Your image of your new baby
The child grows and develops in the womb for nine months. Growing into parenthood will take at least as long. Becoming a parent is an important transitional phase in life, which gives you the chance to consider and review your own thoughts and experiences and learn something new about yourself. Your future parenthood will be strongly influenced by two things: early childhood experiences and what kind of mental image you form of your baby during the pregnancy.
Early experiences refer to the future parents’ memories and experiences of their own parents or other loved ones during childhood. Expectant parents will often remember the type of relationship they shared with their own carers. These may include both positive and negative ways in which their carers behaved in various situations. At the same time, the future parents will become aware of how the choices of their carers felt to them. They can look at the situation from a child’s perspective. This gives them the opportunity to also see things through the eyes of their new baby. An image of their own parenthood is created.
Studies have shown that people give the same kind of care as they have received. However, it is possible to grow and develop in parenting and make different choices from those experienced as a child.
Generally, people will be seeking answers to the following questions:
- What kind of parents or carers did I have?
- Am I going to be a good mother or father?
- How can I protect my child?
- What things should I do the same way or differently than my own carers did?
Parents often form a mental image of their future baby. They might wonder, for example, which relative the child will resemble and what characteristics they would like the child to have. It is also natural to speak to the child already during pregnancy. Studies have been conducted on the parents’ mental images of their future baby and the impact these have on growing into parenthood. Parents’ expectations are connected to the different phases of a baby’s growth and development. During early pregnancy, these images are often vague, and it is natural not to feel a strong attachment to the baby. The mental images will grow more substantial once you start feeling the baby’s first movements. This is the baby’s way of letting the parents know of their presence, and the thought of a future child will become more concrete.
The parents may develop very different images of their child. This does not matter, as the images will reinforce parenthood, regardless. Towards the end of pregnancy, as the birth comes nearer, the images will again become vaguer and less detailed. The parents will return their focus on facts and the upcoming birth.
With the help of mental images, parents can create an emotional bond to their baby during pregnancy. The images help them feel more connected with and attached to their child. When these images become vaguer towards the end of pregnancy, it will help the parents to let go of the imagined baby and interact with the real one.