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We've seen Tully—and we've got some real concerns

Spoiler alert: This is about the entire movie, not just the trailer. Additionally, this article contains information and opinion about maternal mental health and may be upsetting for some individuals.


When the trailer for Tully first came out, I was beside myself. Finally, a movie about what motherhood is really like. I couldn't wait to see it.

In Tully, Charlize Theron plays Marlo, a mom of three who hesitantly accepts the help of a night nanny to get through the famously rough fourth trimester, after her youngest daughter is born. The movie is named for the night nanny, Tully, who is played by Mackenzie Davis.

Tully depicts an image of motherhood never before seen in a movie like this. Marlo has leaking breasts, a postpartum belly and a messy house—definitely not the glamorized version of motherhood we are used to seeing. We also see a lot of very familiar scenes, such as when Marlo accidentally spills a bag of freshly pumped breast milk, and the pure heartache that ensues from that.

Marlo's husband, played by Ron Livingston, is a fine husband and dad—definitely present and "trying" but certainly not as engaged or aware as we'd like him to be.

So far, I was on board with the plot.

Enter the night nanny, who comes into Marlo's life and starts making everything better. She connects with the baby right away, helps Marlo get her house organized and eventually becomes her confidant and friend.

Things take a turn for the huh? though, when Tully sleeps with Marlo's husband—while Marlo is watching and "telling her what he likes."

The climax of the movie comes when Tully and Marlo go out for a night and find themselves drunk in a bar in Brooklyn. Tully tells Marlo she can't work for her anymore, which greatly upsets Marlo. They end up driving back home together, but Marlo is drunk and falls asleep at the wheel—and they get into an awful car accident.

When Marlo regains consciousness, she is in the hospital, with her husband by her side. We learn from a doctor that Marlo has been suffering from postpartum depression.

We also learn that Tully is not real. Tully is actually Marlo's younger-self, who Marlo has imagined into an actual walking-talking person. The movie ends with Marlo's husband stepping up and helping around the house a bit more, and it is unclear if Marlo receives treatment—the movie definitely does not show her doing so.

I am not a movie critic, so I can't speak to the cinematography and acting—though from a non-expert POV I thought that was all really good. The actors all did tremendous work, and I was really impressed.

I am, however, a midwife. And as a maternal health provider, I have some very real concerns about Tully.

Postpartum depression is mentioned in the movie (once when we find out Marlo had it after her first baby was born, and once at the end when the emergency room doctor asks her husband if she's had a history of mental health issues).

The problem is that Marlo does not have postpartum depression—she has postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis (PPP) is rare, impacting about one or two out of 1000 women. Symptoms include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Periods of extreme activity
  • Anger
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble communicating

As with all mental illness, it's essential that we do not make any blanket statements about women with PPP because everyone's story is different. That said, postpartum psychosis "can lead to devastating consequences in which the safety and well-being of the affected mother and her offspring are jeopardized," according to Dr. Dorothy Sit and colleagues.

From hallucinating a personified version of her younger self (including "helping" her have sex with her own husband), to nights filled with frantic cleaning and cupcake baking, to a spontaneous night out where she ends up driving home drunk, Marlo exhibits many of the signs of PPP.

I am not sure if this was intentional, or if the film-makers did not realize that the character they created had PPP. Since they acknowledge that she has postpartum depression, though, I am surprised that they seem not to have consulted with a therapist to ensure that the topic was handled appropriately, whatever their intention was.

My issue with the movie is not that it is about a woman with postpartum mental illness—indeed we need many, many more movie about postpartum mental illness.

My issue is that in not addressing the fact that Marlo has a postpartum psychosis, the rampant problem of unaddressed maternal mental health concerns is perpetuated.

The reason that people are so excited about Tully is because they feel like it is the first time that true motherhood is being portrayed on the big screen—but this is not true motherhood. Motherhood is hard, yes, but it is not this. This is mental illness. Brushing aside her mental illness again refuses to give it the attention it deserves.

Marlo needs immediate mental health treatment, and there is no direct acknowledgment in the film that she is getting it. Yes, a doctor tells her husband that she has PPD. Perhaps we can assume that means she's getting help?

Here's the thing though—all too often in mental health we assume that someone is fine and getting the care they need. So we don't do anything or say anything.

We need to create a culture that is done assuming and starts ensuring.

My strong concern here is that this movie which presents itself as validating the experience of motherhood is sending the message that these symptoms are normal. They are common yes. But they deserve to be respected and attended to, not dismissed.

Twice in the movie, Marlo talks about suicide. Once in the beginning when she says (to her entire family), "I want to kill myself," and her husband tells the kids that she's only joking, "like a clown." And then later Tully jokes that Marlo wants to murder her—since Tully is really Marlo, murdering her means killing herself.

In neither of these instances does anyone do anything to help her. Yes, this is a movie—but real women are suffering from this very real problem. Normalizing suicidal ideation is simply not okay.

Carolyn Wagner, a maternal mental health therapist based in Chicago told us: "The reality of postpartum psychosis is that it is extremely serious and presents a grave danger to mom and infant. It does not involve fantastical imagined friend and caregiver, and it is certainly nothing to be made into a plot twist.

"Additionally, I am concerned about the impact the storyline will have on postpartum mood disorder survivors who are not aware before going into the movie what they are going to see. The promos do not even hint at the twist, so moms are likely to be caught totally unaware which can be really upsetting and potentially damaging."

I find myself wondering about responsibility. Does the film industry have a responsibility to address mental illness appropriately? I'm not sure that they do.

But I see such a missed opportunity in Tully. Had the movie been just a bit longer, perhaps they could have shown Marlo receiving help—how amazing would it have been to see Hollywood take on the stigma of maternal mental health and turn it on its head? Instead, we leave with the notion that this is just "how it is" for moms.

So for what it's worth, to anyone out there suffering, please know it doesn't have to be like this. You have done absolutely nothing wrong, and you are not alone. There is very real help available to you.

You are so worth it.

If you're experiencing feelings or thoughts that concern you, contact your medical provider or a therapist who can help you find the right treatment plan. If you want to hurt yourself or your child, please call 911 or go to the emergency room where they can help you. For a description of postpartum mental illness symptoms, please visit Postpartum Progress.

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

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GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

Nursery Blankets, Starting at $39.50

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib, $399

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set, $45.50

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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