The Unborn Child: Beginning a Whole Life and Overcoming Problems of Early Origin

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The Unborn Child is essential reading for parents, potential parents and grandparents, as well as professionals with responsibility for children, and bringing babies into the world. This book describes prenatal and perinatal development, considering the legacy of health from both parents and grandparents. It explores the effects of the mother's mental and physical state during pregnancy, on the physiology and psychology of her expected child. The earlier in a child's development, beginning paradoxically before conception, that the wisdom of experience and science is applied, the greater the chances of a child's mental and physical health for life. Understanding these issues offers a way of healing early problems that contribute to such disorders as depression or compulsive behaviour. Here are invaluable guidelines towards generating children with their full genetic potential for basic health and emotional stability. This fascinating book is rooted in the experience of both authors, complete with authoritative case studies and scientific references. It has been extensively updated and restructured by Simon House, who has added entirely new material on nutrition from before conception.

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1 Beginning and adapting

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“The universe resounds with the joyful cry I am.”

Alexander Scriabin, Poem of Ecstasy

The New Zealand gynaecologist, Professor A. M. Liley, pointed out that although in the temporal sense we spend a very short time in the womb, about 1% of our life, in terms of the division of cells, our physical development—apart from stature—is almost complete by the time we are born (Liley, 1977).

We begin life as a single cell; 45 generations of the doubling up of cells by growth division are needed to reach the thirty million million cells of an adult. Of the 45 divisions, 41 take place before birth. Yet even before this single cell there is “life before life”. The sperm’s life can be traced back months to its genesis in the testes, which were already formed in the father when in the grandmother’s womb. The beginnings of the ovum itself existed in the mother when she was still in the grandmother’s womb, where it is known to have been susceptible to the grandmother’s environment. Nor should we lose sight of the genetic trace unbroken down the generations:

 

2 Characteristics-intrinsic and being imprinted

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“I am a little world made cunningly.”

John Donne, Holy Sonnet V

In the nine months a child is growing in the womb, he acquires a number of skills, which he puts to good use within a few hours of birth. Within minutes he can communicate with his mother. He can recognize her voice. Later, a short time after birth, he can imitate some of her gestures; he can smile; he can reach out to objects (Bower, 1984). He has other skills, other abilities, which he has learnt in the womb. His entire world, the way he perceives it, the way he adjusts to it, is determined by what happens in the womb.

If everything has gone according to plan and there has been no damage to the fetus, then the bonding process that began in the womb will go on developing after birth, when mother and child are pulled together by signals—by touch, scent, and sound—which produce behaviour designed to protect the child and reward the mother (Klaus & Kennell, 1976).

As in the womb, the child plays the dominant role in the partnership: it is his desires that must be gratified, otherwise he will torment the mother with his screams and tantrums. His mother learns to understand the messages the baby sends with his crying. It can mean different things and produce different reactions in the mother. His hunger cry, for instance, will produce a physiological change in the mother, which will induce her to feed the child.

 

3 Dream-images of womb and self-healing responses

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“… go to sleep!
You will wake, and remember, and understand.”

Robert Browning, Evelyn Hope

“The basic principle involved in most forms of complementary medicine is Team to listen to yourself. But by the time the balancing or self-regulating instinct has to speak to us through physical symptoms, this generally means other messages in a gentler language have failed to reach our consciousness.

How does it speak to us, this law of our own nature, if not by means of disease, accident and despair? Its main line of communication is the dream. Night after night it begs to pay attention to the images it sends; to honour our feelings no less than our thoughts; to befriend the world of the senses and heed the promptings of intuition; to be our many-faceted selves as fully as we can.”

Ean Begg, Myth and Today’s Consciousness (1984)

A woman dreams she is scraping away the sand that covers the entrance of a cave. As she is scraping it away, she says to her son, “You cannot come in.” Inside she finds a rolled-up parchment, yellow with age. She unrolls it and finds the writing is in a language she cannot understand. She asks David to read it. But at that moment the parchment suddenly becomes brittle, and then crumbles away. In the cave a horrible smell of fungus assails the woman.

 

4 Recalling past distress and releasing it

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“There’s a memory of the body, a visceral memory in the blood, in the muscles …”

Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (1929)

For decades prenatal psychologists were neglected by the general public and even mainstream psychologists. Then from the 1950s their views were taken up by psychotherapists such as R. D. Laing, Frank Lake, and members of societies such as the Association of Birth Psychology in New York, the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health of North America, and the International Society of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, based in Heidelberg. Some understanding of their theories helps to understand the regression techniques in use today.

Perhaps the most famous of the early prenatal psychologists was Otto Rank, whose name is associated with the birth trauma. An Austrian, he was at one time a favourite pupil of Freud’s. Like his master, he noticed that severe attacks of anxiety were often accompanied by physiological features similar to those seen in babies at the moment of birth. This observation led him to the development of his theory that all neurosis originates in the trauma of birth.

 

5 Recalling of birth memories with LSD

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“When we return to the root we gain the meaning.”

Kanchi Sosan (Chien-chih Seng-ts’an), On Believing in Mind

It was the Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, who discovered the potent psychoactive properties of lysergic acid diethylamide 25 (LSD25), when he was accidentally affected by a minute quantity of the substance in 1943:

Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away. [Hofmann, 1980]

Shortly afterwards LSD25 became the subject of considerable controversy, which has not diminished over the years. Welcomed by a small band of scientists interested in the nature of consciousness, it was later feared and denounced along with other psychedelic drugs for poisoning the minds of young people during the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

 

6 Echoes of womb-life: bliss and distress

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“see all, nor be afraid.”

Robert Browning, Rabbi ben Ezra

The French dramatist and critic Jean Cocteau described in his diary an interesting experience he had when he revisited his childhood home in 1953 (Cocteau, 1988). He was interested to see whether by going back he could recover some of the feelings he had when he lived there. Could he relive his childhood?

The man who lived at his old home would not let him in. Cocteau looked around at the street and the houses and found that everything had changed; he wondered if it was at all possible to bring back his childhood memories without going into the house.

Cocteau then recalled how as a child he would walk close to the houses in the road and trail his finger along the wall. He did this again, hoping that memories would come flooding back. But they did not. There were a few memories, but they were thin and pale.

Suddenly, he remembered that as a child his hand had trailed along the wall at a different level. He was, of course, much smaller at that time. So, bending down and closing his eyes, he again moved his finger along the wall. The result was remarkable:

 

7 Preventing the imprint of violence

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The sense of peace, well-being, and prosperity is combined in the word “salaam” or “shalom”, which are basically the same. The spiritual quality most needed to achieve shalom/salaam is compassion, or empathy—terms that are central to religions. Destroying and negating these qualities are violence, depression, and degrading poverty. The great religions are often the first to work against these negatives, keeping to their original purpose of inducing salaam/shalom by enlightening people. Not that they are not alone in this; and religious elements have often notoriously shown themselves distinctly devoid of compassion or empathy, even exhibiting atrocious violence, however remote that may have been from the intentions their founders and true leaders.

Science, though no alternative to religion, has contributed to health and prosperity, although its record in drugs for mental disorders is mixed. Yet scientific evidence is now clarifying the effects of specific nutrients on a person’s feelings and behaviour. This will help us to safeguard the qualities of shalom/salaam and empathy/compassion in the human make-up. Attention to both nutritional and emotional needs can contribute powerfully to peace and reduce personal violence.

 

8 Nutrition to sustain the brain and mental health

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I know of nothing so potent in maintaining good health in laboratory animals as perfectly constituted food; I know of nothing so potent in producing ill-health as improperly constituted food. This, too, is the experience of stockbreeders. Is man an exception to the rule so universally applicable to the higher animals?

Major General Sir Robert McCarrison, MA, MD, DSc, LLD, FRCP (1878-1960),
Director of Research on Nutrition, India, Nutrition and Health (1953)

Research studies are bringing to light the extent to which mental health is related to nutrition. National rates of mental illness and violence have been set against national levels of fish consumption, with remarkable results. Mental illness and violence are extraordinarily high where fish consumption is low. Homicide can be as much as three times as high. Depression can be 50 times as high (Hibbeln, 1998). We also find that nutritional supplements have a major impact on serious offences, including violence. This was demonstrated at a young persons’ high-security institute, in a double-blind controlled trial (Gesch, Hammond, Hampson, Eves, & Crowder, 2002: see “Fifth window” in the following section). These are among many researches indicating the value of nutrition in keeping with our evolutionary environment and food selection.

 

9 Protecting and regenerating our nutritional environment

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We are discovering how rich and unpolluted we need the soil, sea, and air around us to be, and how precise the supply of nutrients has to be, to generate and sustain healthy people. Soil-science, marine studies, and human nutrition discern the drastic effects on our basic physiology of our failure to respect soils, crops, and animals; oceans, rivers, and fish. Medical and nutritional studies reveal the effects of ill-advised farming and food processing and presentation.

If our environmental base is to sustain us, we have to sustain our environment.

The farmer has long recognized how the quality of feeding his sheep, cattle, and other livestock affects the new offspring. For countless generations he kept his best fields and feed for the run-up to the mating season. His forbears had observed the advantages of preconception nutrition in large samples of newborns. At last we are beginning to catch up in the human field. In trials, scientists have now monitored thousands of women bearing children, confirming the farmer’s reproductive wisdom, but, ironically, his best fields are no longer what they were. Soil minerals have on average dropped by half, over half a century. Soil minerals in North America have, indeed,

 

10 Objectivity and action

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Objective evidence has accumulated that violent behaviour arises from early psychological and physical conditions, having long remained merely anecdotal. We have seen that Freud himself, as well as Rank, Winnicott, Lake, and others, perceived psychological scarring as coming from birth and gestation. Qualitative analysis is being corroborated by quantitative analysis. Raine showed that obstetric forceps or other birth intervention, combined with separation from parents in their first year, correlates with increased criminal violence (Raine, Brennan, & Mednick, 1994).

Groundbreaking work in the biochemistry of emotions began in the 1980s. Candace Pert (1998) showed bliss, stress, and shock to be recognizable as molecules in the bloodstream and acting on receptors at nerve synapses. Biochemistry has become an objective common ground for understanding both nutritional and emotional imprints on a child from at least conception. At a time when Frank Lake was facing an early death in 1982, Pert and others were clarifying some of the biochemistry that underlies what Lake perceived: the ways that a child in the womb seems to experience his mother’s emotions, and their lasting effect on him. Lake’s conviction that the impact of the mother’s emotions was greatest in the first trimester is objectively corroborated by Curt Sandman’s studies (as explained in ch. 6[e]). Pert’s work has also substantiated Michel Odent’s (1986) findings that in the first hour from birth, natural closeness and tenderness can bring bliss to mother and child. All being well, she is flooded naturally with endorphins and oxytocin—”love hormones” that are essential to their bonding.

 

11 Ways that a mother affects her child

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“Following 2000 women through pregnancy and birth, Dr Monika Lukesch, a psychologist at Constantine University, in Frankfurt, West Germany, concluded in her study that the mother’s attitude had the single greatest effect on how an infant turned out.”

Thomas Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (1982b)

In all societies there have always been those who believe that the outcome of pregnancy depends largely on the mother’s own feelings and experiences, which are imprinted on the child in the same way as a film projector throws an image onto a blank screen. For thousands of years the Chinese have believed in creating a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere for the pregnant woman. The unborn child has been regaled with song and poetry. He is treated as a human being from the moment of conception. When the child is born, he is regarded as being one year old—presumably allowing three months for preconceptual preparation! This much, at least, modern research endorses.

Many Vaishnav Hindus believe that reading aloud religious literature—not fiction—throughout pregnancy influences the intelligence and moral character of the newborn child and makes it easier, later in childhood, for him to learn the verses (or slokas) he had heard in utero.

 

12 Healing the original wound

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“‘People become so proficient at avoiding these things that they cease to realize they are doing it… . It becomes habitual’, maintained Dr David Bohm.

‘The wound remains’, agreed Krishnamurti.

‘We remember to forget, you see’, added Bohm.

‘We remember to forget’, affirmed a psychiatrist from New York City, Dr David Shainberg, ‘and then the process of therapy is to help the remembering and the recall—to remember you have forgotten, and then to understand the connections or why you forgot; then the thing can move in a more holistic way, rather than being fragmented.’“

Krishnamurti, The Wholeness of Life (1976)

“You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses.”

T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

A common thread runs through ways of healing. It is the immediate sense of being loved. Simon House writes:

I was starting my first course teaching Re-evaluation Counselling. We were a group of sixteen people. I was just going to explain how it worked when one of our children ran in from the garden with (a grazed knee and) a pained look on his face. He quickly spotted his mother’s face. As their eyes met he burst into tears. I said, “That’s strange. The sight of his mother made him cry.” We soon agreed that once there was the safety and loving support of the mother, the tears of relief could come, the pain of hurt and shock could be felt and released as the hurt heals. [House, 1999]

 

Epilogue I

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Roy Ridgway

Finally—if I may end on a more optimistic note than perhaps much that has gone before would seem to justify—it remains a fact, whatever hurts we have suffered, that there is part of the mind of all of us that is uncontaminated by the past. Strictly speaking, it is not a “part”: it is everywhere, behind and in everything, and can be reached in meditation. David Bohm calls it “intelligence”, which is not, he says, what people think it is: the mere capacity for design, remembrance, or communication. Knowledge, the accumulation of facts and experience, however wide, does not necessarily indicate intelligence. Intelligence, David Bohm would say, is sensitive awareness of the totality of life—life with all its problems, vexations, contradictions, miseries, joys. To be aware of all this, to accept it completely without rejecting anything, and to flow with the whole of life is intelligence.

This means scrubbing the ego off the slate, emptying the mind of all the chatter that goes on all the time: which is meditation. Meditation does not, of course, by itself solve your problems: in fact, it is just an escape for some: better than alcohol or drugs, but an escape all the same—an escape back to the “nothingness” of the womb. The important thing is to bring the meditative mind into the everyday world where there are so many problems, so many conflicts, irritations, frustrations. The meditative mind sees what is there and does not invent anything that is not there. It sees through the fog of self-deceit.

 

Epilogue II

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Simon H. House

“After our industrial civilization has broken and the civilization of touch has begun, war will cease, there will be no more wars.”

D. H. Lawrence, Future War

“The greatest single factor in the acquisition and maintenance of good health is perfectly constituted food.”

Robert McCarrison, Nutrition and Health (1953)

In his Epilogue, Roy has shown us how he has reviewed his life, reevaluated it, recognizing the impact on himself of life’s events, all the way back through his times in his mother’s arms, at birth, and in the womb, even to conception itself—almost as if this is an invitation to each of us.

All our work in this field has given me a new view of medicine. Not so long ago doctors regarded the child medically as a small adult, a paediatrician friend told me. The differences that have emerged are, of course, great. Doctors now will more likely learn much about the adult from childhood development. I am sure this trend will continue to trace back earlier and earlier in life, effectively reorienting medicine.

 

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