When the silence is actually drowning

when the silence is drowning post natal depression

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.

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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.

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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? 


Linking up with Essentially Jess and IBOT

34 thoughts on “When the silence is actually drowning

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks lovely. Hopefully we can start to build the safety nets before the falls — I wouldn’t have realised this without you. xxx

    • Robyna says:

      Not a lot of raw on social media these days. I’m so glad that your friend was able to reach out. That’s half the battle I think.

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks Natalie – we have all gotten very good at projecting perfection while crumbling inside. It takes a special level of connection to realise when that is happening and offer a hug and a helping hand.

  1. Sandra Kelly says:

    Robyna this is so incredibly true. You are so right that we are more connected now than we ever have been as a society but is it on a truly helpful level? Hearing compassion in ones voice and absorbing the healing hug of another through touch cannot be replaced by social media. Great post. Xx
    Sandra Kelly recently posted…Have Your Say – And a Big Hello!My Profile

  2. hugzilla says:

    Yeah, it’s weird but I think that one place that feminist discourse seems unwilling to go is the breakdown of the village, and how much it impacts women. In the perfect feminist utopia we are all in perfectly 50/50 split relationships with men who equally share the load and we are all back at work or whatever. But the reality is, the impact of higher female participation in the workforce (and a more mobile population) means that the extended village of friends and family that supported women is fragmented and all but gone. So yes, we are mostly left to pick up the pieces and deal with it on our own. We still have the burden of domestic and caring labour, and no one really to share the load with.
    hugzilla recently posted…Seven Crass Reality Shows That Will Make You Despair For HumanityMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Exactly this. In times past, our mothers and sisters may not have been working while we were at home with our little ones. That support was perhaps more easily accessible. There certainly would have been less pressure to parent in a “perfect” way and project a “perfect” life.

  3. Alison says:

    This article touched a nerve for me. I suffered with Pnd, or as I called it “coping” and felt so isolated. For someone who isn’t ready to admit they need help to a friend, or if you just don’t know who to ask, I recommend Tresillian. They saved me.

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks Alison – that’s a great tip. I also think we need to check in with our new mums really regularly and ask if they need help. Because while in the throes of “coping” isn’t the time to start building the networks needed. That has to come from others.

  4. Renee Wilson says:

    It is hard with social media. You feel more connected and in contact with everyone, but you’re really not. I’m guilty of doing the artificial happiness myself because it’s just easier sometimes. Nothing can replace seeing someone face to face, but with our lives incredibly full and hectic, it is hard to find the time. I hope everything is okay with your friend now and your sister continues to thrive with her new bub.
    Renee Wilson recently posted…The people you meet – Clare BowenMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks – my sister is doing really well and my friends are on the up. I just wish I had been there for them when they were on the downward slope.

  5. Kathy says:

    A really great post Robyna. I love your line about ‘when did appearing to have a good life become more important than making a good life’ – what a sad indictment that is on our ‘socially connected, disconnected’ lives. I’ve just come from an annual weekend yoga retreat and I am reminded that there is nothing as powerful and connecting in person, really connecting. Your sister is lucky to have your support. Distance, and the fact that we were in the long throes of infertility/IVF meant I wasn’t really the support I should have been to my sister, and I regret that now.
    Kathy recently posted…Mother Nature’s mercyMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      We can only ever do what we can do. I feel badly that I wasn’t there for my friends when they needed me most. I can only learn from that and apply it in the future. You are right – we need actual, physical connection.

      • Sandra Kelly says:

        Please don’t be so hard on yourself Robyna – you said it yourself “We can only ever do what we can do”. You care and you are aware – that’s a good friend right there.

  6. JF Gibson says:

    I suffered from undiagnosed PND. Certainly not severe, but looking back it was. It was hard for me to admit that I wasn’t coping and so I built a wall and dealt with it in my own way. I wish I’d spoken up more about it, as no one should ever feel alone and helpless.
    JF Gibson recently posted…How to stop overthinkingMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      But if you had someone ask “are you okay?” in a really genuine way, you probably would have spoken up. I just don’t think we ask the question often enough and assume too much.

  7. Vanessa says:

    I can’t speak to PND but I do feel a bit frustrated by the way we use social media. Glossy, glossy, glossy. And yet when I keep things real, I’ve actually had people mad at me for it. So it’s a balance that I find very irritating to walk. It doesn’t change how I use it, but it does change how people react to me.
    I guess my best case in point is that a friend made an excellent connection recently for me: I use instagram the way people use snapchat – for reality. And yet I’ve seen so many posts written about people disliking the curation of IG and loving the ‘reality’ of Snapchat.
    The thing is, social media (as a person or blog or business or whatever) is created by the users. So why not use it in the way you choose to?
    Vanessa recently posted…I Have Taser Beams For Eyes NowMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I don’t know how people can be upset about the way you choose to use your own social media channels. I love how you keep it realistic. I have seen quite a bit of gloss on Snapchat too!

  8. Beth at AlmostPosh.com says:

    Great post. I have fired off a specific message to a friend now, even though we message regularly, I wanted to check in on her mental health. Thanks for the reminder. I feel like there is that sense of “leave them alone to do their own thing and don’t badger them” but I remember feeling bored and lonely and out of the loop when I was at home in the early days.
    Beth at AlmostPosh.com recently posted…Posh Picks: #SignatureStyleChallenge WinnersMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Oh I am so glad to read that. I think every new mum is grateful for the check-in after the initial excitement of “new baby” has passed and everyone goes back to their normal lives.

    • Robyna says:

      But that’s the thing Em, we expect mums to just get on with it – everything I read on PND tends to be about mums identifying their own issues and then tips on how to resolve it themselves. Whereas if the support systems where in place first, I think the incidence of PND would be much lower.

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  10. Kate says:

    This was so incredibly true in every way. I also blog about perinatal mood disorders and I have found so many people saying “thanks for writing, I’m glad you’re talking about it.” I think it’s so true that we have to come out of the dark so that villages can become real again. Thanks for writing.

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