Age at interview: 34
Background: Joanne is a postgraduate student from the UK. She lives in a large city with her Australian partner and their 18-month-old son. She is of Irish background.
Joanne and her partner were very happy to be expecting a baby. During pregnancy, Joanne experienced nausea, borderline gestational diabetes and iron deficiency, and was tired and homesick. A long labour, traumatic birth, initial difficulties breastfeeding, and living away from her family made early parenthood hard.
Read excerpts from Joanne's interview
> Becoming a parent (including through IVF, adoption and surrogacy): Preparation, information and support - When Joanne found out about her unplanned pregnancy, she 'freaked out' about having drunk alcohol early on without realising she was pregnant
> Experiences of health services during pregnancy, IVF and surrogacy - Joanne had shared care between her GP and a major maternity hospital
> Social support during labour, birth and the early postnatal period - Joanne did not realise how important it was for her to have her partner stay with her at night during her postnatal hospital stay
> Expectations of parenthood - Joanne's relationship with her partner was very equal when their son was a baby, but she was surprised to find it become more unequal when she started studying
> Experiences of health professionals in early parenthood - Joanne felt the maternal child health nurse centre she went to 'wasn't very good'. She found the nurses inflexible, unresponsive and not very 'caring'
> Negotiating housework and caring for children in early parenthood - Joanne's partner worked long hours in a full-time job. She felt that although she was also busy studying and working part-time, it was her that took 'control' of caring for their son and housework
> Parents' experiences of meeting and bonding with their babies - Despite feeling 'quite traumatised' by labour and birth, Joanne said holding her son to her afterwards was an 'amazing feeling'
> Messages to expecting and new parents - Joanne said she would tell expecting and new parents 'the truth' about her experiences of birth and early parenthood
More about Joanne
Joanne met her partner in Europe. After living together in the UK for four years, they moved to Australia. Before long, as friends started having children Joanne felt it was time to settle down and she and her partner started talking about having a baby.
Joanne and her partner conceived earlier than planned but were both excited about the pregnancy. Joanne's excitement was tinged with sadness about being away from her family. They considered moving back to the UK but Joanne's application for postgraduate studies was accepted at the end of her first trimester, and they decided to stay in Australia.
Joanne said she loved being pregnant, but found it physically hard. For the first 15 weeks she was very nauseous. She experienced borderline gestational diabetes and iron deficiency which made her very tired. Emotionally, Joanne was homesick and felt her tiredness exacerbated this. Fortunately contact with her family during pregnancy helped ease these feelings. She went home to the UK for a visit in her second trimester, her siblings visited Australia towards the end of her pregnancy, and her parents came to stay for the first two months of her baby's life.
Joanne and her partner chose shared antenatal care (GP care in combination with visits to the hospital antenatal service) and were very happy with this. The labour and birth were difficult (vacuum-assisted delivery). Joanne had heavy bleeding in early labour and her baby was in the posterior position. Joanne was also diagnosed as Group B streptococcus (GBS) positive but did not receive antibiotics during labour, so her son had to have antibiotics for the first few days. While she felt her labour and her son's birth were 'quite normal', Joanne described feeling 'traumatised' by her experience. The public hospital she gave birth at did not allow partners to stay overnight, and she also found this hard.
After her son was born Joanne said it 'hit' her that she had a baby to look after and described feeling 'sick in the stomach' about what was ahead. Establishing breastfeeding was difficult and she ended up combining breast and bottle feeding. Joanne was critical of the pressure she felt from hospital midwives and maternal child health nurses to exclusively breastfeed.
Joanne said although she loved her son, and her partner was helpful and supportive, the first few months of parenthood were hard. Joanne felt things got easier by the time her son was eight months old, but she is still struggling with not having her own family around her. Her partner's mother provided practical support and Joanne made some good friends through mothers' group, but she missed the warmth, informality and emotional closeness of her family and friends back home. Joanne now knows that she would like to return to the UK for her second baby.
Joanne felt that people were reluctant to tell the truth about how hard early parenthood could be. She said she would be frank with others about her experiences in future, as trying to 'protect' people from reality was unhelpful.