real life

When Sunrise host Nat Barr was six months pregnant, she received the worst phone call of her life.

When Channel 7 journalist Natalie Barr had her first child 22 years ago, she came to a quiet, uncomfortable realisation. While she adored her baby boy, she didn’t always like being a mother. 

That’s a familiar refrain these days. Platforms like blogging and social media have since given women spaces in which to share that kind of radical truth about parenting. 

But, speaking to Mamamia’s No Filter podcast, the Sunrise host said that, in 2001, she felt alone in her struggle. She felt like "a total failure as a mum".

Watch: Dear Mum... A Letter From My Future Self. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

"I had always wanted kids. But then I thought maybe this is just me," she said.

For Natalie, the common challenges of early parenthood were compounded by exhaustion and grief. 

Six months into her pregnancy, Natalie had received a middle-of-the-night phone call with the news that her father, Jim, had died. 

Jim had returned from a game of golf that afternoon complaining of heartburn. He passed away just hours later of left ventricular failure, a condition in which the heart loses its ability to effectively pump blood around the body. He was 61 years old.

Natalie flew back to her hometown of Bunbury, Western Australia, planned the funeral and buried her dear dad. Then within weeks, she gave birth to baby Lachlan and was hurled into the disorienting depths of life as a new mum.

What she'd been told would be the best period of her life was consumed by the worst.


On top of it all, Natalie's son had difficulty sleeping, which left her "strung out and exhausted" — "it was torture," she said. She began to second-guess her ability as a parent, even question if her emotional state was to blame.

“You think, ‘Does the baby somehow know that I'm upset and I'm grieving? Is that why [he can't sleep]?’" she said.

“Then a woman in my mother's group actually told me it was because I went back to work [three months postpartum] that my baby wasn't sleeping. So there was all this unhelpful information around."

Natalie wonders if, using modern screening methods, she would have been diagnosed with postnatal depression.  

She was assessed at the time.

"I can remember them giving me a list of things. 'Do you feel this? Do you feel this? Do you want to harm your baby?'" she said.

Natalie answered, truthfully, that she didn't, nor did she want to harm herself. And so she was cleared.

"I went, 'Okay. Right. Now, what do we do?' But there were no answers,” she said.

When Natalie's boy was 18 months old, she and her husband, film editor Andrew Thompson, enlisted a private sleep consultant. It proved to be the answer they needed.

Almost four years later, they went on to have another baby boy, Hunter.

With those difficult years long behind her, and her family all now happy and healthy, Natalie has said she takes comfort in knowing she did her best — for herself and her boys.

Listen to the full conversation between Natalie Barr and Mia Freedman on No Filter here.

Feature Image: Instagram.

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