In a recent interview, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, spoke candidly with ITV anchor Tom Bradby about pregnancy, new mom life and balancing the pressures and expectations of royal life. My heart went out to her when Bradby asked her how she was handling it all.
"Thank you for asking," Markle said. "Not many people have asked if I’m OK."
Bradby then replied gently, "Would it be fair to say it’s not really been OK? It’s really been a struggle?"
"Yes," she answered quickly.
In that moment, I felt an instant kinship with Markle. Although I’ll never know what it’s like to be part of the royal family or scrutinized and slandered by the tabloids, I remember many times during the last eight years (and four babies) when I could have given the exact same answer.
With or without the spotlight, being a new mommy is tough. On top of out-of-whack hormones and healing bodies, new moms must deal with a myriad of expectations regarding not only how they care for their child but how they perform as a mom. Through social media, the world portrays an image of motherhood where the baby weight easily disappears, emotions bounce back quickly, and daily life is a blissful lovefest between mom and baby.
When I gave birth to my first child, many people asked, “Don’t you just love being a mom?” or “Aren’t you in love with your baby?” I always smiled and answered in the affirmative. (I’m not a monster!) But internally, I grappled with a more complex narrative. Yes, I loved being a mom, but I also struggled with the emotions of losing some of my own identity. Yes, I loved my son, but I also didn’t feel 100 percent bonded to him every hour of the day. I was still adjusting to the new normal brought on by this needy stranger crashing into our lives.
Markle’s interview has sparked an important conversation about the mental health of new mothers. Some have pointed out that, as a society, we don’t ask moms, "Are you OK?" I think that’s true. But maybe the bigger issue is that we don’t slow down long enough to listen to the real answer and do something about it.
There have been many days of motherhood where I have not felt "OK." Often chatting with a friend on the phone, taking a walk with my husband or having someone stop by with coffee has been the thing that brought me back from the ledge. New moms put enough pressure on themselves. Let’s help them know it’s OK not to be OK, and motherhood will get easier. Beyond that, let’s look for ways to lighten their loads as they do the important work of raising the next generation.