Looking back eight years later, I can see that something was wrong just moments after my daughter, Hope, was placed, pink and new, on my chest. Instead of love or joy, I felt panicked, worried we were already nursing failures two minutes in. Yet because my lead-up to motherhood had been nearly picture-perfect — a happy marriage, a wanted pregnancy, a birth so smooth my OB had said I should have a whole football team of kids — it took me several weeks to understand that while Hope was healthy, I was not. Eventually I could name it — postpartum depression — and begin to recover, but for a while it just felt like all the good parts of me had slipped away the day I gave birth. My husband, Rich, returned to his long lawyer hours and two-hour daily commute a few days after Hope was born.
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When my son turned 6 months old, I began looking for a baby sitter. Not just any baby sitter would do: I imagined a modern-day governess. A brainy, artsy, warm college student. After all, I could easily hire the high school kid down the street for half the price. My baby-sitting career began one early summer day in Rockville Centre, Long Island, circa , when I posted an index card advertising my services on a corkboard at the neighborhood market. A mother called me a few days later. Her baby was 8 months old — I had just finished the eighth grade.