Age at interview: 40
Background: Erin and her husband live in a regional town with their six children, aged between 20 months and 13 years. Erin is a part-time teacher and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Erin's first pregnancy and birth were difficult. She experienced undiagnosed postnatal depression (PND) after her second child's birth, and conceived her third child via IVF. Her fourth and fifth babies were unplanned. Immediately after the birth of her sixth baby (planned), undiagnosed placenta percreta led Erin to have a massive haemorrhage and several cardiac arrests. She survived but experienced posttraumatic stress, PND and physical complications. She has had counselling and currently takes antidepressants (escitalopram (LEXAPRO)).
More about Erin
Erin met her husband in Europe, and they had their first two children overseas. During her first pregnancy Erin was hospitalised for hyperemesis gravidarum for four months. Her daughter had shoulder dystocia, which led to a painful and traumatic labour followed by an emergency caesarean section.
Erin's second pregnancy was easier and she felt more in control during the birth. However, her son also had shoulder dystocia and was delivered via another emergency caesarean. During labour he had swallowed meconium so was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Erin thinks she experienced postnatal depression (PND) with her son but it was not diagnosed. She recalled feeling isolated with little social support, but shame over her feelings stopped her from admitting she was struggling. She said she felt like she was 'living two lives' - happy on the outside but 'miserable' on the inside. Erin said she 'ingested the medicine cabinet' one night, but did not want to go to hospital. Her medically trained husband helped her throw up and monitored her. While her husband's support was invaluable, in hindsight Erin said she wished she had seen her GP.
Soon afterwards, Erin's mother was diagnosed with cancer and Erin and her family moved back to Australia. During this period she and her husband tried to conceive a third child. After 18 months, exploratory surgery revealed Erin's ovaries and tubes had been caught up in the stitches following her second caesarean. Following surgery for this, Erin and her husband were still unable to conceive and decided to try IVF. Erin described IVF as 'invasive and soul destroying', and said it put her family under financial and emotional strain, and that her children and marriage suffered. Around this time her mother died. Soon afterwards, Erin became pregnant.
Three months after the birth of their third child, Erin and her husband were shocked to discover they had conceived a fourth baby naturally. However at 26 weeks Erin experienced massive haemorrhaging, and bled until her son was delivered prematurely at 34 weeks. Erin's fifth pregnancy was another surprise.
Erin and her husband conceived their (planned) sixth child easily. However, Erin bled constantly until 22 weeks. This was a result of a sub-chorionic haematoma next to the gestational sac, which endangered the foetus. Erin found this experience 'horrendous' and a constant reminder that 'things were not normal'.
Erin went into labour at 35 weeks with a 'sense of dread'. Although their daughter was born safely via caesarean, immediately afterwards Erin had a catastrophic haemorrhage, losing 15 litres of blood and experiencing four cardiac arrests. This was a result of undiagnosed placenta percreta, a rare condition with a very low survival rate. Erin was put into a coma for three days and hospitalised for a further 21 days. She underwent a hysterectomy and has been left with severe complications, requiring subsequent operations.
Following this experience Erin experienced nightmares, flashbacks and extreme anxiety. She began seeing a specialist birth trauma psychiatrist and general psychiatrist and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and PND. She was prescribed antidepressants (escitalopram (LEXAPRO)) and is still taking them. Erin says her body will 'never be the same' and it is a miracle she is alive. She has made contact with two women who have survived a similar experience and finds talking to them a source of comfort.