For most women, bringing a baby home from hospital is a joyous occasion.
But for Nicole, the noise of her child’s cries brought back frightening memories of a childhood involving “a lot of screaming”.
“My dad left when my brother and I were babies because mum had paranoid schizophrenia and was in and out of hospital and lived in a fantasy world,” she says.
While her grandmother took over parenting responsibilities, the two matriarchs often fought and Nicole’s mother’s erratic behaviour – such as turning up unannounced at Nicole and her brother Jeff’s primary school – would often leave the pair frightened and confused.
“(T)he teachers would hide us, because mum was raving that people were trying to get us and we had to go away together and hide from people and kill ourselves,” Nicole says.
Despite these difficulties, Nicole finished high school, moved, found work interstate and met her husband Mike in 2000. Life, for a time, felt “amazing”, she recalls.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by The Benevolent Society. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100 per cent authentic and written in their own words.
It wasn’t until she fell pregnant with her first child at 36 that the effects of her difficult childhood manifested.
“Sienna was born about five weeks early and right from the start, she was always crying,” Nicole says.
“When I brought her home, Sienna couldn’t be with me because she was crying all the time. As soon as I heard her crying, it set something off in me, I just found it really difficult to cope.”
Reduced to “a blubbering mess”, Nicole took Sienna to a private hospital and through an ante-natal program there, started to learn coping strategies, she says.
“I got more confident to do simple things like feed her and bathe her and go out in public.”
But the support was expensive and once she left, there was no follow-up, Nicole tells. So when she fell pregnant two-and-a-half years later, she sought out further assistance.
A local public hospital put her in touch with The Benevolent Society and a case worker called Annette visited her at home and in hospital after the birth to reassure Nicole she “wouldn’t be alone this time”, Nicole says.