My 8 month old was attending a baby shower with me. We were celebrating our friend Jamie's miracle baby. She and her husband worked hard and suffered much to create little J.B. All of us were thrilled to celebrate his impending arrival.
As mother's do, they asked if I was still nursing. I said, "No, you can't take anti-depressants and breastfeed. I stopped the day I knew I needed some chemical help." The Gorilla raised it's head from the corner, preparing to howl. (See PPD Chronicles: Chapter 1).
In my mind, I had rehearsed the scene a million times. I would break down (weeping pitiably and beautifully -in the imagination one always weeps with panache, nary a booger in site), bemoaning my lack of sleep, hygiene, sex, will to live, etc. They would either a) quickly come to surround me in a circle of maternal love and care or b) (the Gorilla's favorite) they would all sit in stunned silence and judge me as a horrible mother, a lazy mother, a diva who can't handle one of the most basic and profound tasks of womanhood, bearing and caring for children.
Later in the afternoon, I apologized to the hostess. She had seen me at the beginning. Then I wore the gorilla on my back, not yet cognizant of his existence, yet suffering nevertheless. His massive paws covered my ears (shutting out anything positive), his legs firmly wrapped around my waist (squeezing the breath out of me). I somehow managed to get myself to a children's consignment sale (the nirvana of bargain shopping).
The pseudo-tradition I and the other Moms had was to go to the consignment sale and then out to dinner. Chatting over the fence has been replaced for our little group of modern mothers by a hastily planned dinner at a local restaurant possible only after 1) someone (anyone) takes the kids and 2) shopping for said kids is complete. It was the plan this time. However, I couldn't do it.
I barely managed to dress in something other than the oversized white t-shirts and stained workout pants-my official PPD uniform. We met and I couldn't hold a conversation. I couldn't remember for longer than 5 minutes what sizes I was shopping for or what I needed. It was so bad, I literally walked away from one of our moms, Holly, as she was in mid sentence. Jamie rescued me and was my 'guide mommy' through the mentally demanding process of checking out. She even pretended to understand when I made some lame excuse about missing dinner, hastily jumping into my car to leave. She has since joined me in my "gorilla ass kicking army"!
That was nearly seven months before the baby shower.
Holly was the hostess for the baby shower. This time I was lucid, properly dressed and communicating in complete sentences, and I took the opportunity to apologize. I told her I was in pretty bad shape then and it wasn't anything personal. She said the magic words, "Don't worry about it. I've been there."
As the afternoon progressed I could say with certainty several other women in the room had indeed been there. Whether they too came out and described their own gorillas explicitly or simply nodded their heads in silent affirmation, most had been there. Been there and been back.
The gorilla seemed smaller in the face of these survivalists of the maternal. I indeed had been there, and indeed would be back. I would come out from under the gorilla's influence once and for all.