Making the most of your prenatal journey

Fears of inadequacy often result from an overburdened childhood. If you were in a caretaking role with your own parents, you may have taken on more responsibility than you were capable of as a child. One client, Cynthia, was the eldest of eight children. She feared she would be inadequate as a parent. When we helped her explore her background it became clear to her that she had been given overwhelming responsibilities for her seven siblings. In her teens she had begged her mother not to have any more children because as the eldest she couldn't handle the workload. I helped Cynthia see that her age at the time was inappropriate for mothering. Now, however, she really was an adult, and her responsibilities would be proportionate to her level of maturity. I compared being a 12 year old carrying around a 125 pound baby (her mother) to being a 36 year old carrying a normal seven pound child. The comparison helped her understand that she could separate her previous negative mothering experience from what was possible for her now. She was also able to grieve the loss of her childhood freedom. Expressing her sadness enabled her to understand her postponement of childbearing until later in life. She had wanted those years of freedom to take care of her own needs. After considering all this, she began to feel confident about her own capacity to mother.

Fears of inadequacy in mothering may also stem from a negatively charged relationship with your own mother for a variety of reasons. Working through your feelings about your relationship with your mother will reward you with an understanding of what you want to carry into your own mothering and what you do not. Like everyone else, you were influenced by your upbringing, but the awareness of these feelings frees you to create your own parent/child relationships differently. Although you will, no doubt, have many positive and nurturing feelings that you do wish to carry forward from the past, you will develop your own style based on your own needs and personality. No two mothers are identical , no parent/child relationship is entirely predictable.

You depend on your childhood relationship with your mother as a guide for developing your own style of mothering. This doesn't mean that you necessarily copy your mother's style or that you want to replicate your relationship with her. The psychological task of becoming a mother is to sort through your past , keeping what you want and letting go of what you do not wish to pass on to the next generation.

You may feel particularly vulnerable if you never received the nurturing you needed as a child. Feelings of love as well as anger may emerge as you do the following exercise, which will help you acknowledge your relationship with your parents. It will also stimulate discussion between you and your partner about the parents you want to be. Don't forget that your relationship with your father was also important. You will draw from your relationships with both parents when you envision the kind of mother they want to be. You may be aware of other role models in your past. Aunts, uncles, babysitters, grandmothers and grandfathers may have contributed to your resources for mothering.

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