In very simple terms, our brain chemistry is forming creating neural imprints while we are gestating in the womb, through labor and birth and in the first few years of life. How these neural pathways are laid down at this time has a long term impact. In fact, the more I work with people and their birth imprints, the more I realize that we are living out our birth unconsciously virtually every day.
What are Birth Imprints?
These neural pathways created very early on, form the basis of how we experience life – from a base of fear or connection. And because birth is a strong event – the rite of passage from the inner realm of the womb into the external realm, it has a strong impact on us – so birth imprints tend to be fairly deeply imprinted within us, like patterns we are destined to keep playing out.
On a simplistic level, if we are flooded with stress hormones, our basic neurology for life is set up to experience more stress and fear. If we experience a flood of hormones related to connection and support, we have more capacity to experience feelings of connection and support in our lives. It all comes down to our receptivity to hormones and this receptivity is largely formed at birth and post-natal.
All is not lost if we had a traumatic birth however! The early post-natal time can offer deep healing if we’re aware of what needs to occur. Hours of skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, co-regulating, healthy bonding between mother and child can provide the slow build of connection receptors that may have been overshadowed by a stressful birth.
It is important to realize that stress hormone pathways are laid down much faster (as they are related to the impulse to survive) than bonding/connection hormones. So overcoming a strong influx of stress at birth will take more than a few days of loving connection to build the oxytocin pathways in equal measure.
Mothers, this is what you need to know
The greater your capacity to hold yourself through any experience and stay connected, no matter how stressful, is key. While you can’t control external events (birth interventions excluded), what you can control is how you hold yourself through them.
When shit happens, can you stay present and connected to yourself? However you respond to external events is forming your child’s neural programming – whether in the womb or in out.
Expanding your capacity to stay present throughout pain is one of the gifts of labor that supports the capacity to mother a child when it is feeling pain. However, developing this skill before birth is highly advisable. You can do this by practicing holding and soothing yourself as gently as you would a newborn babe during stressful experiences.
What is Birth Imprint Work?
Working with our own birth imprints is deep yet empowering and life changing work. It is to bring consciousness to the preverbal patterning that we are constantly living out without realizing it. As we do this, we can start to make choices whether what we are doing is actually serving us or not.
No matter what kind of birth you experienced, all birth imprints have their gifts and all have their challenges. Whether your birth was traumatic and intervention loaded, or whether it was calm, peaceful and idyllic, there is much it can teach you about the way you walk through life.
Knowing our birth imprints is to know ourselves at a deeper level and gives us fuel and guidance for how to best navigate our lives. It can show us where we need to be more loving with ourselves and areas that need extra care and attention.
Birth imprint work is valuable for anyone and everyone. The way we are born informs the way we walk in the world, the way we create in the world and the way we are received by the world. With awareness, all this can be gently shifted if it is not to your liking.
For mothers-to-be, it is valuable to bring consciousness to imprint patterning that may lead to a repeat of their own birth story or alternatively a rebellion against it. For with consciousness comes the power to choose.
Awareness of birth imprints is also incredibly valuable as a mother of young children so that you can know how better to support their individual and unique birth blueprint. At the same time it can support you in overcoming any trauma you experienced in giving birth.
Ultimately birth imprint work is empowering. No matter what your birth experience, its inherent power and numerous soul gifts can be discovered through it.
As more people engage with their birth imprints, we are beginning to see the very early start of a cultural shift in birthing. While the institutions currently guiding birth are focused on ‘a baby born alive is all that matters’ belief system; realizing the impact of some of these short term fear based approaches (some are completely necessary but many are not) on the rest of life is an important growth in culture.
Longitudinal studies now show that the child whose mother has drugs in labor (gas, epidural, morphine, etc.) is statistically more likely to take drugs at puberty. Here we can see one impact of birth imprinting.
What Escaping the Body Actually Means?
Drugs are a method of escaping and leaving the body rather than ‘being with’, often the direct result of a lack of connected support and/or a distrust in their inner capacity to move through big experiences.
This leaves an imprint on the child that when things get big and feel overwhelming, it is a naturally inbuilt mechanism to reach for an escape such as alcohol, drugs, etc. That’s what they were shown at birth – ‘I need to get out of my body, it’s too hard to be in it right now’. This is a simple and common birth imprint.
A mother who is well supported through labor and has developed this inner capacity to ‘be with’ and stay present to the moment, is inherently building this capacity in her child.
When you start to delve into birth imprints, the systemic issues in our society that have a basis in birth become astoundingly apparent. Staying present is not something many of us are particularly natural at in an age of escapism. And we can look back to the state of birth in our generation to see why that is so. It is a never ending loop that is deep within our society.
Changing the way we birth has a lifelong impact on many, many more levels than pure survival. It affects the way we are, not just as individuals but as a society. Because it all comes back to those hormones – those of love and those of fear and our ingrained capacity to experience one or the other.
This article first appeared on the author’s website and is used with permission.
Heidi Wedd runs various circles and online courses in shamanic herbalism, herbal alchemy, plant spirit communication and flower codes. Author of ‘Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track’, she is passionate about reawakening and deepening our innate connection with Nature. Her history is deeply embedded with plants, herbalism, homeopathy and midwifery. www.wildflowerwalker.com