'I had a textbook pregnancy and birth. Then I became scared I was going to hurt my daughter.'

This story includes references to severe mental health issues that may be distressing to some readers.

Tracey Spohn had a textbook pregnancy with her first daughter Amelia until at 10 weeks, she experienced bleeding and thought she was going to lose her baby. The wait for an ultrasound was tense as the first signs of anxiety crept in.

"There were a few days of nervously waiting and crying to see if the baby was okay," Tracey tells Mamamia.

"When we found out she was, I almost kissed the sonographer! But I think that experience definitely turned the remainder of my pregnancy into a worry-filled few months, instead of one of joy and excitement. 

"I also had severe hyperemesis with this pregnancy which made me severely dehydrated and put me in hospital briefly."

Watch: Jess Eva talks about postnatal depression on I'm A Celebrity. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia.

Intrusive thoughts and anxiety. 

Thankfully Amelia's birth went smoothly, and it wasn't until a few months into motherhood that Tracey experienced some incredibly dark moments. 

"It all started with some intrusive and horrible thoughts. I was overwhelmed and tired and would often cry when I was alone with my baby. 


"I kept imagining horrible things happening; like walking down the stairs with my baby in my arms and tripping. Dropping her in the tub and her drowning. It got worse as it started extending out and me being scared that my husband Nick would do those things to her or hurt me as well (rationally I know he would never!). 

"It was hard to cope but I think like most mothers; I prioritised keeping Amelia or Amy as we mostly call her safe, and I threw myself on the back burner while keeping it a secret from my husband, friends and family. I couldn't really explain why I was like this as nothing particular had happened in my everyday life to justify those feelings. I historically get emotional when I'm exhausted, so I just chalked it up to that."

Tracey says that two particularly low points came after days spent alone with a very upset baby.

"One day, after Amy had spent most of the day screaming, Nick came home from work with his father, Martin. Martin came up to say hello and see his granddaughter. As Nick walked in the door, I was in tears. I shoved baby Amy into his arms and started walking off our property.

"Martin, ever the quick thinker, told Nick to take his car keys and just take me out, go get dinner while he cared for Amy. I'm forever grateful as it gave me all the time I needed to calm down. It also gave us a chance to have some time alone for the first time since Amy was born and as a bonus, Martin even got Amy to go to sleep.

"Another low point I remember clearly was sitting in my daughter's room in the middle of the night after a feed and just rocking in my chair with her in my arms while crying and crying. I still to this day don't even know why."


Seeking help for post-natal anxiety.

Tracey says that while Nick was compassionate and supportive of her post-natal anxiety, she mostly kept her symptoms to herself. It wasn't until she was at a GP appointment that Nick took matters into his own hands to secure her some professional support.

"We were all at the surgery for a regular baby check-up and we got to the end of the appointment and my doctor asked if there was anything else. Nick just came out and said that I wasn't doing well and I have to admit I was initially annoyed at him for saying it. 

"We discussed how I had been feeling and then I booked a few appointments with my GP first to see what was going on before she set me up with a mental health plan and referred me to a psychologist. She found someone with a very calm and kind nature and the discussions I had with my psychologist were really helpful. 

"She had strategies to help me talk myself out of intrusive thoughts and to help me with everyday things. She also helped me see some other factors in my life that were affecting my mental health and helped me work through them too. It's worth noting that we had all discussed the possibility of being medicated, but together decided against it as I was responding well to seeing the psychologist."

In 2018, almost five years after she had Amy, Tracey gave birth to her second daughter Hannah. After a good pregnancy and another smooth birth, Hannah was 12 months old before Tracey felt she could finally relax and that her post-natal anxiety would not show up this time around. 


After the birth of her third daughter Ellie in 2021 however, the anxiety came back much quicker than before. But this time Tracey knew exactly what to do. 

"The anxiety was more of a constant down feeling that I couldn't shake. At a regular appointment with my GP, I mentioned I was feeling a little 'post-natal-y' and she took me seriously straight away. 

"I had a friend whose baby was nine months old when mine was born, and we'd been chatting about how she hadn't been doing so well. I had been discussing how it was okay to ask the doctor for help and there's no shame in being medicated either. When I got back from my doctor's appointment that day, I sent her a photo of my new meds with the description, 'See, I practice what I preach!'"

Tracey Spohn. Image: Supplied.


Helping other women with post-natal anxiety and depression.

Two years later Tracey says she is doing okay. Looking back she wishes she had got help sooner with baby Amy, which is why she has made it her mission to help other mums who are suffering from post-natal anxiety in silence.

"Depression has actually been in and out of my life for a long time and after starting medication in 2021, I realised I should have been on them years ago. I've seen therapists on and off over the last few years and have learned a lot about mindfulness. 

"I've also done a mental health first aid course tailored to help me help other people. Finding like-minded people to talk with is always a big help too, connecting with other mums and having open honest conversations can make you feel like what you are going through is normal! 

"I still get down sometimes, the very occasional panic attack and overwhelmed episode, especially when all three girls are squealing the house down! But this is okay, and I now have strategies in place to help myself when this happens, and a great supportive network who are always ready to help when I need." 

Tracey sees her GP every six months to monitor her medication and check on her mental health. For her, this is an important part of making sure she’s happy, healthy and can enjoy spending time with her family and friends. 


“I want other women to know it’s okay to ask for help. You’re not alone. It’s not just in your head. We always think it’s just because you’re tired, or overwhelmed, but you don’t have to explain it away. 

"If you’re feeling down, don’t torture yourself. Reach out.”

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

For help and support for post-natal anxiety and depression, contact PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) on 1300 726 306.

Tracey has been involved in fundraising for women's mental health with the Liptember Foundation campaign that encourages women to wear bright lipstick every day during the month of September to start conversations, raise awareness, and funds for women’s mental health. 

To take part in Liptember, Aussies can simply register to become a fundraiser or purchase a bright Liptember lipstick from Premier Partner Chemist Warehouse. The funds raised will be invested in programs, initiatives, support services for women’s mental health and Liptember Foundation’s annual research study to address the gender gap. 

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Susanne Helen Photography.

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