"I can't really explain it to you," my friend Betteanne says, "because you're still pregnant and you really don't believe me, but let me just warn you that after the baby is born, you are going to be Down for a while." There is a menacing pause over the wire.
"I mean," she speaks slowly, as if I'm retarded, "you will just be...Down."
And she's right, I don't believe her, or maybe I just can't believe her, because I'm huge and pregnant and cannot imagine anything feeling worse than how I feel now, like a Sperm Whale.
But I know what she means now, this first month home with the baby who turns into a vicious demon at 4 o'clock, the same spirited girl-child I wished for who never stops screaming.
What it means when you are Down is that you don't know what the fuck you are doing, and you have to pop a Xanax in the middle of the day because you feel like you might drown, and your Mother-in-Law is sitting in your kitchen, waiting for you to make her lunch.
And maybe, if you think about it long enough and let the fear get the best of you, Down is what those women were who threw their kids out of Buick sedans or smothered them with throw pillows because they couldn't handle their own incompetence any longer. Sometimes that kind of Down is almost within your mental grasp and you have to lock yourself in the laundry room for a while.
So I'm doing what Betteanne told me to do, which is to mark a month from now on the calendar with a big black X. When I start to feel Down, I look at that X and know by the time I reach it, I will be less Down. And the month after that. And if you keep doing it your Down isn't so bad any more.
But sometimes the Down is awful, and you cannot for the life of you figure out how to soothe this little thing. This thing that they somehow trusted you to bring home. And yet. There's a winter sky and open arms and music on the radio.
You pick her up, hold her flush against your body, dance, and she makes this funny squeaky sigh, and suddenly it feels like Us Against the World.
And if I were Roy Rodgers,
I'd sure enough be single,
I couldn't bring myself to
Marrying old Dale--
It'd just be me and Trigger
We'd go riding through them movies
We'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail
And Miss D. and I dance and sing with Lyle and I imagine that, too, I am on a Pony on my Boat out on the Sea.
*****Author's Note: This is an autobiographical essay on post-partum depression and its effects on the body, brain and psyche of the person afflicted. It is not a diatribe or slander against any of the following: the mentally handicapped, Mother-in-Laws, or unmade lunch. It should be noted that the author of this piece was not in shackles at any point during the post-partum period and the assumption of any appetite for lunch was purely speculation of the author. Mention of unmade lunch was purely a literary tool used to underscore the feelings of desperation and overwhelming helplessness of the author. Any offense given to the mentally handicapped, Mother-in-laws or unmade lunch is unintentional and regretted. In addition, the author would like to note her previously stated appreciation and respect for her own wonderful Mother-in-Law here and here.