Duchess of Sussex Meghan Marklehas revealed that embracing motherhood under media glare has not been easy for her. In an upcoming documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey by ITV, Markle speaks about dealing with the pressure to be a royal newlywed and now a mother. “Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging. And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it’s a lot,” she tells ITV anchor Tom Bradby. “So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed,” further adding, “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.” Markle’s comments demand us to pay more attention to the mental health of new mums. Why do we assume that a mother with a young baby to care for is happy and blissful? Do we realise what this assumption costs these women?
"Not many people have asked if I’m ok ... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."— ITV News (@itvnews) October 18, 2019
Meghan reveals to ITV's @tombradby the intense media spotlight has left her struggling to cope while becoming a mum #HarryAndMeghan https://t.co/Uy21iE6ozJ pic.twitter.com/kZqhZV66OL
- Meghan Markle says new motherhood has been a struggle for her due to constant media glare.
- She also points out that not many people ask her if she is okay?
- Royalty or not, new motherhood is a struggle for every woman.
- Often those around them conveniently ignore new mothers' mental health assuming that they are blissful.
Why do we assume that a mother with a young baby to care for is happy and blissful? Do we realise what this assumption costs these women?
A royalty or not, new motherhood is equally difficult for every woman. Although, Meghan has to deal with the added pressure of being under constant media glare, and that too the hostile kind. Her every move, every word is dissected and critiqued incessantly. It must be indeed a struggle to deal with this unnecessary scrutiny while having to care for a young child. But even when you detach celebrityhood from new motherhood, the journey doesn’t become easy. And sadly, women are expected to embark on it with a smile on their face.
Meghan is right when she says that not many people ask her if she is okay. I don’t remember anyone asking me that. Even when the question is posed, the expected answers from a new mother are about physical exhaustion or sleeplessness. We just assume that a new mum is in love with her brand new designation, enjoying every bit of having a young one to care for. No one talks about facing an existential crisis that working mumsoften deal with when they have to take a break from work. Or post-partum depression, which they have to endure in silence due to social stigma that motherhood, is the most joyous occasion in every woman’s life. You may be feeling empty and spent inside, or dealing with fears and doubts on how you’d fare as a mother, but can you express these feelings freely, even in front of your partner or loved ones? Can you say that you are not feeling the bliss of new motherhood that everyone expects you to?
A study published in PubMedfound that the prevalence of post-partum depression in the sample size was around 17.6 percent. It also suggested that mothers over the age of 35, those with poor education, low monthly income and housewives were at significantly higher risk of developing it. And yet, whenever we meet a new mom, how often do we discuss her mental health? Do we ask her if she is okay? Do we encourage her to share her inner struggles with us? No, and thus we are responsible for putting the well being of a young baby and new mother at risk.
An article by National Institute of Mental Health warns that if left unchecked, postpartum depression can last for months or years. It can also interfere with a mother’s ability to connect with and care for her baby.
As a society, we need to break the stigmas that define motherhood as a blissful institution, as no way is it a cakewalk. Loving your child has nothing to do with struggles of motherhood, thus speaking about the latter shouldn’t be taken as a proof of being a cold-hearted or unloving mother. Instead of policing and judging them, encourage new mums to speak up about their health issues and ask what you can do to make their journey easier. A simple question such as “Are you okay?” can make a big difference to someone. If you truly care about that someone, then do not hesitate to ask it and keep an open mind to whatever they have to say.
Picture Credit: The Cheat Sheet
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.