it. But Dry Mama was relentless.
When I finally spoke with the appropriate nurse in the appropriate department and answered her initial questions, she said it sounded like I needed to be seen as soon as possible. She made some exceptions and found me an appointment three days later.
Be your own advocate. That advice actually comes from our Mom, who repeats it All. The. Time. It started when her breast cancer diagnosis was delayed for a year because the doctor overlooked something on her chart.
I don’t know what happened to the waiting room mom. I pray that she got help, that someone was pushing her to seek it, to keep seeking it even when obstacles arose. That she advocated for her motherhood.
Be your own advocate.