Thursday, September 8, 2011


Below are excerpts from an excellent description of William Emerson's work on healing birth trauma in infants. This type of work is best done in early life since the issues heal much more quickly when they are acknowledged and addressed with right away.

Treating Cesarean Birth Trauma During Infancy and Childhood

"Twenty years of clinical and behavioral observation indicate that cesarean births cause considerable trauma to babies. The physical and psychological effects are subtle and powerful, occurring at the unconscious level of the infant psyche. Negative impacts include excessive crying, feeding difficulties, sleeping difficulties, colic, and tactile defensiveness. There also may be long-term psychological effects such as rescue complexes, inferiority complexes, poor self-esteem, and other dysfunctional behaviors and feelings."

"Cesarean babies need the experience of crawling through birth tunnels because their own efforts during birth were frustrated and/or unsuccessful. Success or failure around birth underlies important life attitudes later on. Success breeds the attitude of success, and failure the attitude of failure. In one study, cesarean born children were found to use the words "I can't" four times more frequently in their daily language than vaginally born children (Emerson, 1993), resulting in less confidence and lower self esteem. M's healing required that we acknowledge and support her efforts to successfully navigate birth tunnels, that we understand and empathize with her reluctance and her fears, and to we contextualize their origin in the birth process."

"Tactile defensiveness is defined as a resistance to touch. Birth is a highly tactile experience for all babies, and when touch is associated with trauma it results in a certain kind of ambivalence or defensiveness toward touching. This is particularly true for unplanned (sometimes called emergency) cesarean sections where complications are typical, risk factors are high, and interventions must occur in a short period of time to assure the health and safety of the baby. In such situations, handling by medical personnel may be the first kind of touch that babies receive, and it is likely that the quality of touching may not be as gentle as newborns require. This is corroborated by the descriptions of cesarean-born adults, who report that they experienced their first touching as sudden, hurried, rough, or painful. As a result, cesarean-delivered babies may dislike or withdraw from touching or cuddling, may be sensitive to touch on the head, torso, or feet, and may be anxious about physical contact with their parents."

"While breastfeeding, M would grow agitated and squirm, kick, turn away, and cry. Such difficulties are common in babies with fluid traumas. Fluid traumas occur when fluids are ingested or aspirated (i.e., inhaled via primitive breathing reflexes) during or after birth. Ingestion and aspiration may be terrifying to many babies, and if so, they are likely to become anxious and distracted when subjected to fluids during infancy and childhood. This is because liquids symbolize and trigger traumatic memories of fluid trauma during birth. Other symptoms include resistance to water on or around the face, a dislike of bathing, and difficulty with breast or bottle-feeding."

"Empowerment is important for all cesarean babies, but is particularly important for unplanned cesareans. When c-sections are unplanned, this means that babies are expected to be born "naturally" (without surgery), but complications necessitate the use of surgical interventions. Research indicates that mothers and babies are likely to feel as though they have somehow failed in such circumstances, especially when natural birth is a desired goal. For mothers, failure means that they were unable to give birth according to their value systems, and for babies, failure means that they were unable to successfully push through the birth canal and be born. For infants, failure during birth may further translate into feelings of physical and psychological impotence during childhood and adulthood, as well as feelings of personal inadequacy and low self esteem."

"Common Symptoms of Cesarean Born Children

The following symptoms are common among cesarean born children with unresolved birth trauma. They often mirror what actually occurs during cesarean deliveries.

Stuck and Unable to Move. Many cesarean sections occur because babies fail to progress. When these babies grow up and are asked about their births, they invariably say they felt "stuck and unable to move." When asked about their childhoods, they invariably say that they felt "stuck and unable to get going" during difficult developmental periods, major transitions, or difficult tasks.

Giving Up. Many regressed adults report that they struggled during their births and eventually gave up. They indicated that this pattern of behavior plagued them in their adult lives, that they struggled in life and tended to give up in some important way after an extended period of striving.

Intruded Upon and Misunderstood. A moderate percentage of regressed adults report that they felt intruded upon by their cesarean deliveries. They felt they were doing fine and that the status of their birth situations was grossly misjudged by their parents and medical personnel. These feelings persisted into their adult lives.

Rescue Fantasies. A small percentage of regressed adults report that they were in difficulty during their births and that cesarean procedures were relieving to them. Such adults also report that they frequently had rescue fantasies during their childhood daydreams and nocturnal dreams, i.e. ideas and wishes that they were in great difficulty and someone, especially a dear friend or spouse, would come and rescue them. They also report that they occasionally acted out these unconscious fantasies by getting themselves in serious difficulties and expecting or asking others to rescue them in various ways."

"When traumas are unresolved, bonding and attachment suffer because the integrity and depth of the bonding process is compromised by traumas. Infants whose pains and distresses are not perceived and acknowledged feel less bonded, in the same way that adults feel unbonded when they are inaccurately perceived or insufficiently acknowledged."