PART 3: THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE WOMB
Part 2 discussed three significant developmental events of the time before birth. Part 3 is about a different aspect of that time: the overall physical and emotional environment of the womb.
Chapter 4: Healing For and Healing From the Pain of Our Mother
In previous chapters I discussed developmental events that occur for all of us before birth and how healing may be needed to relieve the traumatic burden of those events. Once healed, I discovered how astonishingly beautiful they were.
This chapter is about environmental healing rather than developmental event healing. It presents the story of my experience in the womb from a more general perspective. I discuss the effects of my mother’s ongoing stresses, and my healing from those effects.
The Need for Challenge
Why are the hardships of conception, gestation, and labor necessary? Why can’t our experience of the time within our mothers be of safety, easy growth, and beauty?
There is a story, whose exact origin I do not remember, from a man who saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis.
He described being touched by what looked to him like a great difficulty, and he decided to make it easier for the butterfly to emerge. However, his help caused the butterfly to die. It had been deprived of the struggle necessary to stretch, inflate, and harden its wings, so it could not fly.
How is this relevant for us humans?
We are born into a world that requires us to be both tough and resilient when we come in. The stresses and challenges of the womb, including birth, are necessary in the same way that the struggles of butterfly or dragonfly are necessary: they prepare us for survival.
We need to be able to survive apart from our mothers. As an absolute minimum, we have to be able to breathe and take in nourishment on our own if we are to become independent. We need to be ready to deal with gravity, cold, a new array of sounds, bright light, unfamiliar odors, and other physical discomforts. We need to be able to make the sounds that will communicate our needs.
Our experience in the womb is designed to prepare us for life after birth. From the first unsettling sensation of movement for the egg as it separates from the ovary, and for the sperm the realization that it is one of competing millions, we are exposed to new and higher levels of challenge almost continuously. It is through our responses to these challenges that we build the physical and emotional strength and resilience we will need just to make it through our birth.
Through every tiny increment of growth, we transcend our previous selves while including the best of what we have been.
Honor for All Mothers
Even though the challenges of pre-birth life are necessary, we still experience pain and need to heal from it. It is not a mother’s fault that her baby experiences pain while in her womb. She is to be honored, not diminished, for providing her baby with the experiences that will prepare it for life.
We live in a time when identifying and punishing the “guilty” pervades societal attitudes and behavior. This is not how we become better people or a better species. We need to offer acceptance rather than blame, and compassion rather than shame, when events unfold less than perfectly. In particular, we need to offer love and support to women who experience the loss of a baby.
To those of you who are or will become mothers, I offer deep respect. Only you truly understand what it is to bear the responsibility of motherhood. You carry and nurture within you for nine months a being which, if all goes well, will develop from a single egg, united with a single sperm, into a baby. As one friend said to me, “A mother is a miracle.”
I invite you to know that regardless of what you have experienced in your own life, you deserve to respect and love yourself as you do others. In so doing you serve your children and through them all life.
I make the same offer and the same invitation to men who are or may become fathers. As men, it is our responsibility to be as healthy as we can in all dimensions of ourselves. This will enable us to have the good lives we deserve. We will then be able to serve women, children, our communities, and all life in a good way. Perhaps you will resonate with this idea expressed by a Native elder: “Women protect the children. Men protect the village.”
My Experience in the Womb
When I regressed to my mother’s womb, there was one sensation that was foundational. For almost all my time in utero until just before birth, I was in the present, the always-moving, eternal now.
During that time I became aware that I am the fusion of a soul and a human being. I knew that my mother, the spirit of Gaia, and I all worked together for my growth as a healthy baby in my mother’s womb.
My mother held, protected, and nourished me. My purpose was simple: to grow and to learn. There was no need for me to do anything. The flow of growth and learning was effortless. I had no sense of the passage of time, yet every moment was enriched by new physical sensations, expanded awareness, and greater strength. I was, at a deep level within myself, confident. All was as it should be. This belief that all was well on my journey through gestation sustained me through some challenging times.
I have discussed my experience of the trauma of three developmental events earlier in the book. This section is about pain of a different nature.
The relationship between my mother and me was so intimate that her emotional and physical experience was also my experience—almost my entire experience. In every moment I felt both my mother’s transient feelings and her enduring baseline emotional state. I felt them as though they were my own. When something made her laugh, I was elevated by her joy as well as by the endorphins her system produced. If she was surprised, I felt the same adrenaline that stimulated her. If she was in a state of stress and her system was flooded with cortisol, I felt her stress and my blood was charged with cortisol as well.
I felt the effects of her fluctuating levels of nutrients, toxins, stimulants, even oxygen and carbon dioxide. As she moved, I moved.
I was not stressed the way some fetuses are. My mother did not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs. But if she had a strong cup of tea, I was overstimulated. If she was afraid, I was in a state of terror. If she was sad or depressed, I too was in a black pit.
In the womb I also acquired a version of my mother’s basic beliefs about the world and herself. This was linked with the emotions that arose from her beliefs. When she saw the world as a good place, I benefitted not only from the serotonin she produced, but also from the energy of her positive thought patterns. When she saw the world as a painful place, I was influenced by that belief as well as by her elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol.
I was unable to do anything other than be immersed in my mother’s experience since I did not have a sufficiently developed mind to assess rightness or wrongness. Without the capacity to detach from what my mother felt or believed, I had no way to know whether what I was experiencing was ordinary or unusual, healthy or destructive. I could not know that my mother’s way might not be the only way.
In a rudimentary way, I assumed that the life I experienced in her womb was normal. I also assumed that life was like this not only for me, but for everyone else as well.
Healing the Pain of the Womb
Before I met Grant McFetridge, the possibility that I might need to heal old emotional wounds did not interest me. As a young person I had abundant energy and believed that there were more enjoyable, constructive things to do than explore and heal long-ago wounds that I didn’t believe in anyway.
Then, as I neared fifty years of age, life presented me with a series of events in which I both caused and received deep emotional pain. Those incidents forced me to make a choice either to continue to run from my pain or to turn and face it.
Deciding that I wanted to be free of the pain, I accepted the truth that “the only way out is through.” I devoured books and articles, seeking to understand what was going on inside. I learned there is a pattern in how we try to deal with emotional wounding in our deeply individualized Western society. I had followed that pattern like a script, suffering inside while being a success in the eyes of the world.
Through my reading I learned how the health of the body is affected by unresolved trauma and ongoing stress. The immune system weakens and eventually collapses when the stress is too great for too long and physical illness, including “incurable” degenerative disease, is a predictable response to chronic stress. I saw people around me who were examples of those effects. My intellectual understanding was at a high level—and my emotional pain was unrelieved.
I realized that two of the most important themes for my healing were shame and abandonment. That understanding helped, but the pain still affected me in ways that were not visible to me.
It was then that I met Grant and learned EFT. While I had worked to heal physical and sexual shame for several years, using various modes of therapy, I found EFT to be more effective than anything else. Even so, the healing never seemed to be complete. As I gained experience as a practitioner of EFT, I understood that this was not due to the limitations of the technique; instead, the impediment was my inability or unwillingness to locate the deepest sources of my shame. It was when I began working with Grant that I found its origins.
Prior to beginning the research project, I did not understand that life in the womb could include trauma. I had no reason to think that pre-birth healing was needed or could be beneficial. In the research, however, it became clear that unresolved early traumas had been driving my worldview and behavior without me knowing it. I also discovered that some of these experiences were prenatal and some occurred after my birth.
After experiencing the intense pain that every human must go through during pre-birth, I worked on healing that pain. Yet even with healing the traumas of my conception and birth, I still felt the pain of shame and abandonment so I realized that its origins must be somewhere other than in the developmental events I had already addressed and earlier than my childhood. There was only one place to go: back to gestation.
When I revisited my time in the womb, I gained a deeper understanding of the origin of my shame. Since I was immersed in my mother’s worldview and emotions while in the womb, I had no other experience or reference points, so the thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors of her worldview became mine as well. As a consequence, I was born carrying my mother’s shame, and I lived for years in an environment that reinforced and deepened that shame.
Arriving at this realization was not easy, and facing it was no fun at all. But the possibility of healing and liberation was exciting, and I approached it eagerly.
I applied a technique of regression I had developed in my EFT practice while working with clients whose issues were rooted in painful childhood experiences.
I once worked with a client on a debilitating emotional issue. She suffered from a sense of personal worthlessness and a feeling of not deserving good things. She could not find its origin. I guided her into a meditative trance. Then I used the emotional content of her present-day feelings to provide a temporal conduit back through her life. She found memories from her teenage years, then her childhood. When I asked if she could go back further, she exclaimed, “Oh my god, I’m in the womb!” At that point she did not have a clear memory, but an impression, a feeling that was very real for her unborn self. We worked with that feeling using EFT. The emotional charge cleared. Then we came forward in time to later related memories, and addressed those as well.
The result was a complete healing, with no effects remaining in her current life.
Once in the womb, I used EFT to address my acquired shame and other issues arising from the womb environment. The process is described in more detail in Chapter 6. It worked. As I felt the releasing and dissipation of my own shame, I felt my mother’s shame lifting and becoming lighter as well. Her shame was being healed at the same time! (It is a common occurrence in EFT practice for people who are close to each other to experience a resonance effect where the healing of one also benefits the other.)
In the course of this journey I have come to have much greater compassion for my mother. Her early life had not been easy, yet I know that beneath the pain, she loved me. It is sometimes not easy to see, but beneath whatever pain is present in their lives, our parents love us with a love that comes from their souls. Our essence is that we are manifestations of love both in our souls and in our humanness.
Three Steps to Healing
Negative beliefs, painful emotions, and other issues from pre-birth life are difficult to address. There are two reasons for this:
• First, what we experienced while in our mother’s body was all we knew. To our fetal selves, the time in the womb was “normal,” regardless of what actually happened. However, in meditation we can bring adult awareness and perspective to that time. When we do so, we see that what the fetus felt to be normal may not have been healthy at all. We can identify the painful aspects and traumas of that time.
• Second, this occurred before the age at which lasting memory develops. As a consequence it is inaccessible to our ordinary adult consciousness. Fortunately, it is not difficult to access clear perceptions of our pre-birth experience when we are in a deep meditative state or hypnotic trance.
For the fetus, and consequently for the baby, child, adolescent, and adult, both negative and positive aspects of the mother’s life will always be present in deepest consciousness. This can make the healing process challenging. The adult client and the healing practitioner must play detective to locate the pre-birth experiences that give rise to current issues.
Our human ego has a two-fold need: to understand and to be in control. Releasing the needs of the ego can be a considerable challenge for those of us who have found strength and safety in the power of our minds. It is fortunate that in deep meditation, our ego is left behind.
Here is the process I use to heal trauma or pain carried from times that are beyond the reach of normal memory. This process is effective with both emotional and physical issues.
1. We begin with careful questioning to identify the emotional content of the issue as it appears today.
2. Next I guide my client in a meditation of exploration. We use the mix of emotions identified in the first step as a temporal conduit to move back to an earlier memory or impression with a similar emotional flavor. This may lead the client to an earlier time in this life, a time in the womb, or even a past life. Though there may be no obvious link between today’s issue and the memory, there is no doubt that an important connection exists.
3. When we have revealed the source of the issue, we apply EFT. I will often also use other energetic or shamanic healing techniques. I bring to this work all the tools and guidance I have at my disposal.
Published August 3 2021