The Birth Journey – Honouring Our Untold Story
WITH MATTHEW APPLETON AND TEAM
Birth is a rite of passage that initiates us into what it means to be human. It is the archetypal human journey. Whether we were born vaginally or by caesarean, in full consciousness or drugged by medications, being born is an experience we all share. Our bodies and psyches are imprinted by this intense experience in which we encounter extreme challenges, stresses and traumas. Pain, loss, fear, exhilaration, ecstasy, rage, close encounters with death, determination and resilience are all hallmarks of the birth journey. Yet this most primal and essential human journey is rarely acknowledged by our families or the wider culture as the profound, life shaping experience that it is.
Until our stories are known and honoured they have a life of their own in our unconscious. Self-limiting belief systems, unresolved shock and trauma, physical symptoms, phobias and bad dreams may all be expressions of our birth journey which seek to be known. Sub-conscious survival strategies that we learnt in the process of being born continue to operate in our adult lives generating behaviours that we do not understand and which seem to sabotage our attempts to improve our situations. We sense a part of us that longs to be acknowledged and understood lurking at the edges of our awareness, but which we cannot grasp. Some part of us remains a stranger to ourselves until it is recognised and consciously embraced. Many indigenous cultures did this instinctively, through consciously welcoming the new-born as an aware, sentient being who has completed a long, stressful journey. Initiation rites later in life marked a rebirth in which aspects of the birth journey were ritually re-enacted and integrated into the individual and cultural psyche. In the West we have forgotten how to do this and it leaves us with unresolved personal and societal traumas that call out to be engaged.
The Birth Journey is a four module residential course. The course uses techniques which have evolved out of decades of research and clinical experience in the field of pre- and perinatal psychology. These help us to integrate experiential and cognitive awareness of how our births have shaped us.
The course is based around four distinct stages of birth, which were originally identified through the pioneering work of William Emerson and Franklyn Sills. These four stages have specific stresses and challenges for the baby, around which particular themes constellate. These have lifelong consequences. Each of the four modules focuses on one of these stages, enabling us to bring into awareness our own personal stories and to release unresolved shock and trauma that we may be carrying from the experience. This enables us both to recognise and appreciate the strengths we developed through our unique birth journey and to find new ways of being that are not based on survival strategies and self-limiting perceptions.
The birth stages are taught and facilitated in a fluid manner, responsive to the arising needs of the individual and the group as a whole. Our births are deeply influenced by and resonant with our womb experience. In so far as prenatal (i.e. womb) experiences may arise in experiential work these will be honoured and supported. Our psyches prioritize the themes that we need to work with and whilst the structure of the four stages of birth forms the backbone of the course, the interweaving of prenatal themes enriches and deepens the exploration.
In each of the four modules techniques are taught to help facilitate birth regression. Throughout the course time is given to integrating the experiential work and developing new resources and possibilities. Regression in the service of progression is at the heart of the course. To create the safety and containment that allows participants to explore these early vulnerable states confidentiality and other ground rules are agreed to in the first module. An empathic and respectful environment in which to do the work is emphasized and upheld throughout. Each module is four days long and is residential. (Non-residential places are also available). All experiential work and sharing of personal material is optional. The theoretical aspects of the course will be accompanied by hand-outs and PowerPoint presentations. The course is suitable for anyone interested in pre and perinatal psychology, especially body workers, psychotherapists, craniosacral therapists, osteopaths, midwives, doulas, pediatricians, lactation consultants or anyone drawn to understanding more about how their own early experience shaped them.
Module One: Stage 1 – Inlet Dynamics
The themes of this stage constellate around the start of the birth journey from the baby’s perspective. As stage 1 progresses we come under considerable pressure from uterine contractions (about 100 pounds per square inch) and whilst the cervix is still closed there is no way forward. The foetal cranium is powerfully impacted by the maternal pelvic bones as the cervix opens and the baby descends into the pelvis. The body remembers these experiences. Students are helped to find the body position that they were in as they encountered these forces and how they were personally impacted. Each of the four stages of birth imprints experiential templates that inform us psychologically, somatically and spiritually throughout life. Themes associated with this stage include:
- How we deal with pressure and stress in our lives
- Our state of readiness to move forward in life
- The way in which we instigate projects and handle new experiences
- Our sense of self- esteem – ‘I must be a bad person to deserve this.’
- How we pace ourselves in life
- A sense of ‘no way out’ when we are under duress
Module Two: Stage 2 – Mid-Pelvic Dynamics
Human birth is unique in that we are the only mammals who have to rotate our heads to be born. This rotation occurs in the mid-pelvis and is often very stressful. Although it is often the shortest of the birth stages, there are many profound consequences associated with this stage. Mothers often experience more pain at this time and medications such as analgesia and epidurals are often administered during this stage. These interventions overwhelm the consciousness and physiology of the baby and disturb the sense of the connection with mother. Themes associated with this stage include:
- How we make decisions (‘which way do I go?)
- Our capacity or willingness to commit
- Our ability to trust our intuition and sense of purpose in life
- Our ability to orient ourselves to our environment and others
- The way in which we handle stress in relationship
- How we handle physical and emotional pain – do we numb out or become flooded with anxiety?
Module Three: Stage 3 – Pelvic Outlet Dynamics
In stage 1 of the birth journey the baby’s head is transverse in relation to the pelvic inlet. Through rotating in the mid pelvis the head is now in an anterior-posterior position in relation to the pelvic outlet. This new position brings with it new challenges and intense physical pressures (cranial moulding). This is the final stage of the birth journey in which the baby is still inside the mother’s. By this stage the baby is often exhausted. The oxygen supply may be compromised due to cord compression. As the baby moves towards the outside world impressions of what that world is like are heightened. Earlier prenatal imprinting around how we were welcomed into the womb (i.e. parental feelings when they discovered the pregnancy) may influence our sense of how we are likely to be welcomed as we emerge from the womb. Themes associated with this stage include:
- How we complete projects
- Our capacity for endurance under pressure – do we override our exhaustion or collapse?
- How we anticipate being greeted by others in social situations
- How we present ourselves to others
- Fear of the future
Module Four: Stage 4 – Restitution and Emergence
This includes from when the baby’s head emerges, until the time the family go home (if it has been a hospital birth). This can be a very long time for babies who are placed in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. As we emerge from the womb we get our first impressions of the world and how it greets us. The change of environment is from one of a fluid environment of approximately 37 degrees centigrade, to one of air at about 18 to 20 degrees. We move from darkness into light, which is often harsh and penetrating, from the muffled sounds of the womb to the noise of the delivery room. For the first time baby and mother are separated. At the same time there maybe a number of invasive procedures as babies are cleaned, suctioned, weighed and often handled roughly as if they were objects rather than people. The umbilical cord is usually cut prematurely, before it has stopped pulsing, making the separation from mother even more shocking. How we are greeted at this stage informs us at a very deep level as to what kind of world we have entered. Themes associated with this stage include:
- Fear of invasion
- Separation anxiety
- Our capacity and willingness to trust intimacy
- Our sense of self-worth – am I good enough?
- Fear of being ‘seen’
- Whether or not we feel welcome by others
Module One: 7th – 10th May 2020
Module Two: 30th October – 2nd November 2020
Module Three: 23rd – 26th April 2021
Module Four: 8 – 11th October 2021
VENUE:The Earthspirit Education Centre, Dundon, nr. Somerton, Somerset.
COST:£580 per module (including full residential costs). Includes initial deposit of £150 (course code: BJ).
TO APPLY:Conscious Embodiment Trainings
25 Nottingham Road
Bristol BS7 9DH
Tel: 0117 904 4356