Q I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant. It’s a shock because it’s not been planned. I have a lovely husband who’s happy and excited about it. He knows very little about my family and I haven’t told him much about my childhood. What worries me now is that I might be like my mother was towards me, and be cruel to my own baby. Do you think this will happen? Is there anything I can do to stop it happening. I’ve been scared to have a baby in case I turned into my mother and made my child feel as bad and unhappy as I was as a kid.
A Many years ago I had a unplanned pregnancy too, and I’d also had an abusive childhood. I feared that I might pass the poison from my parents onto my own child. On the occasion that this happened it shocked me so much that I decided to do something about it.
Coincidentally this very subject is now very relevant to my work as a psychotherapist, as over the years I’ve seen several women with similar fears and some were appalled that they were repeating the patterns of ‘toxic parenting’.
What I now teach in my talks and workshops is that we don’t have to repeat history.
The fact that you are aware of the possibility of changing the pattern is very encouraging. Those who do the most harm are either unaware of indifferent.
Self-awareness, then learning about yourself and how your past has shaped you, both bring the desire and the commitment to change.
It all starts with awareness, education and learning new ways to control our emotions and thinking patterns. With repetition of these new behaviours real change and transformation can happen.
I found bringing up my daughter (albeit alone) was by far the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Nothing prepares you for that. With this level of stress our defences are low and we are more likely to emotionally react (as our own parents did) instead of being able to calm ourselves down, shift our emotional state and respond from a better place instead.
So in answer to your question – no you won’t necessarily turn into your mum… but you may have to work on it to ensure that. Preferably before your baby is born as you’ll probably be too tired and distracted after your child is born.
Remember too that your baby is affected by your feelings from the time they’re in the womb. So it’s for their benefit that we ensure that we do whatever we need to do to reduce our fears, worries and emotional problems.
Counselling or therapy won’t give you the learning and skills you’ll need; and life-coaching misses the point.
Without wanting to sound biased I’d suggest my online self-help course ‘3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out – without therapy!’ which is available from this website.
There’s also another course you could do with your husband too – so that you are both singing from the same sheet’ regarding your parenting styles and skills.
These courses would be like having several weeks of therapy with me – for less than the cost of one session (well, this is why I created them!).
Out of interest you might want to complete the free questionnaire from this website too – called ‘How To Tell If You Need To Sort Yourself Out’. Some issues may already be apparent to you – others may not appear until you have the extra stress of being a parent.
I applaud your search for a solution that will break the family cycle of abusive parenting – something that is all to common in our society and which I personally and professionally feel passionate about changing.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)