Pregnancy, from the time of conception, is a journey that involves both the parents and the fetus itself. It contains expectations, anxiety, joy, fear of the unknown, but also fantasies of being the kid a couple will bring into the world.
The relationship with the fetus
The embryo can be described as an endoparasite (Ferenczi) in the sense that it is a foreign body that survives from the host’s pores. (Of the host body). Of course, the mother does not perceive it this way, and she establishes with him from the beginning of a relationship in which fantasies and expectations coexist. The child present in the mother’s imagination as well as in her body is one of the components that allow a woman to experience the pregnancy experience in a healthy and complete way and is the factor that will create her relationship with the future child.
The second component is the identification with the future mother of the child to be born, that is, the role of the mother herself, which will allow her to perceive the fetus as part of herself and not as something negative that she should reject and to refuse. This is the reason why in unwanted pregnancies or in cases of rape during pregnancy the mother cannot identify with the infant and thus experience pregnancy as an unpleasant and traumatic experience.
The “fantastic” kid
As it has been shown, right before the baby arrives in the world, the expectant mother creates a mental representation of the child, which helps prepare the mother mentally to accept the infant but also acts as an adaptation to the changes she brings pregnancy. According to Soulè (1982), infant mental representation begins from the fourth month of pregnancy and lasts until the seventh month. During this time, fantasies about what the child will be like begin to take up more and more space in the mother’s psyche as well as begin with the expectations and phobias that have to do with the health of the child, the birth, still and its future.
Most of the time expectant mothers share these concerns with their environment and with their partner. By the end of the seventh month, the baby’s fantasies begin to diminish until they are completely eliminated in the last month of pregnancy. This is due to a maternal mechanism that exists to protect the newborn from the mother herself and her fantasies, and the possible frustration that can arise from the difference the child may have in her imagination with that will be born.
How is a baby’s mental representation born and why?
The mental representation of an infant is a model of perfection that produces a fantastic child who is called upon to fulfill all the dreams and expectations that the parents themselves failed to realize. Expectations are therefore transmitted to the child at a subconscious level as they have not found their expression by themselves. If, however, the parents have developed their potential, they are likely to want to offer their child what they have achieved while avoiding the over-effort and deprivation they may have experienced.
Another very common mental representation is the expectation of parents to create an ideal life for their child in order to reproduce the childhood they would like. It is vital that when the child is finally born, the parents will reconcile with the real child and process the loss of the child they thought was perfect.
The child to come into the world, the real child, will be different from the imagination, and parents should be prepared to bridge the difference between the imaginary and the real child.
The emotional changes and stages of pregnancy
According to studies, there are stages of waiting for a child, each of which concerns the couple but also the child to be born (Smorti, 1987)
- Announcement: It starts as early as pregnancy and reaches the first weeks of pregnancy. It is a great shock to have a pregnancy if the pregnancy was unexpected or unwanted. Sometimes there is a sadness about the youth that is lost as well as pride on the part of the father in his ability to conceive.
- From the 12th week until the end of the first trimester: the mother begins to form the infant relationship, and at this stage, the father unconsciously seems to want to delay the infant relationship. Some feelings of jealousy or envy may manifest. According to research, it is the most sensitive phase of the couple’s relationship, as they process pregnancy differently and their mental processes and feelings towards the infant are not coordinated.
- A 20th-25th week on The woman’s body is now completely changed to prepare for the baby’s arrival. The child’s movements in the abdomen give a clearer sense of their existence.
- Just before birth: the father elaborates and shapes his role, comes closer and closer to his partner, and the couple is now mentally resilient. The feelings of stress and the positive feelings about the change that they will experience are starting to increase. Dominating thoughts about whether we will manage to arrive at the maternity hospital in time and whether the raises will be completed smoothly.
The attachment, as suggested by John Bowlby’s theory, develops between the mother and the infant (as used in recent years by his caregiver) and is one of the most important factors in the proper development of the infant. , as the quality of the relationship with the newborn encompasses the mother’s response to her needs, embrace, and closeness the infant needs to grow. The importance of the relationship is so great that neuroscience has now observed morphological changes in brain development in neglected infants.
The bond of attachment, according to research, begins when the infant is already in the mother’s belly,
The role of the father
Usually, the father takes on an “external observer” position during pregnancy, which can create conflict in the couple, anger, and even marginalization of the father, who has an active role in pregnancy and leaves only at specific stages of pregnancy space for the mother to create the binary relationship with the fetus.
According to the stages of pregnancy, as described above, men, as well as women, experience changes and go through stages as their roles change and are called upon to create a “container” that protects the pregnancy and the fetus, and allows develop a relationship between them. In any case, healthy communication, patience, and acceptance of change will normalize and make pregnancy a beautiful experience.