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ABSTRACT: It has long been accepted that there is a developmental process women progress through during pregnancy as they take on the parenting role. This paper develops a theory of the unborn baby's role during the prenatal period as an active instigator in this parenting role. Referring to the work of Arnold Gesell and adapting it to the prenatal period, the author theorizes that the unborn baby's growth and development drives the developmental process of the parenting role prenatally. Pregnancy is viewed as the beginning of a lifelong process and a unique time when parents are especially open to exploring their changing roles with the baby as an equal contributor.
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Joann M. CLeary, B.E.S., M.P.H., M.S.
Ms. O'Leary is a Parent-Infant Clinical Specialist in the Perinatal Center of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has worked in this setting for the last ten years in the role of clinical specialist and former Director of the Childbirth Education Program. She co-facilitates a support group for families experiencing a pregnancy after a perinatal loss. Prior to her work at the hospital she was involved as a teacher in Preschool Special Education, specializing in infant development. She undertook research in Belfast, Northern Ireland on first-time parents and administered the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Intervention to their babies. She teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Special Education at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Address correspondence to the author at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, 800 East 28 Street at Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55407-3799.