When do we become parents? Many people believe that parenting begins when our first child is born, or adopted. Others believe that parenting begins at the moment of conception. I believe there is both an emotional/spiritual conception and a physical conception. I would further argue, based on years of research and experience, that parenting ultimately begins with the emotional/spiritual conception - the point at which you actually envision yourself as a parent and you receive the idea of a child into your psyche (the human soul, mind, or spirit). For some of us this point of realization comes years prior to the actual physical conception.
Oftentimes we have no (conscious) awareness of where our desire to have (or not have) children comes from. When I was growing up there was never any talk about pregnancy or birth in our family. My sister (who is eight and a half years older) and I were both adopted from different families. My mother was (apparently) unable to have children due to a "tipped uterus", a guilt and burden I believe she carried her entire lifetime (mind you, she was born in 1917, a time when women were expected to bear children for their husbands and if they couldn't, they were considered "barren women"). Not surprisingly, my mother never talked to us about sex either. All I remember is being told that my mother was a "whore", that she gave birth to me "out of wedlock", and that I was "going to be just like her" - sentiments my mother shared either to appease her own regret or cause me pain. Still, I always knew that I wanted children. In fact, my high school 'prophecy" states that I would have "ten children by natural childbirth!"
I was very blessed to be able to have three beautiful, amazing, and intelligent daughters who are as different and special as their own births were. My first, Georgia, was born by scheduled cesarean due to a breach presentation. My second, Alana, was my hospital VBAC baby. My third, Kaela, was my homebirth (HBAC). While I didn't think about it in these terms then, I fought really hard to have each one of them and give them the best birth possible and nurture them deeply and with love, especially during those crucial developmental years. Today they are all strong, healthy, and independent women with incredible children of their own (while I never knew my own grandparents, I am proud to be the grandmother of ten!) I believe there is a direct connection. So where did this 'fierce' protective mothering instinct come from?
It wasn't until I studied prenatal and perinatal psychology and got introduced to the work of William Emerson, David Chamberlain, Peter Levine, Thomas Verny, Stephen Porges, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Robin Grill, Peter Nathanielsz, and others that I realized that it was MY experience of being conceived, MY life in the womb, MY experience of being born, and MY experience of being in an orphanage for six months that set the stage for the way I would conceive, carry, birth, and mother my own daughters. In other words, my own parenting journey began long before I ever conceived my first child. Research on epigenetics and intergenerational trauma support this.
Are you thinking about becoming a parent? Are you already a parent and have questions and/or concerns? Would you like to understand more about why you parent the way you do and how to be the best parent you can be? I'd love to hear from you!
Love and light,