Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Our nervous system starts developing around 5 weeks after conception, and from that time we start co-regulating with our mother.
So what if you’re pregnant and you are anxious and fearful, or living in a situation that is generating these feelings within your body? It's likely you will have a dysfunctional nervous system that is designed to respond to the perceived or real 'threat' by producing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and many others that directly affect the baby too and alters their physiological development.
Those early weeks can mean the difference between having a baby who is wired for threat and fear or wired for safety and love.
Gulp… as a mother that was very anxious and fearful during my pregnancy this made me feel sad and guilty. But what I know for sure, as my boy is about to turn 7, is this does not have to result in a helpless story of doom and gloom.
This field of pre perinatal psychology is growing as the amount of brain stem trauma in children (and adults) is becoming more evident with symptoms that are often diagnosed as a defiance disorder or ADHD.
But as I said it’s not all bad news.
I spent 5 hours in a zoom yesterday learning about this from an amazing woman Donna Berry who created Interplay (child led play therapy). The stories she shared of her 25 plus years of being a social worker were incredibly moving and tear producing. The kids and parents that had often given up on themselves, along with the rest of society because their behaviour was in the ‘too hard’ basket, Donna was able to help by looking for the unmet need under the behaviour, and addressing that with empathy, patience and unconditional love. And she shared her insights for free because, as she said, you don't have to be a therapist to be therapeutic.
We can all help create safe relationships where inter-dependence exists and provide an environment where co-regulation occurs, soothing both a child and parents’ nervous system. This is critical to start creating new neural pathways that are created through a felt feeling of safety and love. The stuff that many parents haven’t received themselves for a variety of reasons and of course, to different extents.
Mother guilt (or father guilt) when you start the parenting journey on this note is understandable (I see and hear you!), but guilt won’t change the past.
We can only change the future through what we do in the present moment and to do that awareness is key as is healing the wounds of your past, learning to regulate your nervous system and responding to your child in a way that looks under the behaviour and seeks to understand and address their unmet needs.
And as insights are cheap… the critical ingredient to this change is action. Learn - Apply - Succeed. Often this requires getting support.
I’m not a perfect parent, but I have a commitment to stopping inter-generation trauma in my family line. It’s not easy when all you’ve known is a dysregulated nervous system but it is possible. Start with your own healing journey, preferably well before you decide to get pregnant or at least sooner rather than later.
Remember the past is history.. you can choose something different today and beyond.. to allow a loving connection with yourself and your child/ren where healthy attachment and inter-dependence exists, co-regulation occurs, empathy overrides judgment and the result if you raising a child who is allowed to be their authentic self and be loved regardless (unconditionally).
It is truly the best gift you can give to a child and the generations that follow.
If you want to read more about Interplay check this website out (www.interplaytherapy.com.au) and sign up for Donna’s newsletters. As a parent and therapist, listening to the 5 hour Zoom yesterday was incredibly informative and well worth the time investment. I would recommend it to anyone who is involved with children.
And of course if you want to start or continue your healing journey using hypnotherapy... please connect with me. I would be honoured to support you.