Age at interview: 37
Background: Elly and her husband have a 2-year-old son and are expecting their second baby. They live in a large city. Elly works part-time as a resource manager and is from an Austrian background.
Soon after her son was born, Elly moved away from family and friends, underwent foot surgery, and struggled to breastfeed. She thought she had postnatal depression but it was not officially diagnosed. Her husband's support, mothers' group, and returning to work helped her feel better.
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More about Elly
Elly and her husband conceived their baby soon after getting married. Elly had an easy pregnancy and was excited about becoming a mother. She attended antenatal and breastfeeding classes and thought that looking after a baby would come naturally.
Elly worked almost until her due date, and the birth went well. Back at home she had trouble breastfeeding, which was 'enormously painful'. Elly developed nipple trauma and developed mastitis. She started to feed her baby expressed breastmilk and formula, then formula only. Elly struggled emotionally to accept being unable to breastfeed feed her baby, as she had never contemplated bottle feeding.
Elly felt too ashamed to tell her maternal health nurses that her son was on formula. She also could not face bottle-feeding her son in public, as she said she didn't want others to see what a 'terrible mother' she was. This meant staying home a lot, and Elly said she would 'watch the clock' waiting for her husband to come home.
While their baby was still very young, Elly and her husband moved to a suburban home with more space. This meant leaving local networks and moving to a 'totally unfamiliar' area, which added to Elly's feelings of isolation.
When her son was 12 weeks, Elly had elective foot surgery. For three months, she was unable to walk so her husband stayed at home and cared for her and their baby and renovated their house. Elly said she then started to feel disconnected from her son and 'disassociated with who she was and what was going on around her.' She began to think that it wouldn't matter if she wasn't there because her husband was managing so well.
Yet Elly thought there were probably women 'lots worse off' than her. She felt the questions on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale were unhelpful, and could not admit she was struggling to her maternal child health nurse or GP. Elly said her husband's support was invaluable and without him she would have 'lost the plot.'
As Elly's foot recovered, she started to feel better. Mothers' group was also a positive experience, as several other women were also bottle-feeding. This helped Elly feel more normal and as though she wasn't being judged. When her baby was seven months, Elly returned to work part-time. Others questioned whether this was too early, but she said it was 'definitely the best thing' for her. She regained her 'sense of self' and found that she enjoyed her time with her baby much more.
Elly is concerned whether she will be able to breastfeed her second child. She has already told her health professionals that her feeding problems with her first child resulted in much anxiety and stress. Elly says that if she is having trouble she will seek help much earlier, but she won't 'feel as bad as last time' if it doesn't work. Elly's advice for other women in similar circumstances is to make time for yourself as the 'benefits for you can be great'.