In a world where it is only now becoming acceptable to speak among colleagues and professionals in these terms, the pre and perinatal perspective may find its place as an exemplar and guide to recovering from the four hundred year split of spirit, soul, and matter, that gave rise to scientific materialism. Given that we come into the world enjoying our own consciousness, prebirth and birth therapy is well positioned to heal not only the schism enacted on us, but the prevailing world view that we are unconscious at conception and through birth and infancy.
Pregnancy and birth truly matter. Research has shown that the internal states of a mother influence the life of the baby inside her, especially those created by chronic stress and overwhelming events. Caring for a baby inside the mother means more than proper nutrition; it involves helping the mother and her partner connect with the baby, and determining what supports that mother, in particular. Every baby needs two layers of support; for the inside baby, the mother is her world.
While creating what some may consider as ideal circumstances for birth is important, I believe a new paradigm in birthing is greatly needed. This new paradigm starts with one vital understanding that has been overlooked in our western birthing model—babies are conscious beings. Our culture does not fully understand the concept that babies are conscious beings and all that comes with being a sentient being.
We develop in a sequence: conception, implantation, embryo, fetus, baby. Our cells unfold in a sequence, too. We form our bodies in relationship with our mother, our first environment, and then our family. Participants in the Womb Surround Process create specific intentions based on patterns that continue, in many ways, to confine and function as constrictions detrimental in their lives. These patterns are adaptive to the overwhelming event or events in our history but no longer serve in the present; in fact, they can get in the way of our growth or even the resolution of the original trauma.
APPPAH is offering free articles on their website relating to life before birth, prenatal music and sound, the birth experience, birth and violence, prenatal parenting and primal health and womb ecology. They offer a treasure trove of pertinent essays from leaders in the prenatal and perinatal psychology and health field.
When we hear about a person’s mental health, it’s often in the context of a problem — a colleague is struggling to handle stress at work, a friend’s child is having behavioral problems at school, or a family member has received a diagnosis. And almost always, these discussions are limited to older children and adults. So it begs the questions: when does mental health begin? Do babies have mental health?
Experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, sociology and education say that attachment theory’s underlying assumption — that the quality of our early attachments profoundly influences how we behave as adults — has special resonance in an era when people seem more attached to their smartphones than to one another.
Like many parents, I fantasied about the mother I hoped to be. Unfortunately, as a young mother, I experienced the birth of a pre-term baby. The birthing process itself and the subsequent moments following are significant and prepare us to connect with the baby, but in the case of premature birth nothing is known, or expected. Nothing could prepare my daughter and me for the cognitive dissonance we experienced at her birth. I called my uterus the ‘unfaithful uterus’ that betrayed not only her, but also me. A plastic box and a medical team that undoubtedly saved her life were her external uterus.
Working with families and babies who have had overwhelming experiences requires a certain skill base. I have been working in the prenatal and perinatal realm for over 15 years, over 20 years as a body worker, and over 25 in maternal and child health. In the last 14 years, advances in the fields of interpersonal biology, epigenetics, fetal origins, trauma resolution, affect regulation, neuroscience, and attachment have created more acceptance that babies have experiences in utero, during birth, and postpartum (neonatal). My work is about healing moms, babies, and adults with early trauma; prenatal and perinatal therapeutic approaches focus on giving babies the best possible start.
The “two-chair” process is a remarkably effective, gentle and safe way to support new families. Popularized in the late 1960s by Fritz Perls, MD (1893-1970) as part of his Gestalt therapy, the method was expanded by Robert Hall, MD (1934-) based on Hall’s study with polarity therapy founder Randolph Stone, DO, DC, ND (1890-1981). The present-day manifestation of the two-chair process also reflects the influence of Peter Levine, PhD (1942-), who studied with Stone and Hall. For a complete description of the method, see Dancing with Yin and Yang (2013) by John Chitty, which contains an extensive 80-page, highly detailed chapter of the two-chair process.