The Daily Telegraph
I lost my confidence as a new mother, says Duchess
Parenthood has been a huge challenge even with help at home, she tells mental health charity
TO THE watching world, she appears to navigate motherhood with ease, marshalling two impeccably behaved small children while wearing sky-high heels and a smile for the cameras.
Mere mortals may be pleased to learn, then, that even the Duchess of Cambridge has struggled after having babies, as she admits experiencing a “lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance” under the pressures of being a “perfect parent”.
The Duchess, mother to Prince George and Princess Charlotte, said even she, with all the benefits of having help at home, had found parenthood a “huge challenge”, learning it can be “very lonely after your baby is born”.
Launching a project about mental health in early parenthood yesterday, she said: “Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother.”
The Duchess was speaking at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, at a reception for Best Beginnings’s Out of the Blue, a series of educational films promoting mental health for parents and infants.
The Best Beginnings project is partnered with Heads Together, the mental health charity supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” the Duchess said.
“However, at times it has also been a huge challenge – even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not. Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother.
“It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight.
“You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.
“And yet there is no rule book, no right or wrong – you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family.
“For many mothers, myself included, this can at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.”
Speaking of the two in 10 women who experience mental health issues during or after pregnancy, the Duchess said: “Many of these women also suffer in silence, overwhelmed by negative feelings, but also afraid to admit to the struggles they are facing due to the fear or shame of what others might think if they aren’t coping. Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent; pretending we’re all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it.”
She added: “It’s right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains.
“It’s OK not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.” The Duchess later heard from parents who have endured and overcome mental health issues, some of whom have contributed to the series of Out of the Blue videos, which showcase the reality of parenting and make new mothers and fathers realise they are not alone.
She told one: “There is so much support for mothers when they are pregnant but it can be very lonely after your baby is born.”
In a speech to an audience of professionals, the Duchess said: “If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor. Getting help with our mental health is no different – our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.”