The sense of being a mother, a new dimension of life

Pregnancy involves an adaptation to new tasks and new meanings and the complexity of these changes identifies this period as a moment of crisis in a woman’s life. This concept of crisis has a positive and evolutionary value as it represents an irreversible turning point in a woman’s life cycle. Pregnancy therefore represents a period of reflection and reworking of one’s past and one’s future.

The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Daniel N. Stern defines as a “maternal constellation” a mental structure that orders a new hierarchy of priorities and sees being a mother at its apex. The physical birth of the child, as Stern states, corresponds to the psychological birth of the mother who, in her own mind, gives rise to a new identity: the sense of being a mother . Maternal identity is not born in a specific moment but emerges gradually over time . The new maternal dimension will constitute a new mental structure completely different from the previous one.

The process that builds the new maternal identity goes through several phases because we become a mother every day in a different way. To face this path it is necessary to mentally prepare for change, to face an intense emotional labor that will bring out new aspects of oneself.  Maternal love is a living and changing feeling that is never the same once and for all and, like great feelings, it is ambivalent and absorbs emotions that seem to be at odds such as tenderness, joy, dedication, but also intolerance, guilt, insecurity and anger . It is therefore good and fundamental to recognize these feelings in order to learn to accept them and not to feel overwhelmed.

Future mothers are overwhelmed by these experiences where sadness, bewilderment, joy, enthusiasm and fear of the new are mixed. Often they don’t realize that these emotions are also common to other mothers and therefore find it difficult to talk about them. It is a moment in one’s personal life in which one can feel more fragile and sensitive and, precisely for this reason, it is fundamental and important to have spaces and times that enhance discussion and sharing while avoiding isolation.

Parenthood is the oldest experience in the world, complex, joyful, vital and presupposes a real capacity for love, a love open to the other.

Even before being born, the child exists in the imagination of his parents. During the wait, the sharing of both parents, the “co-parenting” is important. The partners must find a way to make the couple’s relationship coexist with the new role of parents. Both live a demanding mental work to get to feel like parents and this process can be more complex for the man who does not experience the child as part of himself. The possibility that the man is able to establish a first contact with the child by feeling and imagining him inside the body of his partner has a positive effect on the paternal experience. Parenthood is formed and grows gradually passing through conquests and moments of tension, it is a skill that is learned with time, patience, tolerance and empathy. Becoming a parent is a journey that is built every day along the road with your child.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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