chapter  17
Anticipating Childbirth
ByJoan Raphael-Leff
Pages 17

Anticipating childbirth, the pregnant woman richochets backwards and forewards, between the birth to come and her own birth out of a female body like her own, a dizzying zigzag of emotional confusion arousing primitive fears and passions. In her state of permeable psychic boundaries, seemingly rational worries reflect underlying unconscious fantasies and anxieties which in turn colour her conscious ideas about birth. Usually unvoiced, these strange fantasies find their way into words on the psychoanalytic couch, in close-support groups of pregnant women, and, more rarely, in women's writings during pregnancy. Much of the emotional rehearsal takes place consciously, as the pregnant woman talks to 'initiated' mothers, comparing their experiences; as she attends classes, reads about labour and expresses some of her fears to friends, her mother or partner. For many women, emotional preparation for the birth may be enriched by participation in a discussion group for pregnant women.