WHY MEGHAN MARKLE'S COMMENTS ON BEING A NEW MUM ARE SO IMPORTANT
BY JESSICA BOSCO
Royal mums are damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t. If they follow royal protocol and pose for the cameras mere hours after giving birth they’re shamed for setting unrealistic expectations for other mums. And if they chose not to they’re shamed for being selfish or entitled.
Say what you will about Meghan Markle, and people do, they say A LOT. But her recent interview as part of a new documentary Harry And Meghan: An African Journey, is different. And it’s garnering lots of attention, for all the right reasons.
There’s no pomp, there’s no circumstance, it’s a woman, a mother, standing there telling the world she’s not ok. And how powerful that is.
At the end of the day royal, not royal, we’re all just mums trying to get by the best way we know how.
“Would it be fair to say ‘Not really OK’?, journalist Tom Bradbry asks of how she is doing following the intense, and often cruel media scrutiny she has faced since marrying Prince Harry and welcoming the couple’s first son, Archie, in May this year. “It’s really been a struggle?”
To which Meghan, fighting back the tears, simply replies, “Yes.”
The response to the interview has been widespread, with the hashtag #WeLoveYouMeghan trending on Twitter, fans are applauding her honesty and vulnerability and for shining a light on the importance of asking ‘are you ok’, especially to new mums. No matter who you are, famous or not, no matter what resources are available to you, motherhood is hard, and for one of the most famous new mums in world to admit that, is so incredibly powerful.
To the mother who is also not ok, who watches that video and suddenly feels like she is not alone, how powerful that is.
To the mum who is struggling to balance work and motherhood, you’re not alone. To the mum who doesn’t feel like herself, or doesn’t even know who herself is anymore, you’re not alone. To the mum who lost her cool today and feels ashamed, you’re not alone. To the mum who feels like she’s not good enough, you’re not alone. To the mum who is at work wishing she was at home - and to the mum at home wishing she was at work, you’re not alone.
“I would say… any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging,” Meghan admits in the interview. “And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it’s a lot.”
“So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mum or trying to be a newlywed. It’s um... yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
When we have babies, so much of the focus is on the babies, and rightly so they’re adorable and need a lot of attention to ensure their survival. But not enough focus is put on the mother.
“In our culture, we’re so geared towards pregnancy and birth and when it comes to postpartum (the period after birth) there’s far less of a focus,” says Naomi Chrisoulakis who is a Postpartum Doula in Sydney. “It’s all about setting up the right stuff, but very little about planning to get the best support. It’s not like that everywhere, and in many cultures women are cared for in special ways, given specific foods, massaged and celebrated.”
In Australia up to 1 in 5 women will experience anxiety in the first year after giving birth and up to 1 in 7 women will feel depressed in the first year after having a baby.
“We’re sent off with our babies and expected to fumble through, often without support… or with help that comes with a side of judgemental mother-in-laws, oblivious siblings, nosy neighbours, friends who want to help but don’t know how,” adds Naomi.
While attitudes towards the importance of the postpartum phase, matrescence, (a term coined by anthropologists, defined as the transition to motherhood), and the idea of the “fourth trimester” are slowly starting to change - as the rates of postpartum depression and anxiety continue to rise - comments like Meghan’s are so important in changing attitudes and opening up a safe space for dialogue. Helping then to take the stigma out of the struggles and shift the focus towards getting new mums the proper support they need.
According to COPE postnatal depression can be caused by factors including “your genetic make-up and family history, your personal way of thinking and coping, features of your environment that influence your mental and emotional wellbeing”. And while a combination of these factors may make your risk of developing depression higher, having a good support network is considered a preventable measure.
Often we can miss the early signs of postnatal depression as they are commonly referred to as “baby blues” or we think they are just normal feelings associated with giving birth and sleep deprivation. However it’s important to be aware of some of the most common symptoms and if you’re unsure always speak to your doctor or someone close to you.
What are the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression"
• feeling low or numb – some women describe feeling nothing at all
• loss of confidence, feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless
• feeling teary and emotional, angry, irritable or resentful towards others
• changes in sleep – not being able to sleep even when you have the chance or wanting to sleep all the time
• changes in appetite — accompanied by weight loss or weight gain
• lack of interest and/or energy
• difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly or making decisions (which can also result from lack of sleep)
• feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
• having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby and/or other children
• finding it difficult to cope and get through the day.
If you or someone you know needs support you can contact LIFELINE on 131114, Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc (PANDA) on 1300 726 306 or visit COPE.org.au for more information on pre and postpartum mental health.