Name: Sarah M
Age at interview: 35
Background: Sarah and her husband have three children aged 2, 5 and 7. They live in a large city. Sarah is a business owner and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Sarah experienced two 'easy' pregnancies and births and then gave birth to her third child in traumatic circumstances at 30 weeks gestation. She felt that she was not 'well equipped' for the experience of a premature baby and found it 'debilitating'.
More about Sarah
Sarah has an older brother as well as another sibling who died of sudden infant death (SIDS) at five months. Her upbringing was happy but as a result of her sibling's death her parents were very protective. Sarah married her husband when she was 24. She described him as her 'rock' and said he was similar to her parents in trying to ensure 'nothing bad ever happened'.
Sarah and her husband started their family when Sarah was 27. She experienced two easy pregnancies and 'very quick' drug-free births, and loved being at home with her 'lovely, happy family'. Sarah conceived for the third time at age 32. At eight weeks she started to feel 'morbid'. The first scan revealed her baby was at a high risk of Down Syndrome. Despite Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) ruling this out, Sarah felt something would go wrong.
At 28 weeks, Sarah began bleeding and was hospitalised for ten days. During this time she felt 'very, very depressed' and missed her children greatly. She kept bleeding intermittently and on day nine started to have contractions. Sarah knew she was going to give birth, despite staff telling her otherwise.
Worried she would not cope with the birth she requested an epidural, but when the obstetrician arrived Sarah was fully dilated and 'ready to push'. Her husband could not get to the hospital in time and, 'devastated', she gave birth alone. At 30 weeks her son weighed 1.53kg. Immediately following his birth he was put on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help his breathing. After haemorrhaging, Sarah had an 'incredibly painful' emergency curette without anaesthetic. Sarah went home after four days but their son stayed in hospital for six weeks.
Sarah felt that being protected first by her parents and then by her husband meant she was not 'well equipped' for the experience of a premature baby and found it 'debilitating'. While her son was in hospital, she said she felt she had 'no control of the situation' and was exhausted from expressing breastmilk. Sarah constantly felt guilty about dividing her time between her girls at home and her son in hospital, and feared something would happen to her children in her absence.
Once her son was home, Sarah said she 'fell in a heap'. A year later, at her son's paediatrician's suggestion, Sarah had a counselling session to 'review' the time immediately before and after her son's premature birth. Although helpful, this left her feeling 'drained' and 'exhausted'. Sarah worried the feelings counselling roused might prevent her from looking after her family and businesses and so did not seek further psychotherapy. Even after three years, Sarah says her experiences of the time she spent in hospital and of her son being in special care feel 'close to the surface' and she hopes they will eventually subside. She advises other mothers of premature babies not to feel like they have failed, and to 'ask for help' because 'good emotional health benefits your family'.