Becoming a Parent

Posted in: Fathers, Infants, Parenting, Postpartum, Pregnancy

By Dr Bronwyn Leigh

Becoming a parent doesn’t happen just because you have conceived or given birth.  It takes time to truly ‘become’ a mother or father.  There are many emotional tasks involved in moving towards parenthood that are required in adapting to the role of parent. One task is the ability to face up to adult responsibilities in the care of an utterly dependent little being, and the capacity to make a space for a new member of your family.  Creating this space involves giving up some space of your own, realising that a shift from ‘self focus’ to ‘other focus’ is required as the challenge of meeting the needs of all family members comes into play.  Often, this requires delaying your needs to meet the needs of your baby.  Making a space in your mind for your baby and your developing relationship can assist in your ‘psychological conception’ and preparedness for parenting when your baby arrives.  Allowing time to slow down and ‘be with’ your imaginings, fantasies and worries about your baby throughout the pregnancy provides the basis for your emerging relationship.

As pregnancy progresses, these times of reflection can move to a stronger preoccupation and may be accompanied by an increased withdrawal from the outside world, focusing more intensely on your experiences and what is to come post birth.  This is important preparation for you as it increases your preoccupation with your baby and your sensitivity toward your baby’s experiences.  This helps you focus on him and help him manage the confusing outside world in the early days, weeks and months of his life.

About the Author

Dr Bronwyn Leigh is a clinical psychologist, perinatal and infant clinician and early parenting consultant. She is Director of the Centre for Perinatal Psychology. Bronwyn specialises in the psychological aspects of becoming a parent, the emotional development of infants, and parent-infant relationships.

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