Meg and her husband Richard came to see me when she was advanced in her pregnancy. Initially they sought help with arguments between themselves but it became clear that their fighting, sometimes physical, was generated by the pressure that their extended families were putting them under and they were being pulled in different directions to provide support. Meg's mother had been looking after her sister, a recovering heroin addict, and would constantly phone Meg if Alice were 'missing' for too long. Richard's father had died suddenly not long after Meg had become pregnant. Richard's mum expected him to call around every night after work and Meg was worried that this would not change after the baby was born. The more that Meg and Richard attempted to pull away and think about their new roles and responsibilities, the more their respective families seemed to fall into crisis.
Many people may be surprised by the reactions of their extended family to the pregnancy. Grandparents-to-be may be delighted about their new situation and yet find themselves reliving some of their own disappointments and problems of that time. This can translate into heavy-handed advice or not being available in a way that might have been hoped for.
Pregnancy is a time when you may be offered lots of 'advice' especially from your own and other parents, which may not always be helpful and may feel undermining. But it is important to remember everyone is going to be learning his or her new role.
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