Dear Dr. Norquist:
I am pregnant with my first child and want to be the best mother I can be. My childhood relationship with my mother was not good. I never really felt close with her and definitely did not feel comfortable relying on her for anything. She had her own problems, one of which was depression. Now that I’m having a child (a daughter, in fact) I’m worried what my relationship with my daughter will be like. I want to do everything I can to be sure she and I are close, and she knows she can rely on me. What do you suggest?
Dr. Norquist responds:
I love your question because it shows that you are already being a good mother. You are thinking of your daughter’s needs and your relationship with her with a conscious commitment to doing what’s best for her.
According to Winnicott (a British psychiatrist) there is no such thing as a baby, there is only the mother-baby unit. The attachment bond that you and your baby create is an essential factor in her optimal growth and development. Your daughter needs a secure attuned connection with you to be able to sooth her own nervous system. An excellent book regarding this is Dan Siegel’s Parenting from the Inside Out.
It is also very important that you feel supported and protected as you are going through the process of pregnancy and birth. The more you feel supported and protected, the freer you are to bond with your daughter and attend to her needs. Your security needs must be met for you to give your daughter the sense of security that she needs.
If there are unresolved feelings regarding your relationship with your own mother, now would be an optimal time to get some help in healing your own wounds. We are blind to that which we haven't worked out in our own life journeys. Take heart in the fact that all of the work that you do on yourself translates directly into your daughter’s future emotional health.
You don’t have to be a perfect mother. There is always that which you do not have control over. Your daughter will have her own life journey. You will grow immensely through this mothering experience. Enjoy!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2010 Chaitanya Counseling Services