It’s been a couple of months since you saw each other. She had her third baby a few weeks ago and you have been meaning to visit. You sent a card and some flowers and received a thankful text message with a series of gorgeous photos. You wonder if she’s doing okay and make a mental note to phone.
Then your toddler throws cereal on the floor, your phone buzzes with a message from work and your seven year old reminds you of a project that has to be completed that day. All of your busy crowds out thoughts of your friend and her three tiny children.
A few days later you see a Facebook status update and she looks all happy and glowy with her new baby and you exhale. It’s okay. She’s okay. She doesn’t need you.
A month later you find out that she’s been suffering. Really suffering. She hasn’t had the support she needs and she’s started to drown. But she hasn’t felt right reaching out. Not sure who to turn to. Everyone she knows is busy. Busy and seemingly keeping it all together. She has seen their Facebook statuses and responded with her own glossy version. A veneered moment in time that didn’t reflect her reality.
This has happened a few times in the past year or so. Friends that I thought were doing absolutely fine absolutely weren’t. They had been a little quieter than normal. And I just assumed they were off being fabulous at best and busy at worst. That the gaps that had allowed us to catch up in the past had closed. It happens in life. It particularly happens when you have little ones. You drift in and out of each other’s circles. Pulled together by events and your kids and pushed away by the endless demands of parenting and work and the “juggle”. And in all that flotsam and jetsam of early family life, the drowning sometimes go un-noticed.
Why? How have we come to this place where this can even happen? In this supposedly interconnected world where we know more about each other than ever before. I think that interconnected world is perhaps part of the problem. We seek artificial connection that can’t replace someone making us a cup of tea and offering a warm hug. We build fantasy worlds on our walls. And people don’t realise when things aren’t right. Because somewhere along the way appearing to have a wonderful life became more important that making a wonderful life.
The signals we receive about someone’s well-being have been intercepted by social media and the wires have gotten all crossed.
I think the village that was supposed to raise a child has left mumma all alone with her iPhone and not much else. There is a beautifully eloquent piece on just that here.
My sister has just had a baby. A beautiful little boy full of squishy loveliness. I try to visit her often. But I don’t get there every day. I think new mothers need someone. Every. Single. Day. For the bad moments and the good moments. New mothers need two important things: a support system and a way to ask for help when they are too tired to ask for help. We have been taught to sort things out ourselves, to be independent, to not bother others. But in new motherhood, when a little person becomes dependant on you, you become dependant on others. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly natural part of motherhood. It’s just not a perfectly natural part of our modern lives. Which leaves the drowning un-noticed.
It’s not surprising that post natal depression is on the rise given our village-less state. Unrealistic expectations coupled with a lack of support can only lead to dark places. The below graphic gives some ideas on how to reduce the risk of post natal depression from a mother’s perspective. From the perspective of a friend or family member, I think it’s important to check in on the new mums we know. Via phone or in person. Not social media. Ideally every mother would have a key support person, outside of their immediate family, who recognises when the silence is actually drowning. Who knows when to help when it’s impossible to reach out. That relationship is worth everything.
Have you or a friend battled with PND?
As a friend, did you know about it as it was occurring or did you find out afterwards?