Age at interview: 39
Background: Louise and her partner have a 4-year-old and a five-month-old baby. They live in a large city. Louise works in social policy and research and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Louise found early parenthood joyful and challenging. She experienced three miscarriages between her two children and had difficulties breastfeeding and settling her second baby. Louise felt vulnerable to what she saw as the 'unrealistic expectations' of and 'inadequate' structural support for mothers. Initiating a group which provided a non-judgemental and safe space for new mothers was empowering.
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More about Louise
Having children was a conscious decision for Louise. Having researched widely about parenthood she felt relatively well-informed and that she had a realistic idea of the demands of the role in contemporary Australian society.
Louise described feeling positive and 'pretty relaxed' during her first pregnancy. However she did not experience the 'natural' birth she had hoped for because her daughter was more than two weeks overdue and Louise did not go into labour. Despite knowing she did all she could, Louise described feeling 'disappointed' and 'guilty' about not experiencing the 'right type of birth'.
Louise had paid maternity leave from her employer and flexible work after having her daughter. Breastfeeding went better than she expected and she found the domestic workload associated with caring for a newborn manageable, and felt supported by her partner.
Although Louise believed being connected to her local community was 'really important', she had some reservations about her mothers' group. Along with another mother, she established an initiative to provide a space for mothers to engage and reflect on their mothering experiences through creative media, in a non-judgemental way. Bringing mothers together in this way and participating herself was a significantly empowering experience for Louise.
Louise experienced three miscarriages before she became pregnant with her son. All three miscarriages were 'really hard' but she said she felt 'differently each time'. Louise said she felt not many people 'know how to support someone through pregnancy loss'.
When Louise learned she was pregnant with her second child she 'burst into tears' as she said she was expecting a fourth miscarriage. She remembered her second pregnancy as 'stressful' and described 'constantly worrying'. Louise said she felt 'relief' when her son was born. She said she benefitted from talking about how hard this period had been with trusted others. Speaking to those who had experienced pregnancy complications themselves and a counsellor helped contextualise and normalise her feelings and experience.
After the birth, the demands of parenting two children (especially after a long break in between children) left Louise feeling like there was 'little time' for herself the second time around. Breastfeeding was also less straightforward as her baby was slightly lactose intolerant and cried for long periods of time. As well, this time Louise received no paid maternity leave from her employer which made things financially stressful for the family. She reflected that there was 'a lot less time and a lot more need for money' with two children and as a result was contemplating going back to work earlier than planned.
Louise recommends women who have had pregnancy complications or losses be given safe, non-judgemental opportunities to express their feelings.