Intimations of Failed Abortion Attempts in the Regressive Psychotherapies

by John A. Speyrer

Inside Out

Pain of an abortion attempt. "The A stands for Abortion and is in the painting.
What happens on the outside also occurs on the inside. It is possible to be on
the outside while inside and feel all." -- © 2000 Kimberly Ann - all rights reserved

"...abortions are merely the consequence of the even greater tragedy of being unwanted. It is possible for a fetus to experience this 'unwanted' feeling even while in the womb."
-- Anon. patient

As the regressive psychotherapies became established, reports of clients reliving their failed abortion attempts began to accumulate. Much trauma accrues to a baby who was unwanted and even more trauma would be attached to their knowing that their parents wanted them dead! Is the womb feeling of a failed abortion survivor the result of fetal insight of unwantedness, or is such a conclusion more often derived from feelings of inutero rejection or from early post-natal rejection?

One of Dr. Ludwig Janus' patients believed that as a fetus in the womb, he had "...felt (his) mother's rejection as an attempt to kill (him)." The Enduring Effects of Prenatal Experience, (p. 115). This article includes examples of both types of cases.

If it is possible to relive experiences of life as a sperm or egg (cellular consciousness), then the re-experiencing of even an abortion attempt or a serious maternal illness physically or emotionally affecting the growing fetus should not seem too far from the realm of possibility.

I take a stand neither for nor against abortion. Rather, this article is a survey of the literature of those failed abortion attempts and the feelings of the victims and how they were affected by the various degrees of their tangential knowledge.
-- John A. Speyrer - Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page

In regard to attempted or failed abortion, psychiatrist Frank Lake believed that the fetus "relives its own near murder with quite shocking accuracy and overwhelming terror." (Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling, 1981). But is this terror rather how the fetus interprets its mother's rejection? The subject to which Dr. Lake referred was convinced that he had experienced an attempted abortion after suffering a toxic womb environment.

In the material available about abortion survivors, there are few personal collaborations on the part of the mother (or father) of the attempted fetal abortion. However, Australian psychiatrist, Graham Farrant, in a talk has provided some. But first, he spoke about the case of Phoebe, one of his patients, who loved to swim in freezing water:

Phoebe, being a very powerful physical person can swim miles and miles, and does daily often in often freezing water; but she never gets out of the pool feeling she has swum far enough. She never feels completed. When her mother admitted, Yes, I did try and abort you ... I had four girls and I had twins, and I thought, My God if it's another two girls I just can't cope. So I tried to kill you and I did it by jumping into a ice-cold pool and swimming and swimming and swimming.

Dr. Farrant continues:

I myself am a survived attempted abortion and in Denver it took me four months of three sessions, two hours each a week for that to gel. I had a toxic headache, confusion state, irritability, terror, rage, all confusedly mixed. It was like a jigsaw puzzle that I would put a piece of each time I primaled and one day the final piece went in and I knew. So profound was the knowing that I rang my 79-year-old- mother and told her what she had done. My mother and I never had what you call a close relationship. My mother in 1927 was the equivalent of Miss New York-Miss Victoria - she was a fashion model, very gregarious, flamboyant, hystrionic, coquettish, with a svelte-like figure. When I came along the figure changed shape, so she didn't like that.

My father was obliged to run the business because my grandfather had died suddenly. It was the end of the depression, and she decided they would all be better off if I weren't there. So she took a bunch of pills and got into a hot bath, which is exactly what I told her she had done. She burst into tears and revealed that I couldn't possibly know that because she had not even told my father, she never told anybody. But it enabled her and me to develop a relationship. It was such that before she died we really felt very close. [Cellular Consciousness Graham Farrant, M. D. -Keynote Address, 14th IPA Convention, August 30, 1986, from International Primal Assn. Journal, Aesthema]

While anecdotal, an interesting account that this mental telepathy, although rare, can exist. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Robert W. Godwin writes how Allan Schore believes that a phenomenon, somewhat like mental telepathy, takes place between the infant and its mother.

This happens, he believes, because of the remarkable closeness and far reaching effects of early mother-baby interactions. Godwin believes that even unconscious conflicts of the parents can be transmitted in this manner and quotes British paediatrician, D. W. Winnicott, that in truth there is "no such thing as an infant." He writes that psychologically, mother and infant are to be considered as one unit of being. Positive psychological development of the infant becomes hampered as unintegratable implanted mind parasites (the mother's unresolved neurosis) which mould the fetus in detrimental ways.

While not an example of intrauterine transmission of information, Dr. Godwin, in his perceptive internet blog, One Cosmos, offers a personal example of such a psychic transmission of information:

. . . I don’t think there’s any question that our minds are connected in ways that we do not understand. This is the whole basis of synchronicity, which allegedly reveals the nonlocal interconnectedness of the cosmos through meaningful coincidence.

I have experienced many strange synchronicities in my life, but one of the weirdest occurred when I was sitting up in bed, thinking about this and that, while my wife was falling asleep. My mind was dwelling on nothing in particular, and I was thinking to myself about how a certain acquaintance sometimes called me 'Bob,' other times 'Robert.' Mrs. G. -- who was sound asleep -- then says, 'Do you mind if I call you Bob?' (8/6/06) [One Cosmos ]

The family often pays an emotional and economic price for having another child, and even though the mother's feelings may be only temporary, for the fetus the feeling may be permanent. Even though she may have wished to avoid imprinting the baby with unwantedness, 'evidence is strong that the mother's feelings about herself become, for the one in the womb, the whole basis of its own sense of being and worth.' [Frank Lake, M.D., Studies in Constricted Confusion: Exploration of a Pre- and Peri-Natal Paradigm, p. T-10.]

"I've had a number of people working on this who remember attempts to abort them, and they are either the most difficult cases or become among the most difficult cases." [Bill Swartley Interview, (1977) with John Rowan]

In his book, Deep Feeling, Deep-Healing, Andy Bernay-Roman, recounts an occasion when the issue of abortion arose during regression therapy with his daughter, Kaia:

"I'm getting a horrible feeling. I've felt it before, and it scares me. It's taking me way down."

"Go with it, honey. We'll keep you safe. What's the feeling?" we ask, concerned and curious.

"It's in my stomach, and it's making me nauseous.

"Stay with it."

"It's horrible. It sounds weird to say it, but it's like somehow God doesn't want me to be to be born," Kaia cried. "How can I be here if God doesn't want me here?" She moaned gently and started gagging.

I'm stunned. My brain races and I start sweating. "What's going on here? What's she talking about? This is no conscious belief she's ever expressed to me before. What can she possibly mean by this?"

Kaia too broke into a sweat, with wrinkles of dismay quilting her brow.

Then it hit me! "It's me she's talking about!" Unbeknownst to Kaia, before her birth, upon learning of her mother's pregnancy, (we weren't married), I was not pleased. I loved my bachelor's ways, and did not want a child. On my insistence, her mother made an appointment at the local abortion clinic, and only there, in the waiting room, did she burst into tears with, "I can't do this! I'm having this baby!" I reluctantly agreed. But for months before, I actively hadn't wanted the child, and little fetus - Kaia, somehow had picked up on it, and was currently experiencing that memory. For her own healing, and for mine.

"I'm so sorry," I blubbered out loud. "Kaia, that's not God. That's me before you were born. I wanted your mother to have an abortion. I'm so sorry, sweetie."

Little vulnerable tears spilled out of Kaia's eyes.

"I've been carrying this awful feeling my whole life!"

"I was young and stupid. I'm so sorry. I do want you here, and God has always wanted you here. It was just me who didn't want you for a short while -- and that was before I met you. I've wanted you ever since."

The deepest nagging doubt about her existence had today come undone, uprooted from the recesses of her fetal imprinted mind. Kaia cried and cried.

"I'm so sorry," I kept stammering.

[Registered nurse, psychologist and massage therapist, Andy practices his version of primal therapy in Jupiter, Florida. Read review of his book, Deep Feeling, Deep Healing.]

"Suddenly, my Tai Chi movements were interrupted. Though this time, my startled eyes were squinting to see another creature occupying the womb. He, I think it was a male twin, was staring right back at me with huge dark eyes. I don't think he was my identical twin, because he seemed to be occupying his own space. We must have been in the first trimester, since by eleven weeks, the eyelids usually fuse to close and protect the eyes until the seventh month, when the eyes open again. I was startled and fascinated, as my twin began to duplicate my own Tai Chi aerobics. We were like two copycat jugglers, or the dueling banjoes in the movie Deliverance. Very soon, mv twin not Only mimicked me exactly, he arrogantly went off by himself', and seemed to be performing his own version of Tai Chi aerobics.

Then came the bolt of lightning. My twin and I were being sucked out of the womb. The force was overpowering. I could see his terrified face. It was as if I was looking into a mirror seeing myself. I reached out with my hand to touch him. He made a feeble attempt to do the same. I felt his energy, and then he disappeared from view. I was fast following in my twin's footsteps, being pulled far to my right in a tug of war.

Unexpectedly, I felt that energy again, but this time it was very strong, forcing me back to the left in the gentlest of motions, in a direction opposite to that of the suctioning vacuum.

I once asked my father, shortly before he died, if my mother had aborted any other children. My father looked me directly in the eyes and nodded yes, and I knew what he told me then was true."
[Jerry J. Pollock, Ph.D. in Messiah Interviews, pps. 35-36]

While the story which follows has nothing to do with abortion or attempted abortion, it is an example of how a patient in a regressive type therapy can relive early intrauterine experiences:

"(I)n approximately the sixth month of gestation my mother and I nearly bled to death, an event I learned about in 1975, on Christmas Day when I had an extraordinary opportunity to have a detailed and completed intrauterine primal in which I experienced complete weightlessness, saw a sea of red in front of me, tasted bloody amniotic fluid, knew that I was dying and knew that my mother was dying." [E. Michael Holden, M.D., Tape Transcription ]
"Later I called my mother and said, 'Sometimes before I was born you had an episode of bleeding. How soon before my birth was it?' She replied, 'How did you know I bled?' 'I'm certain you did, now I just want to know when it happened.' 'It happened about two weeks before you were born,' she said. Since I was born six weeks premature, the vintage of that trauma was in the first third of the third trimester. All I can conclude from my experience is that a baby in the womb knows when his orher mother is feeling--at least during the third trimester." [Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience (1983), Arthur Janov, Ph.D. p. 275]

Dr. Emerson told me that he believes the greatest trauma to adoptees happens in the first trimester!

As incredulous as I was when he first said this, it soon made profound sense to me, as he explained the foundational traumas of being a mistaken conception, of having a mother who is disappointed—or worse—at the news of her pregnancy, and who psychically rejects the baby inside her, or even fantasizes about abortion. (These circumstances aren’t true of all adoptive pregnancies, but certainly the majority.) The message transmitted to that incipient being is that she shouldn’t exist, she doesn’t deserve to exist, her creator doesn’t want her to exist. Dr. William R. Emerson believes that it is in those early weeks of intermingled genesis and rejection that the artificial self begins to form, out of sheer survival instinct. Everything he said resonated deeply within me, and helped make sense of the fact that my core issue goes beneath abandonment and rejection, to my basic feelings of unworthiness of existence.
[Many Hands: An Adoptee's Healing Journey - by Marcy Axness - Dr. Marcy Axness specializes in helping those with fertility, adoption, and the traumas of very early years including birth and pre-birth issues.]

Psychologist Alice Rose, Ph.D., in her book, Bonds of Fire, recounts a case history of a patient who had rejected her boyfriend sexually. However, at the same time he no longer wanted casual sex with her. The tables had been reversed which triggered in her severe feelings of her own rejection. She was perplexed by her reaction to his rejection since she no longer had wanted him. For some incomprehensible reason, it made her feel as though she was dying.

The author explains,

"Every time a patient talks about feeling like they are dying, it should be honored and not treated like it is silly. It means that there was an actual death threat early in life, where you did almost die. She deepened the feeling, curled up into a little ball. She began to feel that her mother did not want her at all. The rejection intensified to a high pitch and she suddenly felt her mother wanting to abort her as soon as she found out she was pregnant." (p. 84)

Alice Rose recommends: "If either parent has any thought of abortion but you decide to keep the baby, accept that he has been traumatized, and get neo-natal therapy for him as soon after birth as possible. Otherwise he will be imprinted with lifelong emotional pain."

Primal-oriented therapist, Barbara Findeisen , appeared on The Oprah Winfrey tv show during the 1980s. The program was devoted entirely to pre- and peri-natal trauma and included pro and con discussions as to whether such reliving was possible.

One case dealt with a failed abortion attempt. Debbie's mother, Paula, was horrified what her daughter revealed to her after she had attended regressive therapy at Barbara Findeisen's Pocket Ranch in California. Debbie had recounted her regressive experience of being the object of an abortion attempt by her mother and grandmother. Debbie had gone into therapy because she had become suicidally depressed during a pregnancy and the depression continued after the birth of her child.

When the abortion attempt went awry they were rushed to the hospital where Debbie was born. Her mother had kept the 30 years secret of how she had attempted to abort her daughter. It was not until regression therapy that Debbie learned that she had experienced an attempted abortion as a 6 month fetus whereupon she confronted her mother about what she experienced in therapy. She also told the audience about conversations between her mother and others which she heard while inutero. Her mother, on Oprah's show, acknowledged that everything her daughter had recounted was true. [See review of the Winfrey show ].

Various studies have also connected higher rates of spontaneous abortion, birth complications and preterm delivery with fear, anxiety, guilt, negative attitudes toward the pregnancy, emotional immaturity, difficulty in accepting the pregnancy, and husbands who offered little or no support.

Neuroendocrinological studies done over the last decade are illustrating more and more why and how the above results occur, namely, the physiological mechanisms which allow "umbilical affect" to occur. The neuroendocrinological interactions of the mother's endocrine and nervous systems in response to the environment profoundly affect the fetus within her.
[ Stephen M. Maret, Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome: An Analysis - Doctoral Dissertation, p. 248]

Experience teaches that very few mothers conceive their children with great joy at the start.... [The event] disturbs them in so many different ways...they try either deliberately or unconsciously to rid themselves of the fetus. Many a fall or accident is an attempt at abortion....When nothing works and the child is born there is a transition from too little love or even hatred to overflowing affection....The mother feels a strong sense of guilt which is, in the later stages of pregnancy (where there is an acceptance of the child), communicated to the fetus. [Material from The Unborn Child by Roy Ridgway and Simon H. House p. 107 - I. I. Sadger, 1941- "Preliminary study of the psychic life of the foetus and primary germ." Psychoanalytic Review, 28, No.3, July]

The summer, 2006 issue of the Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology and Health, was devoted to possible psychological interactions between the mother and her fetus:

  • How Women Can Carry Their Unborn Babies to Term - The Prevention of Premature Birth Through Psychosomatic Methods. - Rupert Linder, M.D.
  • Wing of the Butterfly - A Philosophical Overview - Judith Prager, Ph.D. (Imagery and Fetal Development)
  • Hypothesis: Preeclampsia as a Maternal-Fetal Conflict - Michel Odent, M.D.
  • The Influence of Emotional Support During Childbirth: A Clinical Study, C.I.L. da Motta, et. als.
  • "Conscious Abortion" and the Idea of Abortion Itself - Peter Fairfield, L.Ac. [In the last article the author writes about untimely pregnancies, non-medical abortions and the possibility of intentional maternal abortion through psychosomatic methodology.]

British novelist, D. H. Lawrence's allusions to unwantedness in Sons and Lovers are apropo following the last section which referred to an article on "conscious abortion." Lawrence describes an unwanted child in the arms of its mother: "Its clear, knowing eyes gave her pain and fear. Did it know all about her? When it lay under her heart, had it been listening then? Was there reproach in the look? She felt the marrow melt in her bones, with pain and fear." The book was about Lawrence's own mother and the questions are an intuitive and analytic exploration of his own pre-natal mind.
[Nandor Fodor, The Search for the Beloved (1949), p. 328.]

Since applications for abortion in the former Czechoslovakia were not automatically approved, it was possible to study a group of children born to mothers who had been denied abortions for the same fetus on two separate occasions. That is what the book, Born Unwanted, is about.

First follow-up at age 9: mother describes them as "naughty, stubborn and bad-tempered."- more audacious and loners. - rejected as friends - considered cowards.

Second follow-up at age 14: felt they had less parental interest - more alcohol/drugs problem - lack of job satisfaction.

[Read more of review of, Born Unwanted: Developmental Effects of Denied Abortions, 1988].

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