Age at interview: 36
Background: Melanie has an 18-month-old son with her partner. She lives in a large city. She is a childcare worker and comes from an Anglo-Australian background.
Melanie experienced stressful life events during pregnancy and after the birth of her son. When her son was 10 months she became distressed when she realised they had not bonded. Her doctor diagnosed postnatal depression and prescribed antidepressants (escitalopram (LEXAPRO)). She devoted herself to rebuilding her relationship with her son but her distress has continued and at the time of the interview Melanie was considering hospitalisation.
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More about Melanie
Melanie and her partner conceived early in their relationship, but Melanie suffered a series of miscarriages. When she became pregnant with her son her excitement was tempered by anxiety. At 24 weeks, a scan revealed her cervix was shortening and she was admitted to hospital on bed rest. She and her partner had to face the possibility of their baby being born prematurely or not surviving. She was discharged after three weeks, but Melanie described this experience as 'very traumatic'.
Melanie felt worried about returning home so her mother came to stay. However, their relationship had always been strained and it was a stressful time. Melanie learned her mother had lung cancer, but had held off telling her until she was further along in her pregnancy. Melanie said this upsetting news made her feel she was being 'pulled in different directions.'
Melanie said after her baby was born she started to go 'downhill.' Her son had jaundice and they had to be readmitted to hospital. Melanie acknowledged jaundice is common, but said it was stressful. In addition, Melanie's mother had a lung removed the week her son was born and ended up in intensive care because of post-operative complications. Melanie was physically exhausted from breastfeeding, not sleeping, and visiting her mother in hospital. Despite working long hours at their new business, Melanie's partner was helpful, but their shared exhaustion created a distance between them.
After Melanie's mother left hospital, she came to live with Melanie. During this time Melanie slipped into depression, but said she did not realise it. She described feeling 'mechanical.' While she cared about her baby and partner, she became distant from them and channelled her energy into housework and caring for her mother.
Melanie said this period was 'dark' and she felt 'overwhelming' loneliness. Even though she had longed for a child, Melanie said she didn't enjoy her early parenting experience, and could not understand why. She then decided to return to work and to re-train so enrolled in a childcare course.
When Melanie's son was 10 months old, she realised that she and her son had not bonded. Her GP prescribed antidepressants (escitalopram (LEXAPRO)) and Melanie shifted her focus to her relationship with her son. The medication was initially helpful, but Melanie said after a while she felt neither positive nor negative. She and her partner then decided to try for another baby, so she went off her medication and got pregnant quickly, but had another miscarriage. Melanie's mental health deteriorated rapidly. In response, her doctor increased her medication dose and she saw a counsellor every two weeks.
Melanie grew much closer to her son but continued to feel overwhelmed. She described becoming very distressed in the few weeks before the interview. Together with her partner, she is exploring the option of being admitted into hospital. Melanie's advice to others who suspect they have depression is 'not to be ashamed of it' and seek help from a doctor as she 'just started to feel better when I started to become open' about it.