The Pregnant Therapist
Over the past few months your therapist has put on weight. All around her middle. In the back of your mind you are thinking, “For goodness sake, go on a diet, and get some exercise.” At the rear end of the back of your mind an idea is forming that is so reprehensible it gets snapped shut before its presence is fully comprehended. For some even when your therapist is nine months pregnant it is possible not to acknowledge what is blindingly obvious. Your therapist is about to have a baby very soon and it’s not you.
My therapist had children before I started seeing her so it has not been an issue for me. What was an issue was when she got a pair of dogs and I thought they were getting more attention than I was. And I was right; they are a pair of pampered pooches. Thank goodness she was never pregnant when I was a client. I would not have handled it well.
Nancy McWilliams has had two pregnancies while she was working as a psychoanalyst. Donna, one of the clients she wrote about in a case study in her book Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Guide had severe negative transference reactions to both her pregnancies. When one of her babies was born she declared that Nancy’s baby was ugly. I smiled when I read this and I don’t believe Nancy took it personally. There are no ugly babies. The only one I know of was in a Seinfeld episode, judged exceedingly so by four TV characters, none of whom had ever had a baby themselves.
For the severely regressed borderline client the therapists’ pregnancy must be an especially tortuous reality to bear. There would be the usual assortment of abandonment issues, perceived rejection, jealous feelings of usurpation, bilious resentment, diabolical hostility and anger and many wishful unrequited fantasies. There would also be dark issues with the therapist’s sexuality. It would mean that someone had access to her in a way that will never be accessible to the client. Nancy says in a paper she wrote in 1980 “Pregnancy in the Analyst” that severe judgment in the guise of disgust and revulsion are also common feelings. “Wasn’t one enough?” and “Have you ever heard of birth control?”
Coming to terms with a therapist’s sex life is not an easy one to navigate. It is proof positive that she has had sexual intimacy with someone that was not you. It is disturbing to have these unwanted, intrusive feelings. I have had them and while I am not a lesbian, have never had nor want a lesbian affair, I do recognize that sexuality is fluid and on a continuum. “Sexual feelings” with my therapist is more about closeness, connection, warmth and intimacy. All of which I get during the therapy hour to my satisfaction.
I have of course fantasized about being her baby. I can only imagine the sheer volume of nurture, love, affection, indulgence and pampering I would get. My therapist (my fantasy mother) would breastfeed on demand, sleep in the same bed, become a Jean Liedloff “baby wearer” and carry me on her hip for the rest of my life. She would always smile in a warm, secure, comforting manner and never have any personal needs of her own – ever again. I would of course be an only child (read spoiled brat). She of course would never have another relationship again – ever.
Exploring this fantasy with your therapist can be relevant and enlightening, especially if your mother was emotionally detached and you had attachment issues. Visualize the womb you would develop and grow in and what it would feel like to be inside a loving mother. For me when I become alarmed at the nastiness and vagaries of normal life I reach inside my head and find that special place where I can just sink down into the primitiveness of pre-existence and relax my soul into just being and presence and nothing else, just as I imagine it would be in my therapist’s womb.
My therapist may not have given birth to me but therapy itself has been a rebirthing experience. Like pregnancy and birth, my journey has been at times painful and turbulent but towards the end – there is much peace and stillness.
Neale, S. (2010). The Pregnant Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/unplugged/2010/07/the-pregnant-therapist/