I frequently observe pre-pregnant, pregnant, and birthing women re-living their own journey into life – their experiences, memories, and imprints from their conception to newborn period – from the time they decide to become a parent, and I will share some examples below. We can pass on good experiences to our children, and we can also pass on trauma, stress, difficult events, and a less than optimal womb environment. With some new awareness brought to this early period of parenting, alongside more preparation before conception that includes self-reflection, we can have much more choice as parents, and bring in healthier, happier, more resilient children.
Re-living and remembering our own early imprints begins before we conceive a baby, when we are deciding to become a parent, and our baby is just a dream and a twinkle in our eye. This remembering continues throughout conception, pregnancy, birthing, and early infancy. It is a phenomenon that has a great deal of influence on the present time experiences of early parents, whose feelings, practices, beliefs, choices, and decisions are affected by their own early past, how they came into life, and also by their inter-generational imprints. It is very important for us to become more conscious in our early parenting, both personally and culturally.
An imprint is a recording/memory of an event, an environment, or a stress/trauma. It is energetic, physiological, psychic, fluid, cellular, emotional, spiritual and psychological. Imprints are a constellation of memory and information, which are stored in a very unique way, held in our body-system (our energy and physical body) from our early environment, and experiences. When something in present time feels similar in essence, or in its dynamics, to our early imprinting, we can be ‘triggered’ back into an early memory. Whilst triggered we will feel as if “it” is happening now, unaware that we are triggered into a memory/imprint. (See article “What are Activations, and How Are They Triggered?” http://karenmelton.com/other/activation-how-do-i-know-that-i-am-triggered/)
E.g. I had a life threatening experience in the womb and every time I went into a group I felt terrified. As I looked around at people in the group I could see no apparent reason for my terror, I was safe. I delved into these feelings more deeply and discovered that they were originating in the first trimester. In response to a prenatal life threat I learned to survive in the womb by ‘hiding’ or ‘playing dead’ so that no one would know I was there. I felt this kept me safe from death; it was a survival strategy that is common in prenatal life threat. My imprint was triggered very strongly in groups, as there were more people who could ‘see’ me, and in my body-system being seen was felt as a dire threat because it equaled danger. I would, physiologically, go into a full terror response, and nothing I said to myself about it made any difference. Somatic Pre & Perinatal Psychology (SPPP) provided the healing I needed to break this terror cycle, and to feel more resourced. Early imprints show up in our physiology, emotions, etc, and we usually don’t know this is what is happening. However, we can have access to this information about ourselves, have more choice about it, and heal our early trauma.
In our daily lives we are all repeating imprints/memories from our journey into life period. They can affect: how we feel about ourselves, the kind of relationships we are having, our feelings about life, our beliefs, how we handle the many transitions we go through in a day, our connection to spirit, and how we birth ourselves and our projects into the world. They can also affect how capable we are of new beginnings, or of following through to the end, and can be the cause of places in which we constantly get stuck and find it difficult to complete. In order to understand how these imprints work, and especially how they affect the way we bring our children in to life, we must first understand the central principle of SPPP, that as prenate’s we are conscious, sentient beings who are having our own experience. There is much research and anecdotal evidence to support that we are conscious at this time, and I will not be going into that area in this article. You can find lots of information at www.birthpsychology.com if you are interested in research.
When women are triggered into an early imprint during the early stages of parenting, it is unconscious and happening on a somatic-emotional level. Most women have no idea why they are feeling this way, or why they are having a particular reaction to their baby, to birthing, their partner, their life, this stage of childbearing, etc. Never underestimate the power of early imprints; they are profound and active in all kinds of ways in present time.
Early imprints affect pre/pregnant and pregnant women on two levels, one is in the deeper, unspoken feelings she may have about conception, pregnancy and birth. These feelings come from her early personal environment – her family of origin in which she developed as a baby. The tone in her parents lives at conception, whether she was wanted or not, her parents relationship, their living circumstances, her womb environment, mother’s stress levels, trauma, and her readiness for parenthood, wider family issues, and levels of support available are all a part of her personal environment. The second layer of influence can be important cultural events, environmental toxicity, work environment, national issues such as war, beliefs in her culture, and others. These are more about the larger context in which she lives and grows.
On a more personal level, how her early imprints are configured inside of her, and how they are manifesting in her adult life, is crucial information for her to have access to as a prospective or pregnant parent. What happened to her early on, and how she perceived it, will become a big influence upon her early parenting experience from pre-conception onwards. Some examples:
Becoming aware of her own journey into life gives a pre-conceptive or pregnant woman the opportunity to see what may need healing, resolution, and integration, ideally before conception, but at any time during the pregnancy is good. The gift of this inquiry and healing is that she can have more choice about how she wants to parent – this is what I call True Choice. We may think that we are making choices, when we are actually acting out of unconscious impulses and experiences of which we are unaware. Becoming conscious of her own early imprints helps her to make more space for True Choice. This means that she doesn’t have to unconsciously repeat what happened to her, or re-create the environment into which she arrived when she came in to life. This is very empowering for mothers, and very good for their baby’s. When a mother gives this gift to herself, and to her baby, she is often breaking the inter-generational imprints that have been passed down unconsciously for many generations from parent to child. There may be some inter-generational imprints that we want to keep because they are healthy, and some that we don’t. It’s good to have the choice.
When a woman even thinks about having a baby, prepares for a baby, is trying to conceive, actually conceives, is pregnant, or is giving birth her own early memories/imprints are amplified. It is as if our very young self within (who I call the Little One) is intensely re-living her experience of coming in, being reminded of it every step of the way by the present time new life coming in. Her significant other will also be going through this process in relation to his/her own journey into life, and other close family members may also be remembering, perhaps to a lesser degree, but their imprints can also be intense and powerful at this time. Unmet needs from early life can surface with a renewed hope of being met, and trauma memories can re-assert themselves in need of attention, healing, and resolution as our Little One’s remember more loudly. Mary’s Little One, above, was telling Mary ‘don’t go into conception because it is very dangerous’. That is what her conception felt like back then.
When we know that we are conscious in the womb, and very much having our own experiences and reactions to our life and environment (mom/dad, family, culture), this shines a very different light upon what is happening in pregnancy and childbirth. If we accept that we are conscious and sentient as prenate’s, we must surely include, and consider, our baby in every part of their journey into life, and enter into relationship with that little one long before they are born. We must also accept that we were having our own experience back then, and that we were fully aware, and deeply impacted.
How an Imprint/Memory can be Triggered During Pregnancy:
Macy’s father left her family when she was 5 months in-utero, and she felt abandoned by him. As an adult she attracted men who either actually abandoned her, or were not emotionally available, which also triggered her abandonment feelings. She felt constantly abandoned in a way that, sadly, felt familiar. When Macy was 5 months pregnant she began to uncharacteristically put a lot of pressure on her partner, constantly, and with unusual intensity. She would push him into a corner, which would end in him feeling he had to move away from her. She would then feel very abandoned, even though she didn’t want to, this felt very real to her emotionally and somatically. In her cognitive mind she was able to see herself behaving this way and wonder about it, but was unable to stop, or to understand where these feelings were coming from. Working with her own prenatal history really helped her to diffuse and repair the situation in her relationship, and to heal that place in her own history. Another way to frame this is that her Little One remembered what had happened to her at 5 months in utero when Macy reached that point in her pregnancy, and she wanted to be heard. Little One’s will show us; they don’t talk about it with words. In the grip of such a trigger we are not thinking about it cognitively, e.g. “I think I will feel abandoned now”, it comes from a deeper place inside that is pre-verbal. Macy had a partner who was not abandoning her at all, but it truly felt to her as if he was. We can see this kind of pre-verbal communication as a powerful unmet need seeking to be met, and a wound needing to be made conscious, and to be heard and healed. It then becomes an opportunity for healing and consciousness, and deeper connection both to ourselves, and in our relationships.
Being seen and heard are important in the integration of trauma. When we heal an early wound it becomes differentiated. The feeling state of the trigger becomes familiar after healing, and triggers have a much lower level of charge, giving us the internal resources to simultaneously know that it is our Little One talking to us, and that it is not about present time. We are able to differentiate back then, from now. E.g. “I am feeling this trigger from when I was 3 months old in utero, my Little One is talking to me, and I know it’s not about present time”. We can have the option to soothe our Little One, and make True Choice in the present and in our parenting. That’s empowering. See article “What Are Internal Resources and Why Do We Need Them?” http://karenmelton.com/other/what-are-internal-resources-why-do-we-need-them/
A Story of Imprinting Arising During Birthing:
A mother, who gave birth to her first child prematurely at 34 weeks, went into labor at 34 weeks with her second child. When asked by her doula, “What was your birth like?” she replied that she had been born prematurely at 34 weeks. On answering this question, the mother immediately realized that there was a connection between her own premature birth experience, and the prematurity of her children. She was able to cry with her doula about her own birth, which had been very hard. As a result of this realization, and the emotional support she received, her premature labor stopped, and she went to full term and had a healthy birth. Sometimes it is this simple. This is True-Choice in the deepest and widest sense, the power to hold our own journey in a differentiated way, and make different choices for ourselves, and for our child, in the present. Having this awareness means that we don’t have to repeat early imprints, unless we want to.
Remember, very early memory is stored in our body-system, so it often has no words with which to express itself. It is not stored like a cognitive memory in which our recall is linear and specific such as, ‘it happened in the bedroom, I was wearing blue’. Early memories show themselves in our body-system, our actions, our relationship dynamics, the way we feel about ourselves and others, fears, anxieties, the kind of people and relationships we are attracted to and attract, unexplainable beliefs that make no sense, physical reactions that don’t seem to be related to anything in the present moment, illness, injuries, and disease, and in many other ways. We are remembering all of the time; it is natural and normal. We are especially remembering when we bring in our own children.
When a mother conceives, her imprints from her own conception will be present. Conception is the point at which we enter the physical plane/body and where we get our first teaching about sexuality, intimacy, and relationship from our parent’s. E.g. If our own parents did not plan for our arrival, and were not getting along very well during that period, we may feel unwanted when we decide to conceive a baby, this is our own Little One remembering what it was like back then before our conception. This may create conflict in our relationship, as these imprints, if still unconscious, are most likely to be projected onto those in our close inner circle.
During pregnancy a mother is unconsciously, somatically and emotionally, connected to the conditions in which she gestated. This is very empowering information, because when we know that this is what to expect when we enter this powerful life-giving phase of our lives, we can prepare. This means taking the time to think about how we came into life, preferably before we conceive, which is the perfect time for self-reflection and preparation. If parents, and particularly mothers, can prepare in this way they will have True Choice, and will not be acting out of their own wounds and imprints. That is power in the present moment, in action.
To attain this level of choice, we have to ask ourselves before we get pregnant, how was it for me to come into life? What was my gestation like? What was the state of my parent’s relationship with each other at conception and during my gestation? Was I planned/wanted? What was my birth like? What are the family stories about my arrival? There are also profound levels of inter-generational imprints in the mix, those that are unconsciously passed down from parent to child over generations. E.g. My first husband was adopted; his birth mother was a prostitute and a drug addict, so he had a very difficult and traumatic entry into life. After his birth he had no primary attachment figure until he was adopted at 18 months old. Sadly, as a father, he was unable to accept his son, in the same way that his mother was unable to take him in emotionally. When we separated he chose not to have any more contact with his then 18-month-old son. He never saw him again. It’s very sad when we look at these stories and see the pain that we endured, and how it can unwittingly be passed on to our children. Because his attachment to his mother had been so challenging, and he had never healed from that, he was unable to experience a healthy attachment to his son.
If you are reading this and see yourself reflected in its waters, and you are already a parent, be kind to yourself! Parenting is not about being perfect; it is about having some resources to deal with the hard places, both for yourself, and for your children. Over many years of working on myself I have had numerous repair conversations with my son about my parenting mistakes and deficits, and he is now age 38. Repair is healthy and growthful, and brings connection. If you are pregnant, and you are feeling a sense of how your own imprints have affected you and your baby, you can start conscious parenting now, and heal your own or your child’s imprints. You can do this at any age, and at any stage in your parenting.
I recommend that pregnant and pre-pregnant parents read my e-book The 9 Principles of Conscious Early Parenting; you can get it free by signing up for my newsletter on this site. I am writing a book about conscious early parenting and attachment and if you are interested you can sign up and let me know that you are just interested in hearing about when my book is available.
© Karen Melton – All rights reserved
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