700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Life Experiences and the Connection Between Parents and Their Babies

Jul 05, 2022
trauma for pregnant women

For many parents, pregnancy is a joyous time filled with excitement and anticipation. For some, pregnancy can be overshadowed by painful or scary past experiences that can affect the parents-to-be and their relationship with their baby.

Whether or not you are a first-time parent, past experiences can impact your ability to feel connected to your baby and could even cause you to wonder if you are capable of being a “good parent.” Some parents may experience guilt because of these feelings and often do not share these thoughts with others. This is common and an often-not-talked-about issue for expectant parents. 

Experiences that might impact how you are feeling about your pregnancy: 

  • Was your pregnancy planned or wanted?
  • Have you had a previous delivery that was difficult?
  • Was your pregnancy the result of domestic or intimate partner violence?
  • Were you the victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect as a child?
  • Did you have a difficult or nonexistent relationship with one or both of your parents?
  • Do you have any past or current mental health diagnoses?
  • Are you feeling safe at home, and do you have access to adequate food, shelter, and mental health treatment?
  • Have you recently immigrated to the United States while pregnant?

So much attention is given to the baby and what to expect once the baby is born, but few ask a parent-to-be about their own experiences that could be getting in the way. 

What You Should Know

The first year of life is so exciting and can seem like a whirlwind for sleep deprived parents. Babies grow quickly and they develop new skills in such a short period of time. Learning how to be a parent is a developmental stage too! You are no longer only responsible for yourself and your needs, but now you have someone else depending on you, and it is not easy.

Even the most prepared parents often go to bed at night exhausted. Many find themselves with more questions than answers and are left wondering if they are doing the best job they can for their baby. If you have been impacted by negative past experiences, these thoughts and feelings may be even bigger for you. Some parents impacted by trauma may also wonder: 

  • Why don’t I feel connected or bonded to my baby?
  • Will I be the same kind of parent as my parents were for me?
  • Why are thoughts and feelings from my past coming back to me?
  • Why does my mental health seem to be worsening?
  • Am I capable of being a good parent?

What You Can Do

Those thoughts can be unsettling to say the least, but there are strategies you can use to move forward.

  • Think about how you were parented and ask yourself, “What negative experiences do I want to leave behind?” and “What positive experiences do I want to carry forward with my child?”
  • Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are ENOUGH, and you are CAPABLE of being a good parent.
  • Remember that taking care of yourself IS taking care of your baby. Although it is not always easy, try to find time for the things in life that relieve your stress and bring you peace.  
  • If you are struggling, do not be afraid to ask for help.

If you are pregnant and worried that your past experiences are impacting how you feel about your pregnancy or your ability to attach to your baby, please call our intake department at 614-355-8080 and inquire about Perinatal Child Parent Psychotherapy through the Early Childhood Mental Health Program.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or having thoughts of harming yourself, you can contact Franklin County Netcare Access at 614-276-2273 or 888-276-2273 or ADAMH Suicide Prevention Hotline at 614-221-5445.

For information related to services and resources in response to family violence, please call (614) 722-8200 or visit The Center for Family Safety and Healing.

Featured Expert

Christy Lumpkins
Christy Lumpkins, LISW-S
Clinical Lead Supervisor of the Early Childhood Mental Health Program

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.