I frequently observe pre-pregnant, pregnant, and birthing women re-living their own journey into life – their experiences, memories, and imprints from their own conception to newborn period. Re-living and remembering our own early imprints can begin before we conceive a baby, when we are deciding to become a parent, and when our baby is 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 pre-pregnant and pregnant parents, whose feelings, practices, beliefs, choices, and decisions are affected by how they came into life, and also by their inter-generational imprints. It is very important for us to become more conscious as future parents, to understand our own early consciousness so that we can bring that inner wisdom to our early parenting.
An imprint is a recording/memory of an event, an environment, or stress/trauma. It is energetic, physiological, psychic, fluid, cellular, emotional, spiritual and psychological. Early imprints are a constellation of memory and information, which is stored in a very unique way, held in our Soul Body (our energy and physical body) from our early environment, and our 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 in present-time, and we will most likely be unaware that we are triggered into a memory/imprint. (See article “What are Activations, and How Are They Triggered?” https://karenmelton.com/other/activation-how-do-i-know-that-i-am-triggered/). This is because, in the present, the physiological and emotional level of our early imprints feel the same as they did back then. We can become aware of our imprinting and of when we are triggered, and learn how to resource ourselves in the present so that we can come out of the activation.
An example of how prenatal imprinting can show up in the present
In the womb I had a life threatening experience and, as ad adult, every time I went into a group I felt terrified. I would go into a full-body sweat, heart pumping, stomach churning; I wanted to run for my life. As I looked around at people in the group I could see no apparent reason for my terror, no threat – I was safe, but this cognitive information did not ease my physiological experience of terror and life threat. With support, I explored these feelings more deeply and discovered that they originated in the first trimester at 5 weeks.
In response to a prenatal life threat I had learned to survive in the womb by ‘hiding’ or staying very still – ‘playing dead’, so that no one would know I was there. I perceived that this kept me safe from death; it was a survival strategy, one that is common in prenatal life threat. My prenatal survival imprinting was triggered very strongly in groups because of the amount of people who could ‘see’ me. Groups can amplify feelings and imprints.The terror would be particularly intense if I was required to be vulnerable, or to speak up, because it meant I would be seen, and then my prenatal hiding strategy would flare up in alarm. I was physiologically going into a full terror response, and nothing I said to myself about it made any difference to how I felt.
Somatic Pre & Perinatal Psychology (SPPP) helped me to heal, resolve, and integrate my early trauma and to feel more resourced in groups, and generally in life. In the course of my healing journey I also learned how to take care of my Little One within (inner prenatal baby). Early imprints show up in our physiology, emotions, nervous system, etc, and we usually don’t know that we’re in the grip of an early event in present-time. It can be a full-on Soul Body event depending how much charge there is currently in the imprinting. We can gain access to early information about ourselves by orienting more to our Soul Body, and through seeking somatic healing therapies, and in particular somatic pre and perinatal therapies, to heal our early trauma and get to know more about our Little One. Becoming more conscious and aware about ourselves and especially our journey-into-life supports us to be conscious early parents as we parent from the somatic understanding of what it means to be a conscious soul embodying.
In our daily lives we are all repeating imprints/memories from our journey-into-life period. These imprints can affect:
- how we feel about ourselves
- the kind of relationships we have and who we choose
- our feelings about life
- our beliefs and perceptions
- how we handle the many transitions we go through in a day
- our connection to spirit
- how we birth ourselves and our projects into the world
- how capable we are of new beginnings
- beginning or completion of projects
- our achievable level of embodiment
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, which is that as prenate’s we are conscious, sentient beings who are having our own experience throughout. There is much research and anecdotal evidence to support that we are conscious at this time. I won’t be sharing research in this article – you can find lots of information and research at www.birthpsychology.com.
When women are triggered into an early imprint during the early stages of parenting, it is usually unconscious and happening on a somatic-emotional-energetic level. Most women have no idea why they are feeling a certain 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, and particularly on entering parenthood.
Early imprints affect pre/pregnant and pregnant women on two levels, one is in the deeper, unspoken feelings they may have about conception, pregnancy and birth as it’s related to their own journey-into-life. Any unresolved imprints, events or traumas from that time can affect how we experience entering into parenthood. Our early imprints are a combination of our own personal experiences, our mother/womb environment, and our family of origin along with soul imprints, often related to our souls purpose. Our environment includes:
- The tone in our parents lives at the time of our conception, e.g. happy, sad, depressed, tumultuous, etc
- Whether we were wanted or planned – or not
- Our parents relationship including their level of intimate connection and presence
- The living circumstances
- The physical womb environment,
- Mother’s stress levels, trauma, and readiness for parenthood
- Wider family issues including ancestral imprints
- The level of support available for each family member
Outer layers of influence can be important cultural events, environmental toxicity, work environment, national issues such as war, cultural beliefs, and others. These are more about the larger context in which we develop and grow our body.
On a more personal level, how a future or pregnant parents’ early imprints are configured, and how they are manifesting in her adult life, is crucial information to have, ideally in the preconception preparation period. What happened, and how it was both perceived and responded to at the time, can have its influence upon early parenting experiences from pre-conception onwards. Some examples:
- Preconception/conception imprints can adversely affect fertility. Ruby decided to have a baby, and right after the decision she felt like her nervous system was on fire, and she couldn’t eat or sleep. She sought help from various practitioners for 4 years and in desperation ended up on anti-depressants, as no one knew what else to do for her. After working with me somatically9 months Ruby had integrated her pre-conception trauma which had been the cause of her activation when she decided to become a parent. She had come into a very violent and frightening family and as she came towards conception she had felt how challenging it was going to be, and knew the trauma that awaited her. She now has a beautiful daughter.
- A mother brought her very unhappy 10 year old to see me. Whilst she was 2 months pregnant she had a frightening experience with her sometimes violent partner, which caused her to flee from her home and hide. Looking back into this mother’s prenatal life, we discovered that at 3 months into her gestation her parents had a fire in their home and everyone had to flee. It was very scary and traumatic for the whole family. Her now 10-year-old daughter acted out this whole scenario in my office through play, and showed us what she had experienced in the womb during this frightening experience. She ran around and hid a lot (hide and go seek), conveying her fear to us in this ‘game’, and finally she went into my fridge for some food (no other client has ever done this). I later discovered that it was her pregnant mother’s hunger that had overridden her fear, and given her the impulse to stop hiding and go back to her home. It’s important that our children are heard when they share these stories from their early life.
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 from her journey into life can be amplified. It is as if our Little One wakes up and speaks more loudly to us, as s/he intensely re-lives her experience from back then. A pre-pregnant or pregnant mothers’ 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 theirs, 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. Ruby’s Little One was saying very loudly to her, ‘don’t go into conception because it is very dangerous’ because that’s what her conception felt like back then.
When we know that we are all 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 them long before they are born. We must also accept that we were all having our own experience back then, and that we were fully aware, and deeply impacted.
How an Early 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 uncharacteristically to put a lot of pressure on her partner; this was constant, unusual and intense. She would push him into a corner, and this would end in him feeling he had to move away from her, leaving Macy feeling very abandoned. Even though she consciously didn’t want to behave in this way towards her partner, it felt very real to her emotionally and somatically. In her cognitive mind she was able to see her behaviour and wonder about it, but she was unable to stop the impulse to do it, or to understand the root of it. 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 when she had felt abandoned by her father.
Another way to frame this is that her Little One remembered what had happened to her at 5 months in utero when Macy reached the 5 month stage in her pregnancy, and her Little One woke up louder and 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. She was recreating the early imprint in the present. 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. Future parents can learn much from exploring their own early imprints, and free themselves to be more conscious parents in the present.
Being seen and heard are important in the integration of trauma. When we heal an early wound it eventually becomes differentiated. In the coourse of healing we get very familiar with how our imprints show up somatically, they have their own somatic signature and felt-sense. After healing triggers will have a much lower level of charge, making them easier to manage. When triggered we can know that it is our Little One talking to us about something from back then. 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 have more choice in the present. That’s empowering. See article “What Are Internal Resources and Why Do We Need Them?” https://karenmelton.com/other/what-are-internal-resources-why-do-we-need-them/
A Story of Imprinting Arising During Birthing:
A pregnant mother, who gave birth to her first child prematurely at 34 weeks, was in 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 realised 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 realisation, and the emotional support she had received from her doula, her premature labor stopped and she went to full term and had a healthy birth. Sometimes it’s this simple. Having this information about early imprinting and how it can play out in the present gave her the power to differentiate her journey into life from the present, and make a different choice for herself and her baby. 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 Soul Body so it often has no words with which to express itself. It’s 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 Soul Body, in 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 to ourselves, 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 begin the journey to bring in our own children.
At conception a mothers imprints from her own conception can be present. Conception is the point at which we enter the physical plane/body and where we get our first teaching about sexuality, intimacy, relationship and embodiment from our parent’s. E.g. If we were unplanned and our parents weren’t getting along very well during that period, we may feel unwanted and conflicted when we decide to conceive our own baby. This could be our Little One remembering what it was like back then. This kind of imprinting could also manifest as conflict with our partner because we are most likely to unconsciously project them onto those in our close inner circle.
During pregnancy a mother is unconsciously, somatically and emotionally, connected to the conditions in which she gestated. We can feel empowered when we know what to expect during this powerful life-giving phase of our lives, and we can prepare before pregnancy. This means taking the time to think about how we came into life and the preconception period is the perfect time for self-reflection and preparation. If parents, and particularly mothers, can prepare in this way they will have a lot more 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. Colin 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 attach to his son, repeating his own experience of missing attachment. When Colin and his wife separated he chose not to have any more contact with his then 18-month-old son, he thought it best. He never saw him again. It’s very sad when we look at our stories and see the pain that we endured, and how it can unwittingly be passed on to our children. Because Colin’s attachment to his mother had been so challenging, and he had never healed, 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’s about having some resources to deal with the hard places, both for yourself, and for your children. Over many years of personal healing work I’ve had numerous repair conversations with my son about my parenting mistakes and deficits, and he is now 43 years old. Repair is healthy and growthful, and brings deeper 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 and your child’s imprints. You can do this at any age, and at any stage in your parenting.
As conscious sentient beings we want to feel love, welcome and connection. We can support our babies to have the experiences they need to have for their souls purpose, offering them presence, support and love. Practicing conscious early parenting and authentic parenting with our children creates an optimal environment for an incoming soul-baby. Preparation before conception that includes self-reflection and healing gives us a lot more choice as parents, and supports us to bring in healthier, happier, more resilient children.
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