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THE TRAUMATIC WOMB DeMause argues that the traditional view of the womb as a peaceful and quiescent "living tomb" is mistaken; nor does the fetus exactly resemble a mummy:

The womb is in fact a very noisy, very changing, very active place in which to live, full of events and emotions both pleasant and painful. The fetus during the second trimester, when the amniotic sac is still rather roomy, now floats peacefully, now kicks vigorously, turns somersaults, hiccoughs, sighs, urinates, swallows and breathes amniotic fluid and urine, sucks its thumb, fingers, and toes, grabs its umbilicus, gets excited at sudden noises, calms down when the mother talks quietly, and gets rocked back to sleep as she walks about. Fetal activity patterns are now well studied, particularly since the development of ultrasound techniques. The normal fetus rarely goes 10 minutes without some gross activity, either with fetal breathing spurts during REM-sleep periods or with other movements.... The fetus in fact has quite regular activity cycles averaging about 45 minutes, cycles that later in the third trimester can be felt quite accurately by the mother. These fetal patterns become coordinated to some extent with the activity cycles of the mother -- evidence that the fetus is quite sensitive to a wide range of the mother's activities and emotions.

By the third trimester the fetus becomes increasingly uncomfortable: the womb is crowded, and the placenta is less efficient in its functions of nourishment, respiration, and disposal of wastes. DeMause points out that during "normal" labor and delivery, fetuses suffer from extreme and perhaps prolonged hypoxia or inadequate oxygen levels -- sometimes as low as 12%, incredible as it may seem, although adults become comatose at less than 60%:

The effects on the fetus of this severe hypoxia are dramatic: normal fetal breathing stops, fetal heart rate accelerates, then decelerates, the fetus often thrashes about frantically in reaction to the pain of the contractions and the hypoxia, and soon the fetus enters into its life-and-death struggle to liberate itself from its terrifying condition.... Yet it is a liberation struggle for all that, and not at all a `separation anxiety' from a comfortable womb.

The many extensive narrative parallels between abductees and the fetus include accounts of late-stage ordeals, as we will see below. Abductees report sensations of choking, suffocation, and severe pressure on head and body, obvious perinatal parallels that CE3 investigators observe and even enter into their case reports, but choose not to comprehend. DeMause cites birth regression studies with subjects whose narratives, checked against medical records, support the accuracy of specific late-stage birth memories, and he says that those memories are vivid and mostly negative:

...every piece of evidence, both obstetrical and clinical, which is added to the growing literature of fetal life confirms the concrete reality of these memories of feelings of pain, fear, and rage as the fetus struggles for liberation from the asphyxiating womb.

THE FETAL DRAMA DeMause maintains that the ambivalent realities of prenatal life lead to the "fetal drama," which has extensive and potentially permanent psychological consequences. The earliest tangible reality in the fetus' world is the placental/umbilical complex, on which fetal survival depends. The cyclical inconsistencies of the maternal system stimulate perhaps the first crucial psychological response in the developing human being: fetal anxiety.

Slowly during the second and third trimesters the first structuring of fetal mental life takes place. When the blood coming from the placenta is bright red and full of nutrients and oxygen, it is felt to be coming from what I shall term a Nurturant Placenta and the fetus feels good, but when the blood becomes dark and polluted with carbon dioxide and wastes, it is imagined to be coming from a Poisonous Placenta, and the fetus feels bad and can be seen to kick out at the source of its pain. In the final months before birth, as the fetus outgrows the placenta, the womb gets more crowded and the blood more polluted, and the fetal drama steps up in intensity. I propose that just as the satisfying and grateful emotions associated with the Nurturant Placenta form a prototype for all later love relationships, so, too, the polluting-asphyxiating experiences produce an attitude of fear and rage toward the Poisonous Placenta, which is therefore the prototype for all later hate relationships--whether with the murderous mother, the castrating father, or ultimately, the punitive superego itself.

DeMause has unquestionably established the psychological as well as physical significance to the fetus of several fetal and maternal bodily parts and processes. These include the primary birth organs (placenta, umbilicus, amniotic sac and fluids); the mother's body and its ingestions, movements, and changing emotional contexts; and the fetus' own developmental processes (respiration, waste removal, nutrition, and growth). Later there is the nurturant/poisonous placenta, and the anxiety of the final weeks of gestation; and throughout there are the surrounding maternal tissues, the cervical opening, and the vaginal tunnel.

These are the germinal materials of perinatal memories. Fetuses have often been observed actively feeling their body and the organs and tissues surrounding the womb's darkened environment. That they must develop very early a tactile sense of the shape and nature of their own body is clear from a photo of an hours-old neonate sticking out its tongue in imitation of the obstetrician holding him! If as deMause asserts prenatal experiences are prototypes for adult relationships, it is no mystery that they can be recalled much later -- involuntarily or with the aid of hypnosis or drugs. DeMause's exposition of fetal life shows that perinatal memories are a verifiable phenomenon. His work supports the thesis that such memories play a major role in UFO abductions.

THE PERINATAL BRAIN: THE EMOTIONAL MEMORY As I pointed out above in this series, the basic assumptions of the Birth Memories Hypothesis are supported by results from recent brain research. The matter is vastly complex and for our purposes a brief outline from a few sources will have to suffice. Lloyd deMause makes the case succinctly:

Biologists used to think that because the fetus had incomplete myelination of neurons it couldn't have memories. This notion has been disproved, since impulses can be carried quite efficiently in the thinly myelinated nerves of fetuses, only at a somewhat slower velocity, which is offset by the shorter distances traveled. Indeed, far from being an unfeeling being, the fetus has been found to be exquisitely sensitive to its surroundings, and our earliest feelings have been found to be coded into our early emotional memory system centering in the amygdala, quite distinct from the declarative memory system centering in the hippocampus that becomes functional only in later childhood. ("Restaging Early Traumas in War and Violence," Journal of Psychohistory, Spring, 1996, 360-361)

Daniel Goleman writes of the central part played by the amygdala in the brain's emotional memory:

The brain uses a simple but cunning method to make emotional memories register with special potency... Under stress (or anxiety, or presumably even the intense excitement of joy) a nerve running from the brain to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys triggers a secretion of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which surge through the body priming it for an emergency. These hormones activate receptors on the vagus nerve; while the vagus nerve carries messages from the brain to regulate the heart, it also carries signals back into the brain, triggered by epinephrine and norepinephrine. The amygdala is the main site in the brain where these signals go; they activate neurons within the amygdala to signal other brain regions to strengthen memory for what is happening.

This amygdala arousal seems to imprint in memory most moments of emotional arousal with an added degree of strength -- that's why we are more likely, for example, to remember where we went on a first date, or what we were doing when we heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. The more intense the amygdala arousal, the stronger the imprint; the experiences that scare or thrill us the most in life are among our most indelible memories. This means that, in effect, the brain has two memory systems, one for ordinary facts and one for emotionally charged ones. A special system for emotional memories makes excellent sense in evolution, of course, ensuring that animals would have particularly vivid memories of what threatens or pleases them. But emotional memories can be faulty guides to the present.

Goleman discusses the effect of early life experiences on the amygdala's emotional memory system:

The emotional brain's [periodic] imprecision ... is added to by the fact that many potent emotional memories date from the first few years of life, in the relationship between an infant and its caretakers. This is especially true for traumatic events, like beatings or outright neglect. During this early period of life other brain structures, particularly the hippocampus, which is crucial for narrative memories, and the neo-cortex, seat of rational thought, have yet to become fully developed. In memory, the amygdala and hippocampus work hand-in-hand; each stores and retrieves its special information independently. While the hippocampus retrieves information, the amygdala determines if that information has any emotional valence. But the amygdala, which matures very quickly in the infant's brain, is much closer to fully formed at birth.

Goleman thus implicitly concedes that the amygdala's emotional memory system is functional in prenatal life, though his discussion completely avoids relevant fetal behavior. But he discusses Joseph LeDoux's work and ideas (The Emotional Brain, 1996) about the significance of early childhood experiences:

LeDoux turns to the role of the amygdala in childhood to support what has long been a basic tenet of psychoanalytic thought: that the interactions of life's earliest years lay down a set of emotional lessons based on the attunement and upsets in the contacts between infant and caretakers. These emotional lessons are so potent and yet so difficult to understand from the vantage point of adult life because, believes LeDoux, they are stored in the amygdala as rough, wordless blueprints for emotional life. Since these earliest emotional memories are established at a time before infants have words for their experience, when these emotional memories are triggered in later life there is no matching set of articulated thoughts about the response that takes us over. One reason we can be so baffled by our emotional outbursts, then, is that they often date from a time early in our lives when things were bewildering and we did not yet have words for comprehending events. We may have the chaotic feelings, but not the words for the memories that formed them. (Emotional Intelligence, 1995, 20-22)

Goleman's emphasis on "wordless blueprints," the non-verbal nature of emotional memories, is consistent with the seemingly typical absurdity and banality of alleged alien-human verbal and other communication, including the infamous "messages" to abductees. But the sometimes chaotic and otherwise intense feelings during CE3s (they need not all be negative, and his discussion grants that) are also consistent with the perinatally purposeful bonding experience, which is unmistakably intense and can be either positive or negative in the extreme.

Joseph LeDoux has a relevant comment about the early period of life and what Freud termed "infantile amnesia" -- seemingly another way of referring to the "missing time" of the amygdala's perinatal emotional memory:

The idea of separate systems devoted to forming implicit emotional memories and explicit memories of emotions is relevant for understanding infantile amnesia, our inability to remember experiences from early childhood, roughly before age three. Infantile amnesia was first discussed by Freud, who noted that there had not been enough astonishment of the fact that by the time a child is two he can speak well and is at home with complicated mental situations, but if he is later told of some remark made during this time, he will have no memory of it.

Lynn Nadel, together with Jake Jacobs, proposed that the key to infantile amnesia was the relatively prolonged period of maturation that the hippocampus goes through.... It seems to take the hippocampus a bit longer than most other brain regions to get its act together.... Other brain systems, though, must be ready to do their learning and remembering sooner, since children learn lots of things during this amnesic time, even if they don't have conscious memories of the learning....Jacobs and Nadel were particularly interested in the way that early trauma, though not remembered, might have lasting, detrimental influences on mental life. They proposed that the system that forms unconscious memories of traumatic events might mature before the hippocampus. They did not identify what this unconscious system for traumatic learning and memory was, but we now know, of course, that this system crucially involves the amygdala and its connections. (Emotional Brain, 205 ff.)

Thus there seems to be an emotional memory in the brain that starts working from an early prenatal phase onward -- and comparatively long before the declarative memory of the hippocampus is operational, and longer still before other rational faculties are matured. Evidently the amygdala's emotional memory keeps a non-verbal record of events through delivery and bonding (the end of the first year), to some point around age 3 or 4, by which time the developing normal brain, mind, and memory have taken over.

These first few years of life (including the prenatal phase) comprise the temporal context of perinatal memories. They also contain the matrix for the beginnings of human nature -- a truly archetypal experience that is stored largely in our emotional memory, and which our wilder passions and fantasies may recall for us, whether as young children, as adults, or as grandparents. It is the great universal human matrix we all share -- so similar and yet unique for each person. Reduced to its essentials, it is a shamanistic journey from the comforts, stresses, and changes of prenatal life through the terrors of birth and to the emotional security of bonding love and developmental growth.

Exposure to trauma -- or, as I believe, wild fantasies -- can revivify parts of the emotional memory of the "missing time" we all have in our past, which helps explain why there is so much birth imagery in sci-fi (actually fantasy) films. Examples: the mother monster in the "Alien" series that lays acres of eggs; the allegorical infant at the end of "2001"; the house yards full of vaginal tunnels and umbilical tubes in the climactic scene of "ET".... Perinatal imagery occurs even in daily TV soap operas. And, of course, in CE3 abduction narratives.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 3, 2013 at 8:29 PM
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by Ruby Member on Apr. 3, 2013 at 8:29 PM
Too long
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