Having a baby can be one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences life has to offer. It can deepen our sense of purpose, give us new meaning, great happiness and open our hearts more fully to love. On the other hand, it can also be stressful bringing many underlying issues to the fore.
When you discover you are pregnant, a certain degree of stress or anxiety is natural and common. Whether your pregnancy was planned or unplanned, having a baby is a significant life transition, affecting your self-image, purpose in life, working patterns, finances and relationship to name but a few.
On a psychological level, all sorts of deep-rooted patterns ranging from body image, childhood issues to relationship to mother or replicating familial patterns can emerge. Pregnancy may also be a time of introspection, where you consider what type of parent you would like to be, and how your current life situation will change to include your new baby.
On a physiological level, hormonal changes can heighten anxious thoughts and feelings, which may at times become quite overwhelming. Your body, mind and emotions go through a lot of changes in pregnancy and after delivery.
Unplanned pregnancies can create more intense strain in all these areas, and extra support will be important.
For all pregnancies, planned or unplanned, cultivating external support networks as well as developing mum's inner resources will prove invaluable during the time of pregnancy, birth and post-partum.
An Interactive Field Between Mother and Baby
As well as the psychological affects on mums to be, early developmental psychology and modern neuroscience show that the fetus is affected by the mind-state and emotions of the mum and her environment.
There is an interactive field between mother and infant in which energetic, emotional, instinctual, intuitive and spiritual transmission occur, as a field experience. Initially this 'holding field' is through the umbilical cord. However there are environmental factors that affect this field, such as the mother's environment and her support community—the father, her family, friends, her society, culture and circumstances the mother finds herself in during pregnancy.
Clearly, for many expectant mums here in Hong Kong, these environmental and social factors are affected. Away from their original culture, community, family and support networks can leave mum feeling more vulnerable, perhaps even with a sense of isolation. The need for supportive networks is natural and necessary at this time.
The Holding Field During Pregnancy
So the holding field—that is of mum and the environment she finds herself in, is of great importance. In the womb (and the early years) the infant is extremely vulnerable and absolutely dependent.
A safe, empathic relational field between mother is important for healthy personality development; a coherent sense of being and fluid, stable self-system. After baby is born this continues, and the way that the little one learns is mostly through empathetic mirroring of the other (be that the mother or the primary care-giver).
Simply put, if mum lacks a sense of inner stability and support outside of herself, she will not be as available to her baby, disrupting the empathetic maternal holding field. If she is constantly struggling with worries and overwhelming emotions, then baby may experience her as distant or emotionally unavailable. If these impingements in the maternal holding field are continually experienced, then the little one develops defensive and protective states as a natural instinct to survive.
To reassure mums-to-be, this does not mean that negative or powerful emotions cannot be experienced, or that happy, peaceful mind states are continually required. It is more about the holding field during and post- pregnancy, being 'good enough': allowing negative emotions such as fear, hurt, anger or jealousy to be experienced in a safe way, which is healthier than continually denying or repressing them.
A skilled counsellor can offer a safe place to experience and relieve strongly emotions or worries during pregnancy or post-partum.
Moreover, a skilled counsellor can also help ease the life transition and support expectant mums to cultivate their inner resources during, pregnancy, birth preparation and the time after birth
On a very practical level, relaxation techniques and breathing practices can help with lack of sleep; supporting birth and even breast feeding! At IMI we also help mum-to-be to identify and build positive support networks. All of this will give mums the capacity to cope better with the stress that this important transition can bring, leaving more space to enjoy the precious gift of a new life.
Carole offers one to one Core Process Psychotherapy sessions, which is a form of psychotherapy that integrates early developmental psychology with mindfulness and awareness practice. Also as an experienced yoga teacher, she offers training in relaxation, breath and awareness practice. These can be one-off sessions or as part of IMI's integral pregnancy package.