Since the moment she became part of the family, Meghan Markle has done ‘being Royal’ her own way. Always respectful, but every inch an intelligent, modern woman, she’s true to her own thoughts and beliefs. Her maternal choices have been no different.
Before and after you have a baby is both a magical and vulnerable time. Huge change, huge highs, and sometimes huge lows and anxieties as well. In recent years we, as a culture, have got better about listening to women and supporting them emotionally as well as physically through pregnancy, labour and becoming a mother.
The evolution has come at the same time as a greater awareness and new collective approach to mental health as well. When it comes to motherhood we’ve seen the rise of practices including hypnobirthing, for example. There’s more awareness about the empowerment and security of mother as well as baby.
While this is fantastic, postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues still remain a less discussed and often misunderstood area of wellbeing. Of course, there are many contributing factors, but feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious or depressed can often be compounded by the pressure to feel a certain way.
• pressure to be happy and excited
• like you have to be on top of everything
• worried you’re a bad parent if you’re struggling with your mental health
• worried that your baby will be taken away from you if you admit how you’re feeling
So what does this have to do with the Duchess of Sussex, except for the fact that she herself has had a baby?
The Duchess’s decision to have a home birth was heavily criticised by many. Meanwhile, rumours flew around that she had also chosen to employ the support of a doula (sometimes referred to as a ‘birth coach’). Cue more comments, both positive and negative.
“Women’s decisions in childbirth should be made in private with personalised, evidence-based information and compassionate support… Birth planning is about listening to women. It reminds those around us that we matter, that we are autonomous individuals and that we must be afforded dignity, respect and kindness.”
This is where the Duchess’s determination to do things her own way has really made her stand out as a champion for women. It also seems to really hit an important note in the discussion about maternal mental health.
Whatever her choices, the point is that they are hers. That is something a lot of us need to know is ok at a time where we can feel extremely vulnerable. For all of us, our wellness is an ever changing, multifaceted thing that incorporates mind and body.
Pregnancy, birth and being a new parent can be overwhelming. It’s important that we start supporting women and their maternal wellbeing, not only in the physical changes they are going through, but also in the psychological adjustment. That includes reminding women always, that as much as it’s about the new baby, it’s also very much about them.
Women are still individuals and need wellbeing support that’s purely for them. Maternal decisions need to be respected, and they need to feel that they are both important and have agency at a time when change and worry can be daunting.
As women, we still have choices that are for, about and made entirely by us. But it’s helpful if the world around us is able to support that, and build women up, rather than criticise such a very personal time.
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