Pregnancy is often spoken about as a time of excitement, joy, worry and dreaming for the future. Whilst this is often true, pregnancy is also a time of immense physical, hormonal, emotional, and psychological upheaval. This is not just for the prospective mother, but the father, siblings and (yes!) the developing embryo as well.
As is often said, it is with good reason that the gestation period is as long as it is. Time is needed for the woman, and her family, to prepare for the arrival of a newborn. This is not just in terms of being able to buy baby clothes and to perhaps paint a room, but rather to prepare for the impending changes in mind, body and lifestyle.
During the months of pregnancy, prospective parents may spend time dreaming about what their child may be like. Who will this baby look like? Will they take after their mom or dad? And the less easy, will my baby be okay? Will I love this baby like I do my firstborn? What kind of mother or father will I be? Am I ready? Will I make the same mistakes that my own parents made with me? A new parent moves away from being just a daughter, sister, a son or brother themselves, to embracing the new identity of ‘mother’ or ‘father’. This can be a daunting transition for some.
It is normal for pregnancy and birth to be a period of ambivalence. It is common to have fears, anxieties, questions, and uncertainties alongside feelings of excitement, happiness and expectation. In truth, it has been understood that if someone is unable to allow themselves to be aware of their feelings of ambivalence about an impending newborn, that it may be more difficult for them to adjust to the reality of life with an infant. During the pregnancy, a father often has to negotiate and find a space for himself, where he is able to feel a part of what is happening to the mother’s body.
There are of course circumstances that may make pregnancy a more difficult time. Challenges such as an unwanted pregnancy, the amount of support a pregnant mother has, her relationship with her own mother, the impact of her own unprocessed trauma, what this foetus may represent to their mother, physical health of mom and baby, poverty and the like. Pregnancy is naturally an emotional and vulnerable time. It is important that a pregnant mother acknowledges these difficulties, and seeks assistance where needed.
For the developing infant, the time in their mother’s uterus is constant and stable. Nutrients, oxygen and warmth are all constant, and no pleas have to be made to obtain anything that is needed. Following the process of birth, a newborn will have to quite quickly learn how to communicate their needs to a caregiver who is just starting to begin to understand the uniqueness of this baby. By the fourth month in utero, a foetus has developed the capacity to hear. The sounds of their mother’s heartbeat and breathing, her voice, all penetrate the cocoon of the womb. This can provide a sense of comfort for the infant, and newborns can often be soothed by their mother or father’s voice.
Pregnancy is indeed a time of transition. This time can be negotiated if prospective parents are able to think about what feelings they are experiencing throughout the process, acknowledge their ambivalence, embrace the joy and the difficulties, include each other and any older siblings, and access assistance if it’s needed.
- The longest pregnancy recorded was over a year long
- Progesterone is a hormone that creates a natural lethargy, leading pregnant woman to be less active, and protecting the developing foetus
- The amount of blood pumped by a pregnant woman’s heart increases by 40 – 50%
- The walls of the ventricles of your heart get thicker, in order to pump this increased amount of blood
- Pregnant woman’s sense of smell becomes clearer
- A foetus’ capacity to hear is fully formed halfway through pregnancy
- In-utero, the foetus develops the ability to yawn, cry, and some have been observed putting their thumb in their mouth
*Pregnancy Facts from Parents24 https://m.parents24.com
*Eastwood, L & Hamburger, T (2004). Thinking about the early childhood Training Manual