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Motherhood as slavery and trauma?

(44 Posts)
ElinorRigby Sun 26-Mar-17 11:15:27

What do people think of this piece?

QuentinSummers Sun 26-Mar-17 11:21:40

I read that yesterday. Am a bit Meh tbh. She wrote this Every new mother knows that when the midwife comes round looking for signs of postnatal depression, you don’t answer honestly. No every new mother doesn't "know" or think that. If you can't admit the problem you can't expect anyone to notice it. (I have had PND myself, treated promptly because I went to the doctor rather than lying at my 6 week check).

ElinorRigby Sun 26-Mar-17 11:27:54

I think others feel much the same way. The Guardian closed the comments below the line, because the piece provoked some quite hostile debate. I was torn between feeling sorry for somebody who had cut themselves off from sources of help and profound irritation. Because it's dangerous, alarmist nonsense to tell women who need a bit of support that if they ask for it, their children will be taken from them. (Perhaps she's still not in a great place if she can write that. Or not as clever as she thinks she is.)

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Sun 26-Mar-17 11:42:20

I think the fear of asking for help thing is more common than you might think. Thinking back I probably did have PND, but was wary of admitting to needing help because as a single mother, I did worry that people might feel that my child would be better off with someone else (this was probably projection due to the fact that the PND was making me feel like my child would be better off with someone else).

But yes, a very one-sided account by someone who does sound like she's still not in that good a place.

However, having said that, motherhood is bloody tough. I used to joke that I wanted a t-shirt that said "This is not PND, this is a rational reaction to intolerable circumstances." Sleep deprivation, a colicky baby who screamed and had a tongue tie so couldn't latch - the first three months were, objectively speaking as well as when viewed through the fog of PND, hell on wheels. And even now, with all the enormous rewards having a child brings, I'm painfully aware of how precarious it can all be - my health has not been good this winter, and coping with the relentless, bone-numbing exhaustion this brings with no respite at all because you come second to your child: motherhood is enormously tough, comes with no rest, comes with no opt-out button, no option to change jobs - it is an occupation unlike any other.

So although I found the piece depressing and one-sided, there were elements of truth in it.

scallopsrgreat Sun 26-Mar-17 11:46:22

She's quite quick to recognise the failings of the health system but hasn't once mention her partner's support (or lack thereof). She said no one noticed her mental state. What about her partner? The person supposed to love and cherish her and bring up this child with her. Why didnt he notice? What was be doing to support her?

PND can be very situational. Traumatic birth, isolation, the shock of change of lifestyle, lack of support all contribute. The argument shouldn't be about whether women admit it and get help but rather why so many women have it in the first place.

ElinorRigby Sun 26-Mar-17 11:52:18

I was really puzzled by this piece. I have met the author a couple of times - though not recently - and we have some mutual acquaintances. She has an older partner, though he is not mentioned in the piece. I think parents - who in ideal circumstances may offer help or support - may not have been able to help. She has friends, though they are not mentioned. I also know the author lives in quite a remote area.

So it could have been interesting to read a piece saying, 'Actually it's tough because my partner's no longer young and energetic, and my parents live thousands of miles away and are no use, plus all my mates live in London and I am in the middle of nowhere. So how do I find the help I need?' Whereas instead the piece is a kind of scream. I think it's not uncommon to be ignorant about how demanding motherhood can be. But most of us, do muddle our way through and find support and friendship that help us get through the tough bits.

AssassinatedBeauty Sun 26-Mar-17 12:00:15

I don't recognise any of the feelings and experiences at recounts. Which is not to say I doubt her or want to minimise what she's got to say. I just don't think it's as common a reaction as she thinks, or as inevitable.

The lack of mention of her partner is odd - if she checked out of her existence as much as she describes, he must have noticed. Or be a crap partner.

I also agree that it's very wrong to suggest it's normal to be afraid of asking for help because your children might be removed. It's just not true, and I am surprised she doesn't realise that even now.

illegitimateMortificadospawn Sun 26-Mar-17 12:07:01

To be honest, although I didn't have family nearby, I did have a supportive partner, friends & nice neighbours nearby and I still found the transition really, really tough. I was also dealing with chronic pain from a pregnancy-related issue &, post-EMCS, a baby that fed lots at night & rarely more than cat-napped in the day. I was relieved to return to full-time work - for a break. I recognised some of my experience in that article - and, yes, (in hindsight) I was pretty depressed &, no, I didn't tell anyone. It felt shameful - at the time I felt like I'd failed at a good birth & was also failing at motherhood. I hid the extent of my feelings from my husband too.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Sun 26-Mar-17 12:10:25

I suspect it's much more common than you think, Assassinated, just that it isn't talked about. Going from my own experience - you're surrounded by friends and acquaintances at baby groups who are all loved up and blissfully happy. What are you going to do? Say "actually it's crap for me"? Nope, because you don't want to piss on their parade, because they just wouldn't understand then you'd feel even more crap, because you suspect that there is something wrong with you for feeling this way. So you don't talk about it ever - well, maybe years afterwards, when a friend makes a chance remark that makes you realise it was like that for her too, and you cautiously compare notes and find you weren't the only one. Then you find another friend, and another... but it remains compartmentalised, individual experiences, shared between people who have been through it, and still never mentioned to people who haven't.

I think there is a vast conspiracy of silence about women who find motherhood tough.

bigkidsdidit Sun 26-Mar-17 12:11:13

The article struck a chord with me, actually. Not the depression, which I didn't hVe, but the idea of being absent. I WAS absent for years. I was just saying to DH the other day that since my youngest turned 3 I can almost feel myself returning. I'm not obsessive about details and I'm more relaxed and I'm starting to get my social life back. I understood exactly what she meant in that bit.

bigkidsdidit Sun 26-Mar-17 12:12:34

And btw all that time I was a good mother, and worked in a professional job, and so on. I just wasn't fully present anywhere.

AssassinatedBeauty Sun 26-Mar-17 12:15:15

It's a horrific thought that most women feel this way, and can't talk about it.

ElinorRigby Sun 26-Mar-17 12:24:25

But my sense is that it really is okay to say other women who are new mothers, 'I am finding it hard to get breastfeeding established.' or 'The nights are hard,'' or 'I miss the gossip at work' or 'I'd really like to have a night out, but I am tired and paying for a babysitter makes it expensive'

And, with some people, this can sometimes lead to other confidences.

Sandsnake Sun 26-Mar-17 12:25:46

I read this yesterday. I was mildly annoyed at how she stated that most women felt the same as her, as I don't think that is true. Whilst I think she is right that there are a lot of women who suffer in silence, I don't think that is quite accurate.

It sometimes feels that the discourse around motherhood is overly simplified. It seems to be either 'everything is sunshine and rainbows' or 'almost all new Mums have PND and are hating every minute' with nothing in the middle.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sun 26-Mar-17 12:28:08

I didn't get past the headline when I first saw it as it looked yet another one of the many articles which appear in the Guardian lifestyle section by people whose speciality subject is navel gazing about themselves and losing all sense of perspective. (My favourite one was the mother who was deeply traumatised by the fact her 21 year old son had got a tattoo on his shoulder blade). I've now read it and my opinion hasn't changed.

I do not believe most women feel this way.

ElinorRigby Sun 26-Mar-17 12:31:23

Absolutely Sandsnake. I suppose the one good thing about the article is that it did make me reflect on my own experience and the things that had gone well.

(Supportive partner, healthy baby who fed well, some lovely friends, stepchildren who adored their new sibling, living in a place with lots of mother and baby groups, an NCT postnatal support groups, Some work I could do from home)

And the less good bits.

(Being tired, cluster feeding, birth that proved more complicated than I had imagined, some money worries)

NataliaOsipova Sun 26-Mar-17 12:33:58

The best summary for me was the last comment: "So, in summary, the author had a baby, didn't enjoy the experience and so didn't do it again. Fair enough"

The war analogy is a bit ridiculous and, frankly (I should imagine) quite offensive if you've actually seen active service.....

bigkidsdidit Sun 26-Mar-17 12:37:26

My DH has seen active service. We talked about this last night and he wasn't offended in the slightest.

AssassinatedBeauty Sun 26-Mar-17 12:42:40

I think it's an ok comparison, as pregnancy/childbirth might be one of the only times in your life when you are aware (or become suddenly aware) that your life is very definitely at risk. Not necessarily to the same degree as being in a war situation, but still it can be imminently life threatening. If that hasn't happened to you before, or you hadn't considered the possibility, then i can see how it would be traumatic to suddenly find yourself in that situation.

NataliaOsipova Sun 26-Mar-17 12:59:32

Yes - it can be a traumatic experience - but you are surrounded by professionals whose job it is to help you and make sure you're safe. In a war, you're the target of an enemy whose job is to kill you. So I think it's a ridiculous comparison to draw.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sun 26-Mar-17 12:59:47

I thought it was a ridiculous , overblown analogy.

QueenLaBeefah Sun 26-Mar-17 13:07:13

According to this article a third of those suffered by fromPND do not seek medical help.

Suicide is one of the biggest killers of new mums on the Uk.

Yes, I know the article being discussed is in the guardian so it will be a bit naval gazy but the reality is some new mums will get PND and won't (for whatever reason) seek medical help.

AssassinatedBeauty Sun 26-Mar-17 13:09:58

She is right that it might be the first time in a woman's life that they become aware that they are in a life-threatening situation, and that things occurring beyond their control might kill them. Not everyone will inevitably be traumatised by that though, or experience a birth where there was an awareness of the sudden possibility of death.

Elendon Sun 26-Mar-17 14:36:50

The midwife is only there for two weeks and not every day. There is no way they could spot if you are depressed. Everyone comes down from the highs of giving birth, more to due with the rush of adrenaline than the drugs, though the drugs don't help.

They do say that if after the baby blues the feeling persists and gets worse to then call the doctor/midwife. Plus you are yourself assessed when bringing baby in for immunisation shots.

I understand the sentiment. Not everyone is cut out to be a 'perfect' mother. It's way too stringent these days, with social media.

scallopsrgreat Sun 26-Mar-17 17:50:59

I'm not sure where 'most women experiencing this has come from (unless the author said it?). It doesn't have to be most women for it be worth discussing or for their to be an issue. We know from MN alone a significant proportion of women suffer from PND. A significant proportion of women have had traumatic births coupled with breastfeeding issues/sleep deprivation etc and a significant proportion of women are isolated and lack support in whatever form that comes.

This does happen to too many women.

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