Name: Sara L
Age at interview: 36
Background: Sara and her husband have two sons aged 11 months and 3 years. They live in a large city. Sara works part-time as a medical scientist and comes from an Anglo-Australian background.
Sara thinks she experienced postnatal depression following the birth of her first child but did not realise and didn't seek assistance. Sara attributes her depression to a traumatic birth, lack of postnatal support in hospital, her son's sleeping problems due to silent reflux, and unrealistic expectations of early parenthood. Things improved when at three months her son's reflux and sleep improved.
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More about Sara
Sara met and married her husband in Asia. He was eager to have children, but Sara was not ready and insisted they move to Australia and wait until she was in her early 30s. Despite strong opposition from his family to them migrating, her husband agreed.
Before they began trying to have a baby, Sara learned she had a large ovarian cyst that might make conception difficult. However, after 10 months she was pregnant and the cyst burst, causing pain but no harm. Pregnancy was difficult as Sara was nauseous for the first 18 weeks, and had severe sciatica in the third trimester. Sara described her birth as a 'botch-up' and thought this 'started everything'.
At 39 weeks, Sara's waters broke but she said the hospital registrar neither believed her nor checked the fluid, despite Sara carrying Group B Streptococcus (GBS). A week later after Sara's contractions began, a midwife confirmed that she had indeed been leaking amniotic fluid. Sara was induced, and gave birth after a difficult and stressful 13-hour labour. Her epidural then didn't work properly, she vomited throughout the labour, and her baby had shoulder dystocia which meant Sara pushed for several hours before having an episiotomy.
At birth, Sara's baby had a haematoma on his head and screamed for 90 minutes. Sara realised in hospital all her preparation had been for the pregnancy and birth. She thought she didn't 'know how to do the next part,' and was now 'stuck' with her son. Unhelpful nurses made things worse.
At home, Sara felt overwhelmed. She struggled to establish breastfeeding and her son suffered from silent reflux and resultant sleeping difficulties. They also had limited support from family and friends initially. Sara noticed she was arguing frequently with her husband. She would often think to herself that having a baby had been 'a big mistake', feeling she had no time to herself.
When her son was six weeks, she told her family about his sleeping problems, and they started to help out. She joined a mothers' group, and realised not all women found motherhood as challenging. When her son was three months, Sara, her husband and their son attended a sleep school day clinic. There she and her husband completed a questionnaire, and their very different answers made her wonder if she was experiencing postnatal depression.
Sara did not pursue this, as her son's reflux and sleep began to improve. She began to feel better and bonded with her son. A year later, Sara became pregnant with their second child. The pregnancy was even more difficult due to severe pelvic separation, and her second baby also had shoulder dystocia which caused Sara to haemorrhage 2.15L of blood, which was 'traumatic'. However Sara said better support in hospital and more realistic expectations of parenthood meant it was a completely different experience.
Sara recommends people expecting their first child to 'play it by ear' and not be overly influenced by other people's parenting philosophies, as if your approach 'works for you, it works'.