Age at interview: 35
Background: Loretta has two children aged two and three and is divorced from their father. She lives in a large city. She is a lawyer and comes from an Anglo-Australian background.
Loretta and her ex-husband were living overseas when they started their family. Becoming parents put their relationship under significant strain, which intensified when their first child was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. When their second child was eight weeks old Loretta and her ex-husband returned to Australia and separated. Loretta found this period lonely and emotionally very challenging.
Read excerpts from Loretta's interview
> Experiences of miscarriage - Loretta, a mother of two, described how she became depressed after having a miscarriage and dilation and curettage (D&C) overseas before she'd had children. She felt there was a lack of sensitivity toward her from health professionals.
> Social support in early parenthood - Loretta described the 'huge difference' having her mum around made when her second child was a baby and her marriage was ending
> Becoming a parent - impact on identity and close relationships - Loretta whose relationship broke down after having children said parenthood 'held a mirror to what was there before, just I couldn't see it'
> Diverse families - Loretta, a lawyer and single mother of two children, felt strongly about stereotypes of single mums and stay-at mothers
More about Loretta
Loretta met her ex-husband in Australia and soon after they moved overseas where they found 'high-powered' jobs in a large city. Unexpectedly, Loretta had a miscarriage and a subsequent Dilation and Curettage (D&C) which she found traumatic. This experience led her to realise she wanted children and she and her ex-husband conceived soon after.
Once Loretta was pregnant, her relationship with her ex-husband became strained. She described him as acting strangely: staying out all night, hiding things from her, and not turning up for important appointments. Things worsened after their son was born and her ex-husband was subsequently diagnosed with a mood disorder. During her pregnancy and early days as a parent, Loretta said his behaviour caused her great anxiety. She did not talk to family or friends about her concerns, because she did not want to alarm them.
Loretta's son was slow to speak and crawl. During a visit to Australia when he was 10 months old, Loretta's mother expressed concerns about his development. Loretta had her son tested and he was eventually diagnosed with hemi hypertrophy, a rare genetic condition where one half of the body grows faster than the other. The testing process took many months and Loretta used up all of her annual and sick leave.
During this period, Loretta also lacked emotional support. Her ex-husband did not believe there was a problem until they had a confirmed diagnosis, and her family were in Australia. Because the condition is uncommon, Loretta could not find a support group. She eventually found a few blogs and someone whose child had a similar condition. They were able to talk, which gave Loretta 'an immense sense of relief'. Fortunately Loretta's son is on the milder end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, he needed a lot of extra care, and Loretta described this period as stressful and very lonely.
During this time Loretta became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter. She was anxious about her daughter inheriting the same genetic condition, and 'grieving the loss' of both her relationship and her imagined 'perfect firstborn'. She felt emotionally fragile and sad. A week after their daughter was borm, Loretta and her husband seperated. Soon afterwards, Loretta resigned from her job, and she, her ex-husband and their children returned to Australia. Loretta spent her first six weeks on her parents' couch, having nowhere else to go.
Loretta found the experiences of having children in a foreign country, having them so close together, and simultaneously dealing with her son's diagnosis and the breakdown of her marriage 'very dramatic' and incredibly confronting. She had supportive friends overseas, but chose not to share what she was experiencing with many people.
Two and half years on Loretta's life is completely different. She believes strong support from family and friends helped her get through these experiences. Loretta also thinks having children is an isolating event in itself. Her advice to others experiencing similar circumstances is 'to seek any help' and to 'be very, very vocal' about your needs and your children's needs.