Thursday, 6 December 2007

I thought my baby was a monster

Full Story:
What happens when a mother feels nothing for her newborn? Glenda Cooper meets the women who had to be shown how to bond It should have been one of the happiest days of Zoe Hicks's life. Her baby, Izzy, who had spent a month in special care after being born premature, was finally coming home. The whole family had gathered to celebrate; Zoe herself could not stop crying. "Everyone assumed it was because I was so happy," recalls Zoe, 29, from Evesham in Worcestershire. "But I just wanted to run back inside the hospital and leave her there. I didn't want to take her home. I didn't think I could ever love my baby." Zoe had had a trouble-free pregnancy and labour with her first daughter, Xara, born four years previously, but with Izzy it was a very different story. In April 2006, when she was 34 weeks pregnant, Zoe had to have an emergency caesarean after scans showed Izzy was failing to grow in the womb. She was born weighing just 3.5lb. "I didn't think she looked like a baby - I thought she looked like an alien," says Zoe of the first time she saw her daughter in an incubator. "I felt numb. Everyone said she looked beautiful and I was looking at her thinking, 'No, she's horrible.' I just felt nothing towards her." Because Izzy was so premature, Zoe and her partner Dave were only allowed limited time with her in intensive care, and Zoe had to express milk rather than breastfeed. "Everyone assumed I would be upset I couldn't hold her more, but I didn't want to." When Izzy was allowed home, the situation was no better. "I was like a robot. If someone else was there, I would run and pick Izzy up if she was crying and try to look as if I loved her. When I was on my own, though, I would leave her to cry. I thought she was a monster." Zoe is not alone in failing to bond with her baby. But such is the taboo surrounding these problems, many women are reluctant to seek help, even though research suggests up to one in 10 suffer postnatal depression. The majority of these, according to psychotherapist Dr Amanda Jones of London's Anna Freud Centre, which specialises in the well-being of children, will fail to form an attachment with their baby. While most will go on to do so within a couple of months a minority, says Jones, will never bond - unless they are given professional help. Zoe is one such woman. She heard about Jones's programme when Izzy was five months old, at a time when she was taking anti-depressants. The scheme currently receives 100 referrals from GPs per year. Women are usually recommended anti-depressants or cognitive behavioural therapy (commonly six sessions aimed at changing ways of thinking and behaving) by their GPs. Jones believes that this is not enough; her therapeutic sessions try to examine causes of the emotional breakdown, and the number of sessions vary from family to family (Zoe had 40 sessions). "We believe we help the majority of mothers who see us," says Jones.

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