In her 2018 article, “Consciousness at the Beginning of Life,” published in Pathways to Family Wellness, Wendy Anne McCarty, Ph.D. explored a shift in the way we understand babies and their earliest human experiences. In a more recent article, she digs deeper into the topic and shares more about what babies are teaching us and how this newfound knowledge can help men father their babies, even during pregnancy.
McCarty explains that, from conception, babies are whole beings craving a human experience. She maintains that dads play an important role in pregnancy by being intentional about forming a relationship with the baby. As a father, you can help shape that tiny being into a person with a strong sense of self and wholeness. You can do that by caring for your baby, singing and talking to her, and keeping your environment as “harmonious, healthy, and as stress-free as possible.” These early experiences in the womb create a bond with your baby and form the foundation of his beliefs, values, feelings, and thoughts.
The Birth of a Father
In the article, “The Beauty of Fathering During Pregnancy: What Babies are Teaching Us,” McCarty interviews a couple about their experience as parents, and they talk specifically about their thoughts and feelings during pregnancy. The father shares that men may feel excluded or fearful during pregnancy. He, though, felt very connected to his baby and said that special time drew him closer to his wife, even as they each bonded with their unborn child.
Related: 8 Choices for a Healthier Pregnancy
They vowed to love their child and give him everything they possibly could. To that end, they treated the pregnancy as “magical,” playing music, talking to their baby, and simply including him in their relationship so he’d know he was cherished.
Read the full article for their interview, then continue below for McCarty’s 12 guiding principles of prenatal and perinatal psychology to learn more about your baby’s needs and the ways you can connect with your baby during pregnancy and in infancy.
12 Guiding Principles Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology
Nurturing Human Potential and Optimizing Relationships from the Beginning of Life
1. The Primary Period
The primary period for human development occurs from preconception through the first year of postnatal life. This is the time in which vital foundations are established at every level of being: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and relational.
2. Forming the Core Blueprint
Experiences during this primary period form the blueprint of our core perceptions, belief structures, and ways of being in the world with others and ourselves.
These foundational elements are implicit, observable in newborns, and initiate lifelong ways of being.
These core implicit patterns profoundly shape our being in life-enhancing or life-diminishing directions.
3. Continuum of Development
Human development is continuous from prenatal to postnatal life. Postnatal patterns build upon earlier prenatal and birth experiences.
Optimal foundations for growth and resiliency, including brain development, emotional intelligence, and self-regulation are predicated upon optimal conditions during the pre-conception period, pregnancy, birth, and the first year of life.
Optimal foundations of secure attachment and healthy relationships are predicated upon optimal relationships during the pre-conception period, during pregnancy, the birth experience, and the first year of life.
4. Capacities & Capabilities
Human beings are conscious, sentient, aware, and possess a sense of Self even during this very early primary period.
We seek ever-increasing states of wholeness and growth through the expression of human life. This innate drive guides and infuses our human development.
From the beginning of life, babies perceive, communicate, and learn in ways that include an integration of mind-to-mind, energetic, and physical-sensorial capacities and ways of being.
Human development occurs within relationship from the beginning. Human connections and surrounding environment profoundly influence the quality and structure of every aspect of baby’s development.
From the beginning of life, baby experiences and internalizes what mother experiences and feels. Father’s and/or partner’s relationship with mother and baby are integral to optimizing primary foundations for baby.
All relationships and encounters with mother, baby, and father during this primary period affect the quality of life and baby’s foundation. Supportive, loving, and healthy relationships are integral to optimizing primary foundations for baby.
6. Innate Needs
The innate need for security, belonging, love and nurturing, feeling wanted, feeling valued, and being seen as the Self we are is present from the beginning of life. Meeting these needs and providing the right environment supports optimal development.
Babies are continually communicating and seeking connection. Relating and responding to baby in ways that honor their multifaceted capacities for communication supports optimal development and wholeness.
8. Mother-Baby Interconnectedness
Respecting and optimizing the bond between mother and baby and the mother-baby interconnectedness during pregnancy, birth, and infancy is of highest priority.
Birth and bonding is a critical developmental process for mother, baby, and father/partner that forms core patterns with lifelong implications.
The best baby and mother outcomes occur when mother feels empowered and supported and the natural process of birth is allowed to unfold with minimal intervention and no interruption in mother-baby connection and physical contact. If any separation of baby from mother occurs, continuity of father’s contact and connection with baby is vital.
Baby responds and thrives best when communicated with directly, when the relationship with mother is undisturbed, and when the process of birth supports baby’s ability to orient and integrate the series of events.
10. Resolving & Healing
Resolving and healing past and current conflicts, stress, and issues that affect the quality of life for all family members is of highest priority. Doing so before pregnancy is best. When needed, therapeutic support for mother, baby, and father provided as early as possible during this vital primary period is recommended for optimal outcomes.
11. Underlying Patterns
When unresolved issues remain or less than optimal conditions and experiences occur during conception, pregnancy, birth, and the first postnatal year, life-diminishing patterns often underlay health issues, stress behaviors, difficulty in self-regulation, attachment, learning, and other disorders over the lifespan.
12. Professional Support
These early diminishing patterns embed below the level of the conscious mind in the implicit memory system, subconscious, and somatic patterns. Professionals trained in prenatal and perinatal psychology can identify these patterns and support babies, children, parents, and adults to heal and shift these primary patterns to more lifeenhancing ones at any age. When parents resolve and heal their own unresolved issues from their child’s pregnancy and birth, their children benefit at any age.
Excerpted from Pathways to Family Wellness. Read the full article.