Ubiquitous prenatal gadgets tempt pregnant women at every turn as the market is saturated with ever-changing options for mommy, daddy and baby. Stroller technology alone is enough to baffle the mind -- maybe next year we'll see an organic, Tempur-Pedic option for some ungodly amount of money that recycles used diapers that will make the Orbit seem old school.
Advice from sisters, mothers, friends and countless strangers streams in as our bellies expand -- solicited or not. Somehow even when seasoned women talk about their choices and experiences in pregnancy, labor or motherhood, there is often a tinge of pressure. The subtext, consciously or not, might be urging the budding mom-to-be to, "be like me" or conversely, "I have so many regrets, don't do what I did" or the feedback might even be paradoxical, "You should do what I did even though I don't feel great about the choices I made. I wish I knew what you know now." Of course these loved ones (or even the strangers on the street) don't intend on creating insecurities, often contributing to anxiety or even egging on feelings of overwhelm and depression. Nevertheless, some pregnant women report having an uncomfortable sense of dis-ease in their psyches as they traverse this transformational time in their lives.
Pregnancy is an opportune time for culture to invite women to focus on the developing baby in utero, to slow down and create space for prenatal bonding, reflection and moments of wonderment. Instead there is often societal chatter about what to buy, how to decorate, as well as inherited concerns about how to lose the "baby weight" even though baby has yet to arrive. All of these factors contribute to externally focused desires. A mantra missing from mainstream society is one of trust: trusting oneself and carving out time to get familiar with feelings associated with prenatal parenting. Who am I as a woman, a mother-to-be, a partner? How does my childhood impact how I see and understand myself? Are issues lingering from my family life that might be worth attending to now, before I blaze a new path of parenthood? What kind of role model do I want to be for my child? If I find myself concerned about enduring postpartum struggles, how might I bolster my internal resources now so that I feel more centered when baby is in my arms? Though these questions might stimulate a variety of complex feelings, the benefits of exploring these emotions during pregnancy will strengthen your core, subsequently engendering a more mindful childhood for your baby. In-depth psychological investigation is potentially a lifelong preventative investment, paying dividends along the way.
Research reveals that perinatal and postpartum mood disorders are often linked to: striving for perfection; unexplored and often unrealistic expectations of control; anxiety and depression during pregnancy; prior history of depression; family history of depression; ambivalence around issues of mutual dependency; helplessness; history of early loss, trauma or abuse; previous bouts of postpartum depression; obstetrical complications; and lack of social support.
The prognosis for postpartum blues and depression is directly tied to the swiftness with which one addresses the symptoms. In other words, responding to internal uneasiness straight away could make a world of difference. Taking steps to deepen your understanding of who you are during this monumental milestone -- pregnant and on the precipice of parenthood -- can harness confidence and promote grace.
Here are some psychological meditations for cultivating a conscious pregnancy and postpartum period, with baby in mind:
Being present with yourself in pregnancy will help you to be present with your child in parenthood. With the aim of fostering a dynamic bond with your baby, examining your internal landscape during the prenatal phase can yield increased clarity and space for connecting with this new addition to your family.
Emotional well-being is something we can endeavor for throughout pregnancy. As far as whether or not the next generation of strollers has a built-in iPod and solar panels is something we can leave up to the stroller gurus.
This Emotional Life is a two-year campaign to foster awareness, connections and solutions around emotional wellness. Join our community at www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife.
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