One of the authors had a minor leg deformity as an 18 month old infant. Treatment at the time was callipers, which held her legs together and made herimmobile at night for several months. She needed to be held by her father, usually screaming, to go to sleep at night. As an older child and adult she did not like sleeping in sleeping bags and if anyone sat on her legs while she was in a sleeping bag she would become intensely frightenedand “have” to get out of the sleeping bag and stand up (flight). She did not understand why she was like this.
The memory of her experience as a toddler was not conscious but it was still there. The sleeping bag was a trigger for the fear she had experienced earlier in life. It was only much later on in her life that she was able to make this connection between the childhood experience and her fear of sleeping bags.
Emma and her husband Joel had been together for ten years and they had put off having their first baby until they had their own home and felt financially secure. Emma had worked hard for the past 17 years working up to a management role in the company. Emma planned to take 12 months maternity leave and then return to work part time. Everything was well planned and everyone told Emma that she would make a fantastic mother. Both Emma and Joel were very excited about the baby and had everything ready for the baby well ahead of time.
The birth didn’t go quite as planned as Emma had to have a caesarean section. Unfortunately, the baby needed oxygen and Emma did not get to hold her baby for an hour after she was born. Feeding was difficult to establish as baby Chloe didn’t latch on well. Emma felt the midwives weren’t very supportive and Emma was shocked that feeding could be so hard when she had thought it would come so naturally.
Emma went home after three days in hospital but still didn’t feel very confident about feeding. On top of this Chloe had reflux and was very unsettled and screamed constantly. Chloe didn’t sleep well and seemed to wake every 20-30 minutes. Emma tried everything but she didn’t know how to settle her and began to dread Chloe’s screams.
Joel was home for the first week but then he had to go back to work. He helped at night but Emma always felt guilty if he got up to Chloe because he had to work the next day. He became tired and irritable and said that Emma just needed to ‘chill out’ about it all.
Emma couldn’t believe how different things were to how she had expected them to be. She kept thinking “I should be able to cope” and comparing herself to other mothers she knew. No one else seemed to have the problems she had.
Emma also began to worry that maybe Chloe wasn’t feeding enough, as she always seemed to be bringing up her milk. Emma became more and more stressed and fixated on the amount Chloe was drinking. She also figured that if Chloe was well fed she might sleep better. The more she tried to feed her the more distressed both Chloe and Emma became.
Emma spent most of the day tearful and she worried constantly that there might be something seriously wrong with Chloe. She felt tense most of the time and every time Chloe began to cry Emma felt a rush of anxiety, her heart would race, she would begin sweating and she thought she was going to faint. Emma began to think she had made a big mistake having a baby and that she was a complete failure as a mother.