Reflections on Maternal Mental Health Week “Journeys to Recovery” and European Babywearing Week 2021

With thanks to Anna Nham

“My mental health and babywearing have been an inseparable fulcrum upon which my experience of being a mother has spun. Having lived with complex PTSD for over ten years, when I became a mother I knew it would be part of how I experienced motherhood. I just didn’t know exactly how, or how much the traumas of motherhood would compound my symptoms. When I looked around for examples or stories I found very little.

I did find lots of writing on post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis, or PTSD caused by birth. But it became clearer and clearer as I read more that when the conversation turns to maternal mental health we mostly always seem to be discussing conditions caused by becoming a mother. Conditions that are then expected to get better as we adapt to our new lives as mothers.

But what of those of us already living with mental health conditions before we became mothers?

  • What of those women for whom motherhood posed a whole new set of challenges, but was not the root of the issue?
  • Those of us with bipolar, borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD, long standing depression and anxiety, amongst others?
  • Those of us for whom perhaps there is no ‘getting better’, because we lived alongside and with these conditions before we became mothers, and will continue to after?

Yet in becoming mothers a whole new challenge was uncovered and laid bare for us. How to live with these conditions while also raising our children. How to protect them from their potential to harm. How to harness those challenges, to be the best mothers we can be. How to raise children who thrive, maybe even because of, not in spite of, who we are.

Learning to navigate this has been a challenging and sometimes heartbreaking journey for me. Especially when I have often not known where I am heading. But the one thing that has consistently supported me has been wrapping my children and keeping them close. In binding us together the wrap reminds me that I am not alone in the journey. That I carry my children too, and that the effort of the journey is the effort for them. I may not know exactly where I am heading but I must get to a safe place, because it is only then they are safe too.

In reflecting on this, I also reflect on mothers around the world, who also have to carry their children to safe places. Those fleeing traumas of all sorts. Those who also take a piece of cloth and bind their children to them to embark on a journey together, to safety.  

journeys to recovery

“In our patriarchal world wherever there are women there is trauma. And there are mothers carrying their children away from that trauma in the hope of a better life. After all, at the very root of it, that is our first priority as mothers, the future of our children.”