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Not only is it normal, it's also common for women to reflect on their childhood (good or bad) during pregnancy. To a certain extent, we all carry scars from our childhood years and bear the burden of how they will work themselves into our adult lives. Most of the time, people are successful at putting these issues aside while they go forward with their lives.
Unresolved pain from the past somehow finds a place on an emotional shelf and may sit there for quite some time — until some life-changing event takes place and forces you to confront issues from the past. Pregnancy is a major life transition, one that can be so overwhelming and profound that it elicits intense introspection — whether you want it to or not.
Women who have suffered traumatic events are at risk for depression during pregnancy and after the birth. But being at risk does not mean you'll inevitably suffer from clinical depression. It means that a situation has presented itself that may make you more vulnerable. How vulnerable you are depends a lot on the sort of trauma you went through and how it affected you. Aside from wondering whether you will be a good mom, you may also be asking yourself:
- Will I be just like my mother?
- Will my husband be a good father?
- What if I don't know what to do?
- Do I really want this baby?
- What if I mess this up and can't do it?
- What if I can't love my baby?
- Will I treat this baby the way I was treated?
Most women feel guilty just having these thoughts and rarely feel comfortable admitting to them. But it's normal for pregnant women to feel this way, especially those who endured an unhappy childhood. Women who have triumphed over tragedy often find themselves confronted by a new set of challenges after the birth of their baby.
Many times, women who were confident, independent, self-assured, and competent, suddenly find themselves wondering how they will get through the day if the screaming doesn't stop or if one more dirty diaper crosses their path. A strong sense of self is replaced with transient feelings of inadequacy, fragile self-esteem, and constant worrying.
If you're concerned that something from your past will directly affect your feelings about yourself and your baby, you are right to address it. These are some things you can do to protect yourself and your baby:
- Consider seeking therapy. It's an effective way to handle what may become an overwhelming time in your life. Try to find a therapist who specializes in women's issues and depression. Getting started in therapy before you even have your baby will give you a head start, so your support system is already in place should you experience more difficulties after the baby is born.
- Talk about your worries. Talk to someone you trust, be it your husband, a friend, or a relative. If you can verbalize your emotions, you can begin to deal with them. If you keep them inside you, they strengthen and take hold. Instead, let them out, little by little, by sharing them with someone who cares.
- Keep yourself strong and healthy. Eat well, rest as much as possible, sleep when you can, exercise moderately, and avoid alcohol.
- Let your doctor know about your concerns. It's important that the physician treating you know the entire picture so she has a sense of what to expect.
- Think positively. If you've had a particularly good day, give yourself a pat on the back. Tell yourself that you have many more good days ahead of you.