Jane was excited about having her first baby. Her partner Mike was also looking forward to the arrival of this planned addition to their family. Jane enjoyed her work as a primary school teacher and felt confident with children. Fortunately, the birth coincided with the beginning of the next school term so she finished work at the end of the third term and had time to feel well prepared. After the birth Mike was due to take two weeks leave from work and Jane’s mother, who lived in another town, was due to come and stay to help out.
Jane’s waters broke late in the evening and she didn’t get much sleep that night (neither did Mike!), as the contractions started shortly after. Labour went on all the next day and finally Fred was born late the next evening. Everyone was exhausted but happy. Jane felt ecstatic. She wanted to look at her baby all the time and she wanted Mike to listen to her talking – all the time. She didn’t get a lot of sleep that night either.
The next day Jane felt anxious – very anxious – with a knot in her stomach and thoughts that Fred couldn’t breathe properly. As the day went on she had times of sitting staring into space and mumbling and then other times when she couldn’t settle and felt as if something awful would happen but she didn’t know what.
Jane wanted to do things but she couldn’t organise herself or think clearly. She didn’t want to be left alone (with or without the baby) but she didn’t want any visitors. She started to think that the glass of wine she had had before she had known she was pregnant had caused major brain damage in Fred.
She was determined to breastfeed. When her milk came in on day three she started to feel worse. Breastfeeding was hard. During the next week Jane continued to feel more and more anxious, to be unsettled and to believe, with increasing conviction, that she had caused Fred irreparable damage. A voice told her she was a bad mother. She didn’t know what to do with Fred, especially if he was crying. She thought she should be punished.
Mike had tried to reassure Jane. He sat with her when she fed the baby and he changed the nappies but nothing seemed to be helping. At first, he wondered if this was what it was like when someone like Jane (a bit of a worrier at times) had a baby. However, she had never behaved like this before – one minute quiet and the next pacing about the place. The things she was saying were getting more and more irrational – he rang Jane’s Mum. Together they wondered what to do. Jane didn’t want to go and see a doctor but she did talk to her midwife and it was her midwife who persuaded Jane to get professional help.
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