Do you actively enjoy failure? No?! Well join the rest of us. Yet most parents feel as though they have failed at one point or another, so what might help you get better at it? Here are some thoughts from perinatal psychology.Read More
1. Your important relationships often change when you are pregnant, and counselling can help you manage those changes
Many women have told me that when they become pregnant, they are shocked by how some of their relationships change. Some women feel let down because their partner doesn’t seem as involved as they are, or others feel shocked that friends seem to distance themselves. Babies can change relationships before they are even born, and having space to process these changes can help you enter motherhood feeling more resilient.
2. You might find that old feelings about your own childhood come up and need space to process them.
It’s the old cliché that counsellors just want to talk about your childhood, but actually there is no time when this is more true than when you become a parent yourself. You might want your child to experience childhood in the same way you did but feel scared that you can’t manage that, or you might want them to have a totally different experience and not know how to make that happen. Either way, exploring your feelings can give you a better basis to be the parent you want to be.
3. Counselling offers a judgement free zone to talk about some of the feelings you might experience, even the ones that you don’t want to experience.
Sometimes you don’t feel the way you expect to in pregnancy. You might feel low or anxious. You might feel resentful or angry. Not the picture of glowing and blissed out expectancy that maybe you were envisaging. If you’re distressed by how you are feeling, it might feel as though other people will judge you or think that something is wrong. Counselling can provide a safe space to explore these feelings, as counsellors are trained NOT to judge.
4. Counselling helps you create space to think about your baby, which can be hard when life is so busy.
Creating a reflective space to connect with your baby can be really hard, when life is already full enough. Some mothers choose to have counselling because they know it creates a regular appointment for them to connect with how they feel about their unborn child and to reflect on their hopes and fears for the future. Sometimes having someone else there asking questions can help you create that space, if you’re struggling to create it for yourself.
5. Counselling has been proven to reduce your likelihood of experiencing postnatal depression
According to research, counselling is one of the only things known to help reduce your likelihood of getting postnatal depression. The mechanism by which that happens hasn’t yet been fully figured out (and it might be because of some of the reasons given above), but if postnatal depression is something you’re concerned about, it might be worth considering having some counselling during pregnancy.
If you found this post interesting, you might be interested in some of the other posts I have written, including my five top tips about choosing a buggy, and a post about what might affect you in motherhood. I have also guest written a piece for the Every Mum Movement about why pregnancy is not just a waiting game. If you're interested in finding out more about me and the counselling service I offer pregnant women and mothers, you can check me out here. I'm always interesting in hearing what you think, so please do feel free to get in touch!
I’ve spoken with a few mothers recently about how they didn’t acknowledge their sense of fear during their pregnancy. How they took pride in their ability to carry on without making many allowances for the new person inside them. Not that they didn’t go to antenatal classes or enjoy preparing for their baby practically, but that they didn’t start developing their relationship with the person inside them, because for some reason they were scared to.
This fear can often be rationalised as being about protecting yourself in case something happens to the baby. However what if it is actually about something deeper than that. What if you don’t want to connect with your unborn child because actually you’re scared of what they will MEAN. What will they do to your life? How will they affect you? What will they make you give up?
Many of us work very hard as we grow up to develop a sense of independence and autonomy, and babies are a very real threat to that. At the beginning especially, our autonomy and independence are very much lost. Donald Winnicott, the paediatrician and psychanalyst talks about how the mother and baby are so interconnected, especially at the beginning, that a baby will struggle to exist without a mother. And perhaps subconsciously we recognise this, and so during our pregnancy it is almost easier to deny that the baby is really there than face the fear of what that responsibility might be like for us.
Rachel Cusk, the author, wrote that a woman might feel anger for her baby “because she has lost the power of autonomy and free will in her own life. From the first moment of her pregnancy, a woman finds herself subject to forces over which she has no control, not least those of the body itself. This subjection applies equally to the unknown and the known : she is her body’s subject, her doctor’s subject, her baby’s subject, and in this biological work she has undertaken she becomes society’s and history’s subject too. But where she feels the subjection most is in the territories,whatever they are that in her pre-maternal life she made her own. The threat to what made her herself to what made her an individual : this is what the mother finds hardest to live down. Having been told all her life to value her individuality and pursue its aims, she encounters an outright contradiction, a betrayal – even among the very gatekeepers of her identity, her husband or colleagues or friends – in the requirement that she surrender it.”
But research shows that mothers who spend more time developing their relationship with their baby before they give birth are more likely to enjoy the early days of meeting their baby outside the womb, and are more likely to enjoy learning more about who this person is right from the start. They are continuing a relationship that they have already started.
Mothers who have difficult pregnancies can sometimes be forced into losing their sense of independence and autonomy much sooner, and so the grieving process starts earlier. This can bring its own struggles, as this can either help the mother accept the changes that having a baby will bring in her own emotional landscape, or else it can make it even harder to accept as the mother can feel resentful of the baby for having caused this loss, which may cause her to unconsciously want to reject her baby.
I don’t say these things to make you worry about whether you are thinking about your unborn child enough. I say them because I believe (and research bears out my belief) that mothers who take time to reflect on and develop their relationship with their babies BEFORE they are born, can have more enjoyment of their babies sooner after birth. And this enjoyment can help mitigate all the other parts of being a mother that are really hard!
If you find that you are really struggling to connect with your baby in utero, I would encourage you to think about why that might be. There maybe many reasons for it, and some of those might be painful and you might want some support to explore them. But, like any relationship you are developing, the more you invest in it the more rewarding it becomes.