Name: Joanne
Age at interview: 34
Gender: Female

Background: Joanne is a postgraduate student from the UK. She lives in a large city with her Australian partner and their 18-month-old son. She is of Irish background.

About Joanne

Joanne and her partner were very happy to be expecting a baby. During pregnancy, Joanne experienced nausea, borderline gestational diabetes and iron deficiency, and was tired and homesick. A long labour, traumatic birth, initial difficulties breastfeeding, and living away from her family made early parenthood hard.

Read excerpts from Joanne's interview

More about Joanne

Joanne met her partner in Europe. After living together in the UK for four years, they moved to Australia. Before long, as friends started having children Joanne felt it was time to settle down and she and her partner started talking about having a baby.

Joanne and her partner conceived earlier than planned but were both excited about the pregnancy. Joanne's excitement was tinged with sadness about being away from her family. They considered moving back to the UK but Joanne's application for postgraduate studies was accepted at the end of her first trimester, and they decided to stay in Australia.

Joanne said she loved being pregnant, but found it physically hard. For the first 15 weeks she was very nauseous. She experienced borderline gestational diabetes and iron deficiency which made her very tired. Emotionally, Joanne was homesick and felt her tiredness exacerbated this. Fortunately contact with her family during pregnancy helped ease these feelings. She went home to the UK for a visit in her second trimester, her siblings visited Australia towards the end of her pregnancy, and her parents came to stay for the first two months of her baby's life.

Joanne and her partner chose shared antenatal care (GP care in combination with visits to the hospital antenatal service) and were very happy with this. The labour and birth were difficult (vacuum-assisted delivery). Joanne had heavy bleeding in early labour and her baby was in the posterior position. Joanne was also diagnosed as Group B streptococcus (GBS) positive but did not receive antibiotics during labour, so her son had to have antibiotics for the first few days. While she felt her labour and her son's birth were 'quite normal', Joanne described feeling 'traumatised' by her experience. The public hospital she gave birth at did not allow partners to stay overnight, and she also found this hard.

After her son was born Joanne said it 'hit' her that she had a baby to look after and described feeling 'sick in the stomach' about what was ahead. Establishing breastfeeding was difficult and she ended up combining breast and bottle feeding. Joanne was critical of the pressure she felt from hospital midwives and maternal child health nurses to exclusively breastfeed.

Joanne said although she loved her son, and her partner was helpful and supportive, the first few months of parenthood were hard. Joanne felt things got easier by the time her son was eight months old, but she is still struggling with not having her own family around her. Her partner's mother provided practical support and Joanne made some good friends through mothers' group, but she missed the warmth, informality and emotional closeness of her family and friends back home. Joanne now knows that she would like to return to the UK for her second baby.

Joanne felt that people were reluctant to tell the truth about how hard early parenthood could be. She said she would be frank with others about her experiences in future, as trying to 'protect' people from reality was unhelpful.