I have recently returned from the fifth International Conference of the Pre and Peri-natal Psychology Association of North America in Atlanta, Georgia. What joy - and relief - to find two hundred and fifty like minded people who understand that there is life before birth! So what, you might ask, is Pre and Perinatal Psychology? It is the study of uterine life and the experience of birth and how these stages of development affect our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing. And PPPANA, founded by Thomas Verny MD and David Chamberlain PhD, in the early 1980’s is dedicated to the in-depth exploration of the psychological dimension of human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and new-born child. It is a multi-disciplinary association from diverse backgrounds such as obstetrics, midwifery, nursing, perinatology, paediatrics, childbirth education, psychology, psychiatry, law, the clergy, ethology, anthropology, counselling, teaching, therapy, and concerned parents. The common denominator amongst this diverse group is the belief that the way in which we were conceived, the process of growing in our mothers’ wombs, the reactions to her problems, digestion, smells, tastes, movement, emotions, agony and ecstasy; and the experience our births are all part of our unconscious affective memory, and influences our life long behaviour. As a Pre and Perinatal psychotherapist and healer, I do not find it easy to pioneer such a “notion” when the majority of the human race, in this century, have worked on the assumption that babies begin to live, breathe, pay attention, see, hear sense and play only after birth. That the first five years of life are the most important. When Dr. Thomas Verny wrote his challenging book, ‘The Secret Life of the Unborn Child”, in 1981 (1), he took a remarkable and controversial look at life before birth. Twenty years of painstaking research into the earliest stages of life, and Dr. Verny’s evidence of intelligent life in the womb is overwhelming. What ever our beliefs in this field, there is a hard core of knowledge emerging in which David Chamberlain (2&3) is leading the field with his extraordinary discoveries in scientific and medical research. He presents scientific evidence showing that even in the womb the foetus experiences a wide variety of emotions, that the seemingly random noises new-borns make, are conscious attempts to communicate; and that cognition and reasoning are more highly developed than we have previously believed. Empirical evidence of consciousness in the prenate is available, in order that we might fully accept subjective accounts. This empirical evidence for birth and prenatal activity, consciousness and memory, comes from an abundance of sources documented by Michael Irving in 1991 (4), who is also working energetically to accumulate many sources world-wide to provide researchers with as much evidence as they require.
Preparing the Foetus, Repairing the Earth
Jean Houston, the principal speaker at the conference, ‘delivered’ the most inspiring, charismatic and dynamic “baby”, entitled Preparing The Foetus, Repairing The Earth. Her vision, embracing so many disciplines, is guiding us to the realisation that we are coming to the end of an era. That we are coming to the beginning of a new earth story: we are moving towards global civilisation in the next millennium. Jean emphasised strongly that here is a reinvention of what humans can be. That here is a critical meaning or new social convention, requiring a new conscious gestation that has never taken place before in this way in the history of mankind and our planet Earth. What people in the Pre and Perinatal field are proving, in whatever role they participate, is that: “How we are prepared for conception; how we are conceived; how we are treated in the womb; how we are born - influences our life long behaviour, and that conclusively, we live our lives according to the trauma or glory or our birth.” This is the consciousness concerning childbirth that needs to be infiltrated not slowly, but gently, into the human psyche. We are born one way or another, and this dictates our life imprints. If we are to understand our human nature and care for our planet, we must understand our beginnings and believe and know that each individual has a personal responsibility for the fate of our home, Earth. “Because the way we live our lives affects the way in which we treat our planet.”
Global Recession must not slip into Global Regression
In my own field of work as a pre and perinatal psychotherapist, healer and teacher, I am able to regress people, by gentle energy work, to a place where the negative life script originated. My work is based on the work of Dr Frank Lake who was pioneering this in England before his untimely death in 1982. In his book (5) Frank wrote, “…the great danger is that, as many times before, we will interpret the fact of recession, on whatever scale or level it affects us personally, by evoking similar patterns of conflict and response from the past, that is, by regression. If this happens, it will be a regression, not to post-natal human levels of experience, but to pre-natal first and third trimester levels, of constrictions, threatening pressures, confused internal states and pollutions and to similar patterns derived from even more crushingly frightening births. All these regressions belong to pre-personal levels, indeed to impersonal conflicts and resolutions”. He continued to stress that if this happens within our family, social and institutional life, in church and state, or globally, we could do one another great harm. In a sense, Frank was seeing the possibility of what is happening world-wide now. He impressed upon his readers that we would confront each other, locked in impersonal blocks of force and counter force, constricting and being constricted, polluting and being polluted, suffocating and being suffocated. Yet we would all feel quite justified in our fantasy based cruelties, reacting to our fantasy dangers, because they would, upon regression, be derived from impressions stored in pre-natal memory. His belief was: “The increasingly distressing, very real dangers, now being generated in present day wombs, and the often forceps assisted or rapidly induced births we provide for babies, will ensure a steady supply of damaged adults, who will see it all just as we do and carry on the carnage.” (6)
Developing Frank Lake’s Work
Much of the documentation regarding the consciousness, incredible skills and learning ability of the new-born and unborn child and the awareness of cellular memory, comes from regression work with adults and children. Alison Hunter and myself, working at the Amethyst Centre in Dublin, have been in this field for many years, Alison having worked as a pastoral consultant with Frank from 1976-79. We began running workshops there together in 1978, and in Northern Ireland as well as England. In those days, we were working with Frank’s early hypothesis that birth trauma set the pattern for personality development in life and we still work with many people in this area. During this time that Alison was working with Frank on his study of maternal/foetal distress syndrome he was coming across so many people with distress that was obviously earlier than the birth trauma. He believed that any trauma happening to the pregnant mother was passed on to the foetus through the umbilical cord. He also began to feel that there must be some kind of cell memory spanning generations and coming into the sperm and the ovum at conception. In those days we had no evidence of cellular memory and foetal consciousness from any other sources but Dr. Kenneth McAll who was working in the area of “Healing the Family Tree” 1982 (7). Now, Dr. Graham Farrant (8), an eminent Australian psychiatrist is also pioneering work on cellular memory.
Birth Scripts Become Life Scripts.
Birth trauma will not generally be recalled in ordinary day to day living, with specific pictures and auditory language memory. The experiences occurred before the development of verbal language. Clients express their birth feelings metaphorically, and metaphors have powerful linking functions, bringing fragmented bits into a comprehensive single picture. Metaphors are imagination in action, freeing or enslaving human beings. Many of our everyday actions and feelings are described with some of the most powerful metaphors in the human language and have their origins in birth, extending back through uterine life, implantation, and conception itself. Any form of counselling or psychotherapy would be enriched by the recognition and development of the understanding of early and pre-natal experiences. They are a main source of our metaphors of life and death, and all kinds of distress - which basically become our responses to situations. Birth language can be obvious in everyday conversation, ‘I saw the light at the end of the tunnel’’; ‘‘I just couldn’t see a way out”; “It’s just all too difficult - I can’t find a way out”; “I’m in a dreadful place - I just can’t stand it”; “It drives me round the bend!” Many of these script’s are the negative life patterns or imprinting of those people who were having life difficulties and come into therapy for help. Some knowing, some not knowing the problem had originated at birth. Over the years we experienced hundreds of people whose moment of birth formed impressions which had controlled them subsequently, from a subconscious level. Adults come to us when foetal distress and trauma at birth emerge at a time of illness, or at a time of great pressure, stressful situations such as separation and loss. Often it is not recognised by those unfamiliar with birth language.
Different Types of Birth Trauma
The obvious medical classified birth types includes: breech; caesarean; forceps; induction; premature: transverse lie; late; long labours; fast births; cord round neck, amongst others. Many of these births may be classified as “difficult”. The birth scripts evolving from traumatic experiences colour the human throughout life. The following are scripts we have noted from our clients. It does not necessarily follow that every person experiencing a particular type of birth will have the same scripts. For each birth there are between twenty and thirty scripts - only a few are mentioned here. Breech: A breech birth is violence in the womb and the breech born becomes the victim - It’s difficult to do things the right way round. I look for solutions but I feel so insecure. I’m different from everyone, so I just stop thinking. I want to back out when under pressure. I’m afraid of being wrong so I have difficulty speaking up. Forceps: This is also a violent type of birth, help comes at last, but can that help and support ever be trusted again? Adults who were forceps deliveries give double messages often with great lack of confidence - This is how you do it- isn’t it? Let’s have this for supper - shouldn’t we? Why can’t someone else do something properly, they are all so incompetent - I’ll do it myself, it’s safer. I’m going to fail - I can’t make a decision. Life is such a struggle. I can’t make it on my own. Induction: Either because of foetal distress, for medical reasons, or staff shortages, a birth is artificially started - I am not ready! Don’t push me, I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do. I am missing out on something. Why can’t someone else do something? I just can’t get started. Wait! I am not doing that until I am ready. Just these few examples can give the reader an idea of how birth affects our life-style. Perhaps you have your own scripts that either inhibit your potential or are an asset to your job and life. It is usually the negative life patterns that bring people into therapy. The positive people in life don’t need it! But there are techniques with the ever-evolving understanding of humanity that can now help us break through the dreadful negativity that can destroy and sabotage relationships, not only in families, but also between the nations of the world.
National Life Scripts
This can be most interestingly looked at through a nation’s history. The British national script, generally speaking, appears to be one of invasion. An obvious reason is that Britain is an island and fears invasion, so actually has done just that, in the past, invaded. There is a tendency for babies to be induced, which causes an “invasion” script, and perhaps caesarean section, which gives no boundaries. But an interesting research study could be done statistically. In Ireland, our work shows a very prominent life and birth script of repression. This comes time and time again when relations or the mother to be has held the baby in until the doctor or midwife has arrived. Culturally many Irish were born in farms or homes miles away from a hospital, and the midwife might have a long cycle ride to reach the delivery. With the Irish script of repression and the British script of invasion is it any wonder, on a different level, why there are difficulties between these nations? To be in a husband and wife relationship is bad enough, when one is forceps and the other caesarean! One has tight boundaries and the other has none! Do you recognise it?
The Human Race and Our Earthly Home
No one can look after our planet but us. Jean Houston in her opening speech stated: “that the pregnant world situation is not unlike a vast womb of gestation. Everything is in a foetal state of preparation before regenesis. All the old systems are breaking down - because before you go into transition everything has to break down.” To be born from dust, and to return to dust, we are living and spiritual beings belonging to the Earth. To understand the way in which we were conceived, and conceive, is of the utmost importance, covering vast topics of human understanding. Earth is hurting and no one but us is responsible. For mother Earth to avoid the greatest miscarriage of all time, or to deliver the greatest gift to future generations, is in our hands. Children conceived in love, are loving; in fear, are fearful; in hate, know only hate; in violence, become violent; in peace, are peaceful. We have so much to learn from each other across all disciplines of conceiving, bearing, birthing and rearing our children of the future. May we teach each other how to deliver peace and be open to every area where we can work in harmony.
1. Thomas Verny with John Kelly: “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child” Shere, 1981. 2. Chamberlain, David: “Consciousness at Birth” 1983. Chamberlain Communications, 909 Hayes Ave. San Diego. Ca. 92103. 3. Chamberlain David: “Babies Remember Birth” Jeremy Tarcher 1988. 4. Irving Michael: Pre & Perinatal Psychology & Art Therapy. Unpublished Thesis 274 Rhodes Ave. Toronto Canada M4L 3A3. 5. Lake, Frank: “Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling” DLT, 1981. 6. P.44 of previous source. 7. McAll, Kenneth: “Healing the Family Tree” Sheldon Press, 1982. 8. Farrant, Graham: “Cellular Consciousness & Conception” Article in Pre & Peri-natal News, Vol. 2 Issue 2, 1988. From PPPANA 2162 Ingleside Ave. Macon Georgia 3120. Shirley Ward is a Pre & Perinatal Psychotherapist and healer at the Amethyst Centre in Dublin. Along with Alison hunter, she facilitates individual counselling, group work and training in this field. Also at Amethyst, Carmel Byrne works with children using play therapy techniques.