THE CONSTRUCTION OF INNER MATERNITY
A study group in Florence, composed of psychoanalysts and psychotherapists with a long experience of Infant Observation, has investigated since 2001 the “awakening” of early mother- baby relationship, from different vertexes and in various contexts, by extending Esther Bick’s
The observational and clinical material discussed comes from different areas, such as initial interviews with pregnant women before beginning Infant Observation, therapy with pregnant patients, preparatory groups for mothers-to-be in the Public Health Service, prolonged observations
during the entire pregnancy period (Pre-Infant Observation); we have also investigated phantasies and inner reactions in women during ultrasound visits and medical exams.
We have thus created an Observatory of inner maternity, supervised by Gina Ferrara Mori, with the aim of reaching a deeper understanding of the particular “maternal atmosphere” that begins with the onset of pregnancy and determines new mental events and transformations, related to the reorganization of the mother’s Self and to the qualities and intensity of the future mother-baby relationship.
Our clinical and theoretical discussions have been registered and compiled as “memories” of each group seminar, gradually becoming a rich and abundant archive dedicated to the experience of “inner maternity.”
Through our investigation we have identified the following significant aspects :
1. Every experience of inner maternity is unique.
2. Pregnant women always experience a certain amount of anxiety (a “hidden crisis”) which fluctuates in relation to distressing external and internal events (i.e. the results of biological monitoring, the quality of medical information about pregnancy, particular environmental situations, and the transformation of unconscious mental representations).
3. Pregnant women show a constant need for figures of reference (one’s mother, obstetrician, gynaecologist, partner, observer).
4. A complex process of identification with one’s own mother takes places.
5. Mother-baby relationship appears sometimes to be “pre-mature”, when the woman is pushed to a precocious “objectification” of the future newborn (for instance by early technological investigations);in spite of the virtual image from the ultrasound, the foetus has not as yet place in the mother’s mind and is still perceived in its “internal baby” state.
6. Pre- infant observation and listening to future mothers can have a deep transformative function, in that pregnant women become gradually capable of “thinking” about their future babies and then “observing” their newborns.
Our work with and thinking about future mothers has helped us to individuate a specific developmental process in female identity, pertaining to an incipient state of “inner maternity” in the mother-to-be, which is accompanied by mental representations requiring an internal space for
phantasies, emotions, desires and dreams, as a pre-condition for developing bonds, affects and relationships: a psychic container in which an “inside phantasized” baby can become the “real outside” baby.
Poster presented at the VIII International Congress on Infant Observation - Esther Bick Method “The Awakening of Mental Life in the Encounter with the External World - Observations and Theories” - 21st, 22nd and 23rd August, 2008 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Authors: Luigia Cresti Scacciati, Laura Mori and Linda Root Fortini, Psychologists-Psychotherapists-Teachers of Infant Observation in the Associazione Fiorentina di Psicoterapia psicoanalitica- Florence (Italy). This experience has been shared with Isabella Lapi, Cristina Pratesi, Fiorella Monti, Arianna Luperini, Marco Mastella, Maria Rosa Ceragioli and Gabriella Smorto. It has been described in detail in a book entitled “Un tempo per la maternità”- Edizioni Borla, Roma, 2008.