Age at interview: 39
Background: Nellie has two sons aged 5 and 2 with her partner. She lives in a large city and comes from an Anglo-Australian background.
Following the birth of her first baby Nellie experienced severe breastfeeding problems. Together with sleep issues and lack of support Nellie suspects she was at risk of getting postnatal depression. Fortunately things were resolved, and her experience with her second child has been easier.
Read excerpts from Nellie's interview
> Labour and birth experiences - Nellie described feeling like a 'failure' and out of control during her labour and birth after being induced because her son was overdue
> Experiences of health and allied health professionals during labour and birth - When Nellie's first baby was overdue she resisted a caesarean but had to be induced. One midwife who attended her labour was 'officious' while the other was 'lovely'
> Caring for a baby - feeding and sleeping - Nellie's experience at sleep school with her first baby led to her accepting she had a 'wakeful' baby, and deciding she needed to find a way of parenting that fitted with her 'personality and values'
> Experiences of paid work and childcare - Nellie described her employer's expectation that she was 'always available', even on days she wasn't working. She felt guilty towards both her job and her children
> Experiences of depression and anxiety before becoming a parent - Nellie's partner began 'self-medicating' to deal with difficult emotions and memories triggered by her pregnancy
More about Nellie
Nellie was initially ambivalent about having children, however she decided she wanted a baby after being with her partner for two years. Nellie's partner was anxious about starting a family, as several years earlier in a prior relationship he had a baby who was born with a chromosomal abnormality (Trisomy 18) and died after three days. Nellie's partner developed drug and alcohol issues as a result of the trauma.
Nellie and her partner conceived, and the first scan revealed their baby was not at a risk of developing Trisomy 18. This alleviated much of her partner's stress. However, when Nellie was about seven months pregnant, he began regularly going out drinking all night. Nellie believes he was trying to deal with his anxiety about the impending birth. This was 'profoundly distressing' for her. However when it came time for the birth, she said her partner was a 'real trooper' and very supportive.
Nellie felt 'disappointed' she had to be induced, due to her baby being overdue, and 'a bit of a failure' that she hadn't gone into labour spontaneously. She felt out of control during the birth, and had a vacuum-assisted delivery and an episiotomy. However, Nellie said holding her baby for the first time was 'the most magic moment' of her life.
Nellie felt 'socially unsupported' in the early months of parenthood by some of her friends and family members. However, she said she was 'lucky' to enjoy supportive relationships with a neighbour and a few women in her mothers' group.
Nellie was determined to breastfeed, however she experienced recurring mastitis that led to an abscess when her baby was five weeks. Despite having the abscess drained twice and taking multiple courses of antibiotics, Nellie was feeling 'sicker and sicker', and developed nipple thrush and vasospasm. She felt undermined by health professionals suggesting she wean, and her partner was unsupportive due to his own stress and anxiety related to early parenthood.
Nellie was feeling exhausted and run down. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) found she was 'borderline'. Fortunately, a breastfeeding medicine specialist referred her to a breast surgeon with experience in treating such problems. Nellie described this as 'transformative' and said if she hadn't started feeling better, she would have ended up getting postnatal depression.
Nellie's son started to wake a lot at about four months. Sleep school did not help, but Nellie 'made peace' with the fact that she had a wakeful baby who was otherwise healthy. She decided to do what felt right for her. This was part of a larger realisation that her parenting involved different things to what the 'professionals' were advising. As a consequence her experience with her second child has been much easier.
Her advice is that expectations in pregnancy often aren't realised and that life with a baby is 'less free.' She thinks it is important to 'find an authentic way of parenting' based on your personality and values, and that identity adjustment is a significant emotional challenge of early parenthood.