Age at interview: 36
Background: Susanne is in a same-sex relationship and has an 11-month-old daughter with her partner. She is a historian and comes from an Eastern European/Jewish background.
Susanne and her partner conceived their daughter via IVF. Pregnancy was physically and emotionally difficult for Susanne. She had emergency surgery on one ovary, and experienced significant nausea, headaches and weight gain. During labour her antenatal care plan fell through and the birth was difficult. She and her partner felt unprepared for parenthood and found the first six months very challenging.
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More about Susanne
Susanne grew up in a strong, close family environment and always wanted to raise children of her own. She was previously married, but left her husband after becoming pregnant and having a miscarriage. This made her realise that a child was not going to fix their relationship, and prompted her to come out (as a lesbian). This was a very turbulent time for Susanne.
Susanne has been with her current partner for five years. At first her partner was unsure about wanting to become a parent, and deciding to have a child was a big step for them as a couple. They then decided how their baby would be conceived and who would carry the child. With the support of a 'wonderful' IVF counsellor, they opted to go through IVF and use a clinic-recruited donor, and that Susanne would carry the baby.
The IVF medication affected Susanne significantly. When she was 10 weeks pregnant she needed emergency surgery to untwist one of her ovaries, which had become swollen because of the drugs. Susanne had lost her previous pregnancy at 10 weeks, and was 'terrified' of another miscarriage.
Susanne's experience of pregnancy was different from her expectations. She was sick with nausea and headaches for the first 20 weeks, and put on a large amount of weight due to a form of psoriatic arthritis. Susanne said it was difficult to reconcile her negative experience of pregnancy with the fact that having a baby had been all she had ever wanted. Feeling emotionally disconnected, she contacted PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association). They organised for Susanne to see her GP and establish a mental health plan. Although she appreciated this, she felt better after the nausea and headaches passed and did not follow through.
Susanne and her partner chose a form of antenatal care which matched them to a team of three midwives throughout the pregnancy and birth. This arrangement fell through during labour. Not having the system they expected in place was very traumatic and they felt it contributed to their baby's difficult birth. Their daughter was born with the assistance of forceps, and wasn't breathing initially so had to be suctioned. Susanne felt that what had happened to them wasn't uncommon, but it was traumatic and 'horrible'.
Susanne said she and her partner didn't know what to do with the baby when they got home, and that they started parenthood from an 'angry place'. They didn't seek counselling but Susanne thought it would have been useful. This was a very difficult period for Susanne. She was grieving and said she felt she had done a bad job of pregnancy, labour, birthing and mothering.
Things began to improve when their daughter was six months. Susanne didn't think she had had postnatal depression, but realised that the line can be very 'grey.' Susanne's advice to other couples approaching parenthood for the first time is to prioritise spending time together as well as time apart as 'you need to be okay as individuals and then okay as a couple together'.