The heartbreak of raising children with overseas grandparents

Bringing a child into the world during a pandemic has left countless new Australian mothers emotionally vulnerable. The grief that they have experienced, and are still experiencing, is the nation’s invisible health crisis.

Feelings of being robbed of a pregnancy, the loss of mother’s groups, the cancelled baby showers, and not to mention the fear of the virus itself, and the uncertainty about what the future holds.

Yes, we’re one of the lucky countries in this, and in many parts, there’s hardly a sign of the pandemic. Whilst we absolutely need tight border restrictions and a quarantine program to keep case numbers down, it has undoubtedly torn many families apart.

Australia is a multicultural family where many of its citizens and permanent residents migrated from overseas. Because of the travel ban, thousands of families unfortunately can’t have their overseas parents visit on the grounds that they’re not ‘immediate family’.

Overseas grandparents can’t visit and be a source of essential support and guidance during a time when new mothers need it the most. There is a deep and lasting heartbreak of raising children that overseas parents have never met. Never held them, never inhaled their newborn scent, never felt their soft baby skin, never gazed into each other’s eyes and smiled blissfully.

But, it’s gone on much longer than that. Grandparents are missing out on being at their grandchildren’s first birthdays. Thankfully technology means they can communicate via video chats, but the reality is that babies are growing into toddlers only knowing their grandparents as faces on screens.

It’s once again an example of how a mother’s wellbeing is devalued

When grandparents are refused entry even when they get tested, vaccinated, and are happy to pay for hotel quarantine, the message that new mothers receive is that they should be able to handle this time alone.

Compared to other cultures in the world that acknowledge that it takes a village, and will rally around the new mother so that she can heal and rest, many new mothers in this country feel that they shouldn’t need to ask for help.

Currently, at least one in five women experience anxiety, depression or both during pregnancy and/or following the birth. Surely we will see this figure rise due to family fragmentation and women not reaching out for support.

If you need help, please call…

PANDA National Hotline

PANDA’s (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression) national hotline is Australia’s only free helpline service for women, men and their families affected by perinatal anxiety and depression. Highly trained and caring counsellors can help you work through your challenges. Phone 1300 726 306 between 9am – 7.30pm Monday to Friday (AEST/AEDT). Fill out their mental health checklist here for expecting mums, dads, and non-birth parents, as well as new mums, new dads, new non-birth parents, and partners/carers.


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