Does the way we are born have any impact on our later lives? Does it make a difference if we make the journey through the birth canal or enter the world by cesarean section? Would it matter if we were breech or induced? Can something that happened so long ago influence adult life? Leading-edge research indicates that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "Yes!"
For the past several decades, a pioneering field of science known as Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology (www.BirthPsychology.com) has been exploring the impact of experiences in the womb and at birth on later life. Although psychology in the modern sense refers to the study of mental processes and behavior, Birth Psychology differs in that it holds true to the root meaning of the word. "Logia" refers to "the study of," while the origin of "Psyche" refers to "the soul, spirit, breath, the invisible animating principle which occupies and directs the physical body." Birth Psychology views the infant not simply in terms of brain functions, but as a conscious being with capacities that exceed the limitations of the physical body.
From this perspective, researchers have been effectively debunking the belief that babies’ underdeveloped brains prevent them from being aware of their surroundings, having a functional memory or even feeling pain. In fact, they have discovered that babies are highly complex beings who observe, learn, feel and remember. As a result, these early experiences serve as the foundation of our self-image, our behavior and relationship patterns, our perceptions of the world, even our health.
One of the reasons the impact of this early period is so profound is that our first encounters in this world are imprinted upon our psyche, creating a "life script" or pattern that informs the way we perceive later life circumstances, as well as how we feel about and respond to them.
Following are general examples of life scripts that may result from foundational experiences – if they are not recognized and addressed, as adapted from Tomorrow’s Baby, by Thomas Verny, and Birth & Relationships, by Bob Mandel and Sondra Ray:
i Cesarean births – Cesarean-born people may experience the double bind of feeling they "can’t do it by themselves," but perceive support as manipulation or control. They often crave touching, tend to think they do things wrong, and have a hard time completing things.
i Medicated births – These people may feel they need drugs to help them connect in relationships or experience support as suffocating. Under stress, they may feel confused or paralyzed, and tend to feel more anger and resentment.
i Induced births – A person whose birth was induced tend to have a problem "getting started," as in getting out of bed in the morning, and often feels interrupted, intruded upon or controlled.
i Cord around the neck – These individuals tend to have phobias associated with suffocation and often feel "strangled" or "choked" in relationships. They may dislike ties, turtlenecks, scarves or having the top button closed.
i Forceps deliveries – In adulthood, these people may want to be in control, feel unworthy or that something is wrong with them, and have anxieties about being stroked or held. Under stress, they may suffer from headaches, neck or shoulder pain.
i Natural, unmedicated birth – If welcomed into a loving family, these individuals tends to be confident, secure, trust in their own strength and feel comfortable in intimate relationships. They tend to feel connected to mother, society and the planet.
While these are generalizations, many people do notice certain recurring patterns in their lives (in intimate relationships, with authority figures, etc.) and feel frustrated over their inability to change them. However, we no longer have to feel like a victim to our life circumstances. By looking to the source of our life scripts, we gain the power to re-write them in any way we choose.
The implications of these findings are vast. Not only do we acquire the knowledge to make our own lives more fulfilling, but we gain the ability to profoundly impact our children, our families and society as a whole. Research shows that, by recognizing and treating early trauma, we are able to reverse disturbing trends such as hyperactivity, learning disorders, autism, depression, suicide – and prevent violence at its source.
By revealing that babies are complex beings who feel deeply, learn and remember, Birth Psychology can help us evolve our childbirth and parenting practices to reflect this new understanding and set the stage for our children to blossom into more joyful, confident, compassionate individuals. It also provides the opportunity for each of us to resolve our early experiences, opening the door to more joy and fulfillment in our own lives. Once we begin to find peace and healing as individuals, it extends through families, into communities and out into the world.
Ten Moons Rising Holistic Family Education is hosting a symposium on October 6-7 entitled, "The Journey Into Life: What Babies Want Us To Know," at the University of Minnesota Conference Center in St. Paul, MN. To register or for more information, visit www.TenMoonsRising.org and www.BirthPsychology.com.