The Terribleness of Being Alone After Birth

Compiled by John A. Speyrer

"The baby must be touched and caressed immediately after birth. He must have the mother's warmth almost continually during this time; otherwise all the touch in the world
will not be enough."

-- Clinical Psychologist, A. Janov -- Primal Healing

"Irritability of the adult rat might be difficult to attribute to separation from his
mother for an hour at birth if this experience was not documented."

--Neurologist Robert C. Scaer -- The Trauma Spectrum

"Separation between mother and child offers extraordinary benefits in childrearing
for the latter. Later on, we shall mostly stress the fact that the training
of the child must begin at birth."

[Johanna Haarer, Die Mutter und ihr erstes Kind, (The Mother and Her First Child), München,
1979, p. 100. Quoted in Marc-André Cotton, Childrearing Aimed at National Consent,
The Journal of Psychohistory, Fall, 2008]

The horror of existential despair which the newborn can feel after being consigned to a period of apartness from its mother has been described by many in the regressive psychotherapies. Below are recountings of some who describe their feelings of aloneness after having finally escaped from the terror of death during their birthing process.
-- John Speyrer

"I can remember being left alone in a hotel room one night, at six years of age. Suddenly I was alone and my mother was gone. I began to scream blue murder. I was reliving being separated from her straight after birth and left alone in a plastic container in the newborn nursery to die of "abandonment and a broken heart.
I was actually a six-year-old having a massive primal! But someone heard me and called my mother, and she came in, very angry and shut me up. I was made to feel I'd been selfish when she told me I had ruined her evening, as she would now have to stay with me. So not only did I not get help, but I was retraumatised."
- in Pat Törngren's, The "Inner Healer" Man's Innate Drive Towards Wholeness

"I watch other people living their lives as a distant observer. Life is somewhere out there for me, on the other side of those glass windows. Life is where the warm lights are, but I can't get there, because every time I reach out, the glass window is in the way.

I hope you understand. This is my life. Five weeks, 25 years ago, left me in desperate need of my mother every single day. But my mother wasn't there and isn't here. (Her mother died.) I can scream as much I want to, but she doesn't hear me. If you see her, can you please tell her how much her daughter is hurting? Please tell her about my cat, how I pick her up and I say "Baby." How I whisper in her ear, "I know. It's okay." How I hold her for a long time. Maybe then she'll understand how much I needed her to pick me up, hold me and whisper in my ear, "I love you, baby. It's okay now. I am here." I want to cover my face in her body and cry about the five weeks that ruined my life. I want her to dry the tears on my face and give back to me what I lost a long time ago. But I have to give up the hope that she will come, because she didn't come back then either. This will be the day when my hand will reach the light and no more glass windows can separate me from life. This will be the day when I will cry with joy and not with pain."
-- Chloe in Dr. Arthur Janov's, The Janov Solution, Lifting Depression Through Primal Therapy, p. 61.

"He was aware that these visions were delusions and was able to connect being crucified to his birth, and being thrown into hell, to being abandoned in the newborn nursery afterwards, and he was very frightened by it all."
- Pat Törngren in, Healing the Split

"My birth was in a hospital. I am the third child; my parents were together. I experienced a lot of anger and rage from being held upside down, and fear of being alone, abandonment for being taken away from my mother. I am afraid of being alone, not in a one-to-one relationship. I become possessive, jealous. I want to be held a lot and told that they care about me."
- Sondra Ray & Bob Mandel in, Birth & Relationships: How Your Birth Affects Your Relationships

"After struggling with death, hoping to be greeted with love, all I got was that lousy expression and ten days in a hospital's maternity isolation ward. No wonder I had dreamt about having murdered someone, driving in confusion and guilt in a freshly bloodied car worrying about a possible life sentence. I had fought for life in the birth canal, ripped my mother and bathed in her blood and been left alone in isolation."
- "Mika" in, The Dream Route to Primal Pain

"Or try and imagine that the home you have lived in for nine months becomes small and tight, squeezing and shoving you through a small angular tunnel into an alien world, where you are left alone in a square box with see-through sides. Or imagine that you are preparing for this tunnel-journey and are suddenly and roughly pulled out of this home and thrust into a cacophony of voices, clanging instruments, hard surfaces, beeping machines and glaringly bright lights."
- Marianne Littlejohn in, Pre and Perinatal Mental Health

"'Lake writes regarding the newborn: 'The newborn may be left alone long enough to be nudged to the edge of the abyss of non-being, trembling through the phase of separation anxiety, eventually to fall, in a moment of horror, over the edge into nothingness which is the abandonment of hope, love, desire for life, and expectation of access to humanity. . . .'"
- quoted in Stephen Maret's dissertation, Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome

"Later in primal work I recovered the terror of being alone in a hospital, waiting to have my arm set; dreading they would put me to sleep and I might never wake up."
- in Stephen Proskauer's A Freudian Analysis in the Primal Looking Glass

"On the other hand, it is true that some people are totally overwhelmed by the pain of feeling alone in the present. They sometimes need the reassuring touch of a therapist or buddy to reduce the overload of pain. Only then can they access the primal memory of overwhelming early loneliness in their lives. This would once again be classed as therapeutic touch."
- in Pat Törngren's, The Role of Therapeutic Touch in Primal Oriented Therapy

"A monumental aloneness just after birth can produce in a person a lifelong terror
of being alone and a need to be surrounded by an entourage all of the time.
Having friends around all the time is a way of avoiding that early pain;
it is an act-out against the feeling."

-- Dr. Arthur Janov in, The New Primal Scream

"Survival has always been my greatest issue and the source of much anxiety. Feelings of great vulnerability were present in my earliest primals whereby my mother had left me alone for too long, as a helpless infant"
- "G" in, Reaching For The Pain With Stettbacher's Method of Self Primal Therapy

"I have spent years recovering from my traumatic birth; followed by many hours of "routine" separation from my mother (abandonment trauma). On top of that I was made to lie alone in a crib, night and day, except for "five minutes on each side" breastfeeding every four hours during the day, for the first months of life. A friend of mine, also working through similar baby trauma, described it as his "Heaven or Hell Syndrome." (I am alone and in hell. Mommy comes and holds and feeds me and I am in heaven. Mommy goes away again and I am in hell once more.)"
- Pat Törngren in, Kangaroo Mother Care, Restoring the Original Paradigm For Infant Care and Breastfeeding (Video Review)

"For a long time I have been battling in therapy with the pain of my overwhelming loneliness as a baby. I was not fed often enough and not picked up nearly enough to meet my needs. I was also made to sleep alone at night from birth on."
- in Pat Törngren's, Primal Parenting: Do We Need to Keep Repeating the Past?

"What is... commoner is the abreaction of unendurable loneliness.
This, not the pain of disease, but the pain of mother's absence,
is the real killing of the spirit."

-- Frank Lake, M.D. in, Clinical Theology, (1966)

"And so the mother raised her child in her house and guarded her in a way that the little child Magdalena was always alone, and she locked her into a room, in order to rest undisturbed in her prayer. And there the little child Magdalena rested alone in her room, unconsoled by anyone. And so God did not want to leave his young consort unconsoled because she was not more than 3 years old and screamed and cried because of misery, therefore our beloved Lord Jesus Christ did appear to his young consort as a child of 2 years."
- in Dr. Ralph Frenken's Childhood and Fantasies of Medieval Mystics

"Another example of a near-death experience would be to be put away right after birth, without being touched, without anybody to make you feel that everything is okay, that you are not alone, that you have not been suddenly transposed from the planet earth (womb) to a weird desolate planet (any cold environment), all alone, with no chance of survival (absent mother)".
- Réal Beaulieu in, On Buddying and Self-primalling

"The terror of these past weeks has been of being stuck in this passage - alone - forever."
- in Dr. Frank Lake's, Birth Trauma, Claustrophobia and LSD Therapy

"Now I begin to sob uncontrollably, my crying sounding exactly like that of a very young infant. My feelings are of being abandoned with no one hearing my distress. . . I need to be held, loved. Sobbing really hard, my outstretched arms are pleading with someone to lift me. Several times I choke on my tears. I am once more a young infant, abandoned."
- in Margaret Coyne's, Breakingdown, Breakingthrough

"In some more progressive hospitals the mother may be allowed to nurse briefly on the delivery table. All too soon however, the baby is taken away to the central nursery where it is placed alone in a crib. There it has to wait in isolation till the official hospital schedule allows it to be taken to the mother to be fed. (This may involve waiting periods of up to three hours at a time, depending on the hospital policy.) In addition, during the first day, while the baby is under observation, it is sometimes kept from the mother for an extended period of many hours. In some hospitals, mothers who were sedated for the birth may not see their babies at all till they are up to 12 hours old."
- in Pat Törngren's, The Needs Of The Newborn In The First Few Hours Of Life

"Now a terrible sadness comes over me. I am still very tiny and painfully needing my mother to hold me, but she doesn't come. I'm crying so hard, my mouth is quivering in the same way a very young distressed infant's might. I claw at my face and hair and furiously kick out. Later I have an image of myself again when in hospital, but this time needing my adoptive mother. Several times during my anguish I scream in unbelievable anger. Nobody fucking comes to console me. I am totally alone and hurting."
- in Margaret Coyne's, Breakingdown, Breakingthrough

"'A client may typically make the following statement: 'I saw the bars on the crib. I felt so alone that I could die, called out, but she, mother, couldn't hear me. Then I realized that she wouldn't hear me. I wanted to kill her. When she finally came, I just froze. I was scared she'd leave again. That's why I clutch onto people now and want to so possess them. If I let them out of my grip, I'll lose them.'
- Michael Broder in, An Eclectic Approach to Primal Integration

"He doesn't speak, the newborn? Why his entire being shouts out, "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" And yet at the same time, imploringly, begging, "Don't leave me! Don't leave me!" This is birth. This is the torture, the Calvary."
-Dr. Frederick Leboyer

"J.U. gave birth and the hospital staff separated her from her newborn, she felt it as a trauma. This was back in the 1960's when people were taught about the necessity of medical-model birthing and how babies were to be isolated and not spoiled, yet J.U. 'knew' that was wrong despite the doctors and nurses lectures: 'I felt anger, I want my baby. That's what the baby needs and that's what I need."
For all intents and purposes it was a perfect medical birth, but she angrily disagrees based on her regressive experiences:"

Where I was born it was fucking cold for a baby, I mean, it was cold, I felt shivery...the environment was cold as well as the staff...and they lifted me and stuck me into a bassinet or whatever it was they stuck me in, I was cold and I was also crying because they put me in this thing, there was no feeling of being attached to anything.
- Ron Haki, M.D. in, The Love that Wasn't: a study of personal hurts (2008), p. 113

"M.A. focused on correcting the brutal medical birth practices occurring today:"

I have given birth, I saw my daughter's face, She was placed on my chest and I bonded with her...I nursed her after that, but they wouldn't let me keep her in the room...being 24 hours with a mom to establish immediate bonding is especially important for emotional nourishment...I'm not understanding what the system (medical) is trying to promote? We need to go back to a less complicated way of giving birth and handling newborns.
- Ron Haki, M.D. in The Love that Wasn't: a study of personal hurts, (2008) p. 102

Exceptions to the Rule

My birth was filled with maternal and medical violence. Being finally left alone after birth was a respite from extreme physical abuse. And there are still large gaps that I need to feel in what happened to me immediately after my birth. But some time after my birth, I do remember an eternal, dead, empty, silent, grey solitude -- and then seeing the silhouette of a person appear over me and to my right with a three-pointed head, which was probably because of a three-pointed cap -- and then feeling a woman's warm hand gently slide under my back and pick me up. It must have been a nurse picking me up in the nursery where the babies were kept in the early 1940s. That was the first kind touch I can remember in this world, and somehow I knew it was a woman's touch. I'm a man, and someone once told me that I was lucky it was a woman.
- Anon.

For me, and perhaps for some others, the terribleness of being alone after birth had not happened. Being held by my mother or by anyone was the last wish I could have imagined. After the feeling of having been run through a meat grinder, my only wish was for rest and recuperation alone and apart from any others. I was born at home then given to my mother to be held and breastfed. But, at that time, I had no interest in either. I had only wished for rest to regain my strength which had been completely depleted by my struggle with death.

As a young child, falling down and incurring a slight bruise, was a reminder of the hell of birth. I reacted to the gestures of help with rage and with clenched and flailing fists directed towards anyone who would try to lift me up. This need to be alone and apart right after birth was the time of reinforcing the schizoid characteristics of my personality which had begun by my near death experience at birth.
- John A. Speyrer

Primal Psychotherapy Page's Homepage