'I spent 3 years trying to have a baby. When she was born, I didn't want to touch her.'

Content warning: This post contains mentions of postnatal depression and mental health some readers may find triggering.

When Bec and her husband Jesse finally fell pregnant after a “rough” two-and-a-half-year journey involving two rounds of IVF, they were excited and “really ready” to meet their little girl. 

While the Adelaide couple knew that their baby had a heart condition and would need special care after she was born, what they didn’t expect was a 23 hour labour with lots of complications and an episiotomy. 

And for their daughter to be taken away from them moments after she arrived.

Image: Supplied


By the time Bec was able to visit baby Ella in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the then 26-year-old new mother was already struggling. 

“My midwife knew that something wasn’t right because I didn’t want to touch her,” Bec told Mamamia. “I asked my husband if he’d left her at all because it was like she wasn’t mine.

“I thought they had switched the babies.”

'It felt like she wasn’t really mine.'

Having developed meconium aspiration syndrome (when a newborn breathes in a mix of meconium and amniotic fluid during birth), Ella spent a week in the NICU. 

Unfortunately, this meant Bec couldn’t hold her daughter for her first few days of life, and missed out on that early skin-to-skin contact. It was then another three weeks before Ella was well enough to be discharged. 

“Leaving her at the hospital was the worst,” Bec explained. “It didn’t feel natural, and so it was really hard for me to form that bond with her, because being in that space I felt like she wasn’t really mine, because there were other people there looking after her.

“It was a surreal feeling. Like, I had just given birth but it felt like she wasn’t really mine.”

Bec knew that something was wrong. But no one else grasped just how serious it was.


“A lot of social workers said it could just be situational, because of the environment that I was in, or that it was just the ‘baby blues’,” she said. “They were like, ‘this is normal’, so I wasn’t referred to a physiologist.”

But her feelings didn’t go away when Bec and Jesse were finally able to bring their little girl home. 

“I hated being in that hospital setting and I’d pushed to go home so I was very relieved, but I think coming home was a bit of a shock to the system,” she said.

“It was like I was looking after my niece. I had that love, but it wasn’t like I thought it was going to be, and I still didn’t feel like she was mine.”

At last Bec was referred to a psychologist. But then there was a long two-month wait until she was seen. “That was really hard,” she said, “because after my midwife left there wasn’t really anyone [around to provide support] in that in-between time.” 

It wasn’t until then that Bec was diagnosed with postnatal depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Listen to Hello Bump, where expert guest Dr Kath Whitton will cover the basics of what life looks like after baby arrives. Story continues below.

'I thought she would be better off without me.'

While Bec began to regularly see her psychologist, and even spent some time in a mental health facility, she was still struggling. And in early 2021, when Ella was eight months old, she tried to take her own life.


“I felt like she would be better off without me here,” the now 29-year-old told Mamamia. “I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job, and all the emotions were just too much to bear. 

“And so I just thought that was the easiest option, and that her life would be better if I wasn’t the one bringing her up.”

Fortunately, Jesse found Bec in time, and her sister — who had also suffered with postnatal depression — took her to hospital, where was admitted to the psychiatric ward. She was then transferred to Adelaide’s Helen Mayo House, which provides support for parents struggling with mental health in the postnatal period. 

'I got that intensive support I needed.'

After three weeks at the Helen Mayo House, Bec came home, and within the first year of her daughter’s life she used up all of her 20 Medicare-rebated psychology sessions, which had been doubled due to the pandemic.

“I got to see my psychologist more frequently than I needed at that time,” she said. “And just having those extra sessions made my healing a lot quicker and easier because I didn’t have to wait a month to talk about it with my psychologist again. It was more of a flow, and I got that intensive support that I needed.”

It was through this continued support that led Bec and Jesse to try for another child, and in July 2022 they welcomed a son called Harrison. Bec said she laboured for just three and a half hours before giving birth at home, which she described as the “most healing thing” she’s ever done. 


Image: Supplied.

“I felt an instant connection,” she said beaming, “and it’s been a really good year. I also feel a lot closer with Ella as well since having him.

“I’m in a lot better place. Probably the best I’ve been in my whole life, and I’m the mum that I’ve always wanted to be.” 


Psychologists push for 40 sessions for perinatal women.

While Bec credits her recovery to the rebated psychology sessions she received, currently new mothers are only able to access 10 appointments under Medicare.

Dr Heather Mattner, a perinatal health psychologist who sees women at the extreme end of postnatal depression, is horrified, and is working with the Australian Association of Psychologists to campaign for 40 rebated sessions for all perinatal women in need of mental health support. 

“Rightfully, people with eating disorders get 40 rebates but we let women die by suicide in Australian from postnatal depression and they get 10 rebates,” she told Mamamia. “This is a national disaster and every politician should hide their heads in shame because that should not happen. These are preventable deaths.”

Dr Mattner went on to describe regular psychologist visits as “absolutely lifesaving”. 

“We’re not going to send her off and a month later hope she’s still around and can come back,” the psychologist explained. “It doesn’t work like that with someone who is very suicidal.”

And it’s that support that “made the world of difference” to Bec. 

“It didn’t just change my life,” she said. “It changed my kid’s lives as well.”

If you find yourself needing to talk to someone after reading this story, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: Supplied

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