6 Sep · Karen Melton · 2 Comments

Attachment Begins Before Birth

In the field of Somatic Pre & Perinatal Psychology we know that attachment begins much earlier than birth, potentially even before conception, and that it in continual development throughout our creation journey. What we in the pre- and perinatal community have known for many years is now being backed up by a variety of studies, and by science. They are catching up with us!

The long held view within mainstream psychology has been that attachment begins at birth, or even later. In spite of this mothers and babies are routinely separated in hospital birthing. Those first hours after birth are crucial, sacred and a very important part of our attachment imprinting. Birth is a time for newly arrived connection, holding, gazing, smelling and meeting. I would like to see the importance of attachment at birth acknowledged by the medical birthing community, and an end to the routine separation of babies and mothers in hospitals.

We have to attach – it’s imperative for survival, even if what we are attaching to is challenging, toxic, or at the extreme end of the spectrum, life threatening. If we don’t attach we won’t survive. Here are three examples of how early attachment dynamics can be formed and manifest in our lives:

1. Angela was a very wanted baby girl who came into a womb in which there had been prior abortions that had not been grieved by her mother. The imprints left in her mother’s womb by the ungrieved abortions created an environment that felt unsafe to Angela, and left her feeling her life was under threat too. Even though nothing actually happened to her, and she was wanted, she felt that she had to survive a life-threatening womb. We can feel energies when we go into buildings, and they are not even alive! We have to clear and grieve abortions to create a safe womb environment for the next occupant. Angela became hyper-vigilant (constantly alert) and held the mistaken belief that people are dangerous, and the world is unsafe. She was unable to securely attach because she felt very insecure around people, especially her mother whose womb felt so scary. She was later able to get help to resolve her issues as an adult.

2. Tim’s mother was compromised emotionally/psychologically when she was pregnant with him. Tim knew that his mother didn’t have the resources needed to care for him. As prenate’s in the womb we know everything about our mother, about how she feels, and we are having our own response to our environment. Tim felt that he had to start taking care of his mother, a common survival response to this situation for a prenate. The feeling is “if I don’t take care of her, I won’t make it”. This mistaken belief can create a compulsive caretaker, or an anxious person, who feels that s/he will die if s/he stops compulsively caring for people. It makes secure attachment harder because relationships are driven by survival fear.

3. Natasha came into her life feeling reluctant and ambivalent. She felt that she did not fully want to leave Source to come into a body, and a new family, and felt coerced to do so. This pre-conception dynamic manifested in her feeling dissociated, unable to be fully present in her body, and to feel angry about being here. Natasha developed an avoidant attachment style – unable to fully arrive here she couldn’t fully attach, and her ambivalence showed up in her attachment style and relationship dynamics. She could attach to people in a way that avoided full connection, or for short periods of time and and then she would need to leave/dissociate again. Resolving her ambivalence, and integrating her experience of coercion could have helped her to more fully embody, and feel more connected with herself and others.

As conscious, sentient beings from pre-conception we all make many choices on our way into our life. We also form beliefs about life, people, our parents, relationships, whether we are safe or not, etc. These strong and deep beliefs can be mistaken. They are not necessarily about a situation that continued after our birth, but we can continue to feel or respond to life as we did in the womb, unless we get some help to make changes and heal. This is the power of early imprinting; in the womb we are learning about what we need to survive here, and whether it’s safe, or not, to attach to people fully and feel secure.

Trans-generational Imprints Affect Attachment:

Stress and trauma profoundly affects the way that you orient to people and to life. Growing in an unsafe, stressful womb environment means that your system has to develop around the need to protect yourself continually, and to brace against stress, or unsafe people/events. Growing in a safe, loving womb with parents who connect with, and parent, you creates calm, present, empathic people. Whatever our womb environment our training becomes an automatic way of life, an unconscious orientation. It’s important to know that early imprints can be healed and transformed.

Yes, it can be challenging when our early attachment dynamics are difficult, traumatic, or stressful or we have felt isolated, and/or came into a family that had ancestral attachment challenges. Ancestral attachment dynamics are passed down unconsciously from generation to generation, usually without question. They are all the behaviours and dynamics (the good and the challenging) and traumas in your family of origin that seem normal to you because ‘that’s the way everyone is, or life is’, and this is the way it’s always been done. If your maternal grandmother was unable to successfully attach to your mother, or meet her needs, your mother may in turn have found it difficult to attach to you and meet your needs. These are dynamics that can be worked with and changed; you are not stuck with them.

Attachment Imprints and Choosing A Partner:

I have noticed that many of us choose our significant others very unconsciously. Our Little One is the prenate/baby inside of us who holds all the memories of our creation journey, and s/he is often very involved in those choices! This can make for difficult relationships with incompatible people who at a much deeper somatic and unconscious level are perfectly in sync with our early imprinting. When we take a deeper look into our relational/attachment dynamics we will often find their roots in our prenatal foundations.

With an interrupted attachment as a baby, such as being separated at birth, we can go through life feeling disconnected from people who matter to us, and we may need some support to resolve those imprints and learn new ways to connect. It’s possible to have relationships that heal our attachment wounds and couples can choose to make this healing a conscious part of their relationship. Attractions are much more unconscious than we might like to think! We can attract a partner who keeps us stuck in old, early patterns. A positive way to see this is that our partner’s and our own Little One are telling us what their experiences were by showing us within the relationship dynamics. If we can learn to listen in a different way – with empathy and understanding – and connect with our little one there is the potential for healing and a shift in the relationship.

Our attachment dynamics can hold layers from a variety of events, timeline’s and ages. These layers may need to be unraveled before a full understanding can be reached about what happened, how we responded to it and why we feel this way. Consider a child whose mother was unable to attach to her at birth, and who had to go into hospital when she was ill at age 5. Whilst in hospital the earlier attachment trauma was triggered, a trauma that had involved a long separation in the hospital at birth, and from which she had not recovered. Going into hospital at age 5 re-stimulated the earlier trauma, making the later childhood event feel so much worse. Her baby self within was still distressed about the earlier separation – an event that had received no support, empathy or acknowledgement. There had been no help to express the feelings and trauma from birth. If the second hospitalisation also received no help or acknowledgement we now have another layer of separation associated with a hospital stay added in to the imprint. Both of these separation trauma’s would affect the extent to which secure attachment could take place.

It’s really important to learn about our coming into life journey, and the resulting attachment dynamics, so that we can get support for change if needed. It also helps us to understand what’s happening in relationships with significant others. Having this deeper understanding of can help us to be more discerning about choosing the right partner, create deeper intimacy, and build new internal resources for healthier relationships. See Internal Resources and Why We Need Them

Early Attachment Parenting:
It is particularly important to take a look at how we come into life, and at our attachment dynamics, when considering stepping into parenthood. Exploring this before conception is ideal, and it can be explored throughout pregnancy too. Get my free e-book ‘The Nine Principles of Conscious Early Parenting’ by subscribing on the home page, sign up to hear news about my upcoming book on conscious early parenting, and contact me to hear more about my classes for conscious early parents.

I advocate for early attachment parenting; connecting consciously with your conscious baby from pre-conception and throughout pregnancy and birth, building a secure attachment. An important advantage of early attachment parenting is that it creates a buffer between baby and life’s stresses, and grows resilience in our children. It’s never too early to begin attachment parenting. In our fast moving, high stress world, we all need as much buffer as we can get. The earlier you begin conscious attachment parenting, the better for the whole family. Another great advantage of early attachment parenting is that if something stressful, or traumatic does happen during your pregnancy, you have a beautiful connection with your baby, and you can heal and repair anything!

© 2016 Karen Melton

To arrange a free 20-minute initial consultation call 07869 174405 (UK) or email starbear@sonic.net

Category: Articles

Karen Melton


  • Ruth says:

    Hi Karen – you mention in the first paragraph on this page that science is just now catching up with what you know, or similar. Can you link those scientific articles that would support your claims here? Thank you, Ruth

    • Karen Melton says:

      Hi Ruth, there is a lot of research available on pre and perinatal psychology at birth psychology.com in their journal, and some online if you want to research the subject. I’m not a research oriented person, but from being in the field for over 20 years I know that we are way ahead of science with what we have been understanding about babies coming in, and it’s not unusual for science to lag behind on the more human, soul and embodied experiential issues in life!

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