In June 2022, I gave birth to my first child at 42 years of age. The pregnancy was deemed high risk from the start due to my age and I needed to draw on the skills I acquired during my studies on MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP).
The medical profession has to alert you to the risks but due to the high-risk category, there was a constant dialogue about the difficulties. I was lucky I had a very compassionate midwife, who helped keep my thoughts positive. During the second trimester, I experienced antenatal anxiety and using the Positive Psychology theory and interventions helped shape the remainder of my pregnancy with that sense of glow and the antenatal anxiety slowly disappeared.
If there is one thing anxiety does – it robs you of your joy and I had waited so long to be a mother, I was going to enjoy every minute of the journey. I listened to the medical profession and the risks, but I focused on positive emotions as what I was feeling and what my baby was feeling. It was really important for me to reduce my stress levels and add more relaxation into my life.
What Went Well:
I used the What Went Well intervention (Seligman, 2011), where you focus on three positive things that happened that day. I wrote in a diary every night before I went to bed. This made me consciously consider the positivity that my day consisted of. This then enhanced positive emotions. Once I had chosen my three things, I would then talk to baby about our day, adding to the bonding experience. I would complete my night’s ritual by telling my baby ‘I love you, night night’.
Shortly after I delivered the midwife asked if I spoke to my baby during pregnancy. I said every day. She said you can tell the mothers who speak to their babies during pregnancy by their baby’s reactions. At the time I was recovering from a complicated birth, so I cannot recall what the exact difference is between mothers who speak to their babies during pregnancy and those that do not. But it was nice to have had it noticed.
I have quite a critical inner critic, which is active when I enter a new aspect of my life. This happened in the first trimester before the first scan. Hearing my baby’s heartbeat and seeing her in the scan helped me change my perspective. I used the Self-Compassion work by Kristin Neff, who states ‘we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend’ (Neff, 2011). I would never speak to a friend how I speak to myself, so revisiting the work of Neff, helped me realise how easy it is to fall into the pattern of not being good to yourself.
I used ‘changing your critical self-talk’, where you reframe your self-talk with compassion. I also used meditation to generate a more peaceful inner being. The Self-Compassion work is very empowering and it is something I will teach my daughter. I wish I had this knowledge as a child because it would have made my earlier years more joyful. My parents did the best job they could, based on the knowledge they had at the time.
Studying the MAPP has opened up a new horizon of flourishing. My parents’ generation was taught how to survive because their parents experienced the Second World War, so surviving was the optimal state as they witnessed so much death and decay. So, their teachings were valuable, but my contribution to our generational lineage will be to navigate the pathway of flourishing as I will now pass on my knowledge and love to my daughter.
Read more about Kelly Seaward-Ding and her other articles HERE
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