Age at interview: 42
Background: Tony is single and has a stepson aged 15 and a daughter aged 6. They live in a large city. Tony works as a dental technician and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Tony's ex-partner experienced postnatal depression after their daughter was born five weeks premature with gastroschisis, and then went on to have liver failure and severe depression. Tony supported her and their children but they eventually separated. Tony now cares for their children while his ex-partner is recovering in a psychiatric facility.
More about Tony
Tony and his ex-partner found out they were expecting a baby when his ex-partner was six months pregnant. After an ultrasound, they were told there was a 'strong chance' their daughter would have Down's Syndrome and that her chest cavity was open and her organs were on the outside. Tony said this was 'very difficult' news. A specialist subsequently confirmed their daughter did not have Down's Syndrome, and that only her bowel was outside her body. Known as gastroschisis, this condition could be treated via a simple operation after her birth but she would need to be born early.
Tony's ex-partner was induced at 35 weeks gestation, and their daughter was born via emergency caesarean weighing 1.3kg. Tony said they 'said hello for two seconds' before their baby was taken away and operated on. As she was premature and recovering from surgery, their daughter spent seven weeks in hospital. For much of this time, Tony and his ex-partner were not able to hold her, which they found difficult. Tony's ex-partner experienced postnatal depression (PND).
One week after their baby came home, Tony's ex-partner became extremely unwell. She was diagnosed with liver failure and was transferred to a teaching hospital. She was in a coma for three weeks and intensive care for a month. Tony's employer gave him time off work and he, his stepson and new baby moved in with his sister. He said his ex-partner's health was very 'up and down' and the doctors were unsure if she would survive. Tony said he was 'thrown in at the deep end' having to care for their young baby and stepson while having to cope with his partner's unstable health condition.
Three months after being admitted to hospital, Tony's ex-partner had a liver transplant. The operation was successful but she had to re-learn to walk and spent three more months in rehabilitation. Tony's hopes that they would be reunited as a family were dashed when his ex-partner went into a 'deep depression' for several months.
Things never really improved and Tony said when his daughter was 5, she began to show signs of being affected by her parents' strained relationship. Deciding he could do no more for his ex-partner and that she needed professional help, he brought the relationship to an end. Tony's ex-partner is currently in a psychiatric facility and is 'doing really well'.
Tony said although he wishes things had been different, he appreciates the 'good bond' he now has with his daughter. He also felt depressed during his ex-partner's illness and recovery, but said antidepressants had not worked for him during a previous episode of depression. This time, he relied on friends and family, and 'forced himself' to maintain his support networks. Tony said without them, he 'wouldn't have come out of it at the end'.
Tony's advice to those facing similarly difficult circumstances is 'to maintain as big a support network as you can'. Also, talking through issues with friends helps because 'the more you talk the easier it becomes'.