Birth & Pre-Birth Trauma on TV

review by John A. Speyrer

(Fetal life) ". . . is not drifting on a cloud, (but is) eventful as the nine
months that come after birth. The foetus is not unaware of itself,
or of the emotional response of the mother to its presence,
but acutely conscious of both and that interaction."
-- Frank Lake, M.D. in Mutual Caring,1982, p. 58.

Primal-oriented therapist, Barbara Findeisen , appeared on The Oprah Winfrey tv show way back in 1994. The program was devoted entirely to pre- and peri-natal trauma and included pro and con discussions as to whether such reliving was possible. A panel of experts were present while a number of Findeisen's clients told their stories.

The first case dealt with two failed abortion attempts. Debbie's mother, Paula, was horrified what her daughter revealed to her after she had regressive therapy at Barbara Findeisen's Pocket Ranch in California. Debbie had recounted her regressive experience of being the object of joint abortion attempts 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 second abortion attempt went awry all rushed to a hospital where Debbie was born. Paula had kept from everyone the 30 years secret of how she had twice attempted to abort her daughter. It was not until a regression therapy session that Debbie learned that she had experienced an attempted abortion as a 6 month fetus and also when she was nearer term, whereupon she confronted her mother about what she had experienced in therapy.

Debbie also shared with 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.

Another patient, Gary, described what he learned about his birth during a regression therapy session. He felt that he was about ready to be born when he was ripped out of the womb with forceps and underwent a c-section delivery. He believed that this was the source of his pervasive anger. In the process he was cut on the knee by doctor which he also relived. During delivery, Gary had felt like he was dying. Because he was not able to complete birth on his own he had problems of completing things in life which needed to be done. He felt that he lived his life with a lot of ongoing unfinished projects. This symptom has always interferred with the enjoyment of his life because of the compulsion not to complete things that had to be done.

Ann, the wife of an ob/gyn physician, told the audience that for 25 years she would awaken each morning with clenched fists accompanied by terror and panic attacks with vomiting. She had tried many "treatments" but nothing worked and when she decided to go into regression therapy with Barbara Findeisen her husband testified that, at the time, he felt it would be a waste of effort like the other therapies she had undergone. He admitted on the Oprah show, that at that time he was no longer being supportive of his wife's efforts to feel better. But when she returned from California her husband knew right away that this time it was different. Something had happened. She was not the sick person he had known. Even after four years her wellness has continued.

Oprah's audience was mostly incredulous. One person felt that putting the onus on birth trauma was all about finding something or someone to blame. Another member of the audience called reliving one's birth, "a bunch of bunk."

To support the possibility that fetuses are sentient, a member of the panel, physician Rema Laibow, spoke about her own son who at 3 months was speaking in sentences! The audience did not believe this, but she said that the truth of his precocious speaking ability had been documented at three university hospitals. One day, when her son was 18 months, he wanted information from his mother about when he was "new." He said that he had been startled by the bright light especially when he had been lifted up towards it. He wondered why everyone around him had the bottom of their faces missing (surgical masks). He also asked about the funny noises of the suction device used to clear his airways.

He wanted to know why someone stuck their finger in his anus. His mother had explained to him that the doctor was checking to see if there was or was not a membrane there - a procedure done to all newborn babies . The audience was disbelieving and wondered why a young child would be using the correct anatomical term. Dr. Laibow replied that it was because she had taught him.

A psychiatrist on the panel, Dr. Robert Phillips, believed that reliving one's birth was "developmentally impossible." Barbara Findeisen admitted that, during her introduction to the therapy, neither had she believed that it was possible. The psychiatrist, who had no credence in the therapy, remarked that everything we do in life influences us to some degree. And everything we do or is done to us is recorded in our memory, but that this information will not necessarily be remembered as it was recorded. He said that one's reality is driven by what they are searching for - what they want to find and that many of these individuals in therapy are searching for a level of happiness. Maybe they have found it but he insisted that reliving their birth traumas had nothing to do with that.

Towards the end of the Oprah Winfrey program, and in reply to Dr. Phillips, Ann became impassioned as she explained why she now believes in the reality of her regressive experiences.

Ann explained. During one of her therapy sessions a hypothetical situation had been outlined and a question was posed to her: You're now in your mother's womb and your mother has just found out that she is pregnant with you. What does that feel like?

Ann replied that when the question was asked she had felt overwhelmed with terror. Before she had been asked that question, she had felt very comfortable in her regressive experiences in the womb. After the sessions, she had had an opportunity to telephone her 85 years old mother. She asked her mother if she could recall anything about how she felt when she found out that she was pregnant with her? Her mother's first answer was, "Darling, I was so excited that I was going to have a daughter." But, I said, "Mother you didn't know you were going to have a daughter" and at that point her mother said, "As a matter of fact, I had been told not to have any more children - I could not survive and I was terrified through the whole pregnancy."

Ann said that there was no way for her to have had that information. No one had ever told her about that. She said that that was what really convinced her that her experiences she had had with Barbara were real and not mind manufactured fantasy.

Dr. Phillips felt that the regression therapy clients were serious and sincerely believed that they regressed to their birth, but that was not how memory worked. He said that we are born with brains which can record like a video tape recorder. The recorded information in our brains becomes re-recorded throughout our life. Some factual information changes as new information replaces the old. To claim that the experience in regression type therapies is related to the birth experience is not medical science, but more like science fiction.

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