A woman is not born a mother, but rather, she becomes one.
Becoming a mother is not something static and the process commences during pregnancy. When the baby comes, it keeps unravelling day after day, experience after experience: the process will continue for months and even years after the baby is born.
Women who are expecting face physical, psychological, emotional and relationship changes that will lead them to create a new part of their self - the mother. It can be challenging to integrate this new part in the self, maintaining balance amongst all the parts and remaining a whole. In fact, sometimes mothers forget who they were before: the new part takes over and there's no space for anything else. This, unfortunately, is fostered by our cultural and social background.
Mass media and our collective imagination tell us that pregnancy is bliss and fulfilment: pregnant women should be over the moon, always happy and glowing.
As much as pregnant women do feel joy and many other positive emotions, pregnancy is a whirlwind of emotions and hormones: women can easily feel overwhelmed and anxious, they may experience a sense of inadequacy, fear, tiredness, sadness, and so much more.
In fact, on top of the hormonal turmoil, becoming a mother brings to the surface old conflicts, the attachment experience to our own mother, family dynamics, and any other conscious and subconscious wounds and traumas. Unfinished business related to a woman’s experience of mothering may come up during pregnancy and persist after birth.
When these themes are not looked at, they can be a limitation for the mother-to-be and the bond they create with their babies during pregnancy.
Research shows that the psychological life of the baby starts during pregnancy and many studies have focused on the foetus’ receptiveness, indicating that uterine experiences are the basis for the physical and psychological development of the baby. It’s been proven that during pregnancy babies are subjected to their first conditioning and, potentially, to traumas; they are also able to experience specific emotions.
If mothers experience intense and prolonged stress during pregnancy, it can damage the development of the foetus, modifying the formation of the nervous system and even the temperament of the baby. If pregnant women suffer from depression, their children are more likely to develop intense sadness or depression from a very young age.
Mothers’ unfinished business related to their own experience of mothering, as well as relationship issues or unresolved conflicts, also have an impact on their ability to create a healthy relationship with the baby after birth. These mothers may experience ambivalent emotions and struggle to recognise and meet the needs of their babies.
How can counselling help?
Prenatal counselling offers a non-judgmental environment where women can share and express their emotions, concerns and fears whilst feeling safe and understood. Mothers have the opportunity to become aware of the connection between what they experience and what the baby will therefore experience. Prenatal counselling aims to address and heal any old psychological wound so that mothers can be free from the stress and/or traumas they experienced when they were babies; this helps prevent the negative impact of past events on their physical and psychological well-being, either consciously or unconsciously. Women are therefore supported in their transition of becoming a mother. Prenatal counselling helps to prevent stress and promote well-being of pregnant women, supporting them to create a positive bond with their babies.
Postnatal counselling is a safe space where new mums can express any “inconvenient” emotions they may experience, as well as any struggle they are facing. Through the gentle guidance of the therapist, mothers are led to discover renewed inner resources to integrate this new part of their identity; their sense of competence and adequacy will be strengthened and they will feel more confident as mums. Limiting beliefs about motherhood will be brought up to the surface and discussed to foster a good relationship with, and a healthy attachment to, the baby.