Pregnancy and new mothers are top of mind this past week. From the tragic news of the Winnipeg mother and her two young children, to the joyous news of the birth of the Royal baby. Both of these issues are making headlines for two very different, yet similar reasons: childbirth and new motherhood.
I, like so many others, applaud the Duchess of Cambridge for coming out to greet the public the day after giving birth showing a “mommy tummy”. Having had two babies myself, I know that you do not have the baby and instantly bounce back to your original shape. It is incredibly difficult to deal with the reality of this when the media is constantly applauding celebrity women on the front covers of magazines featuring their post-baby bodies in a bikini or headlining the woman as “better than ever”- just weeks after giving birth. There is no magazine featuring a new celebrity a day or a week after giving birth in a bikini. This type of cover photo would not sell magazines.
This is extremely disheartening for many women who struggle with their weight even without having a baby. I think that it is sad that we still have to “applaud” the Duchess for showing her “mommy tummy”. In 2013, I would hope that this would no longer be seen as a ‘daring move’ but rather the norm and not something that is still hidden and to be ashamed of.
The entire topic of the “mommy tummy” is put into perspective when two young children were “allegedly” drowned by their mother. The mother, who had been suffering from post-partum depression, apparently took her own life after her children were found deceased in their home in the bath tub. This is so tragic and incomprehensible. However, the fact is that many women suffer from this illness after delivering a baby. It varies in levels of severity with the most severe being a form of psychosis.
So many questions arise from such a terrible event. Who is to blame? The mother? Doctor? Husband? Family? Friends? Why did this happen? Could this have been prevented? Most importantly though: How do we change this? How do we stop this from happening to any other mothers, children and families? Unfortunately, I am not an expert and do not know the answer. I know that there are many services out there for women suffering from depression. However, are they enough to prevent this? Are they effective? Are they available throughout all communities? Are they affordable?
The only thing I know I can do and we all can do – is talk about it. Let’s make sure that these conversations are happening and show support for women suffering. If you know a woman about to have a baby or that has just had a baby, ask her about these issues and topics. Ask her how she is doing – how she is REALLY doing. Don’t assume someone else is asking the question.
We all need to stop nurturing the stigmas surrounding serious issues of mental illness and less “serious” issues such as “mommy tummy”. Let’s be honest, real, understanding and supportive. No one is perfect and everyone needs to know that it is perfectly ok not to be.