Meghan Markle's story shows we have a long way to go to support mental health in pregnancy
In 2019 I remember watching Meghan Markle tear up when asked one simple question: Are you okay?
It was surprising then to learn that no one had thought to ask her.
In addition to a lifestyle transition beyond most of our comprehension, she was simply a new Mom.
Remember those days?
They’re the days we don’t really talk about – at least not with specifics.
We may acknowledge they were hard, but we keep the part where we felt rage to ourselves.
Or we lock up the part where we had painful thoughts or horrific images flash in our minds.
We bury the times where we questioned if we could do it. Or if we ever should have.
Instead we say, “Sure, it was hard.” “I’m so grateful.” “The days are long!”
It was just over a year ago someone finally asked Megan if she was okay.
Now we know she asked for help well before that. She spoke up while it was happening! She was pregnant with her son and wasn’t given any help.
In 2021 we may have big corporate mental health campaigns and we use content warnings. Yet there’s apparently still a tacit line we won’t cross in this conversation. A kind of dismissal around mental health in pregnancy.
So I just don’t know how we can continue to talk about mental health in pregnancy & postpartum without acknowledging what happened to Meghan.
I’ve heard some say, “She knew what she was getting into.”
How could she have? How could she have known that she was signing up to be stripped of even a basic sense of empathy?
And for that matter, how can any of us “know” what we’re “signing up for” when we become pregnant?
Yes, she’s a “princess”.
But I wonder if anyone told her what the common spectrum of perinatal experience can be before she was in it.
Because no one told me. There is a very real mental health component to this story that applies to all pregnant people.
When I began to have intrusive thoughts in my second pregnancy, I internalized them with such deep shame.
I told myself they were happening because I was surprised to have found out I was pregnant in the first place, and because I wasn’t grateful enough when I did.
We had packed up and moved into a new home. Two days later we left for a destination wedding with our one-year-old and negative pregnancy test in hand. Yet somehow, by the time we were back in our strange new home, we were the owners of an unplanned pregnancy.
The test was wrong. I wasn’t ready. I kind of felt like my body betrayed me. And I knew that made me a very, very bad person.
Our new house is a block away from a cemetery so I’d lay awake, convinced it was haunted. The scenarios that would run through my mind had to be paranormal. I wasn’t in control and that just wasn’t me.
Then again, who feels like “themselves” when their mental health is suffering?
This is why I’m so glad the conversation is beginning to shift from postpartum depression and/or anxiety to perinatal mental health.
And grateful that Meghan is helping to accelerate it.
I tear up every time I think of her. All the good she has done through her pain.
Only months ago she shared a beautiful and powerful piece on her own pregnancy loss. That also helps to normalize what so many have and will experience and feel.
I’ll end this by saying what is perhaps the most important thing: none of us owe our private grief, mental health struggle or trauma to anyone.
But, wow. It is incredible when we share. There is power every time when we tell each other.
So thank you, Meghan.
Kristine is the co-founder of One Tough Mother and runs this blog.