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Why you need to understand limbic imprinting

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by Elise Bowerman

Imagine a world where bringers-of-life are celebrated in rituals and ceremonies dedicated to the wellbeing of mother and baby alike. 

Where groups of birth-givers commune together with wise women who have traveled the path of motherhood offering compassionate support. 

Where medical professionals understand the deep impact mothers (and fathers) have on the emotional and physical wellness of their baby.

We are returning to this paradigm s-l-o-w-l-y. This did and does exist in non-western cultures, and having created “safer” practices for pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum, we can now re-align modern safety with ancient traditions to nurture a better balance of caring for the whole person.

Our experiences shape who we are. 

All human beings are affected by their experiences:

  • while in their mother’s womb, 
  • their own childbirth, and
  • the moments after birth.

While we are given a blueprint in the DNA of our genes; what matters most is our environment

Like a house (our body and mind) are affected more by external factors. For instance, a house in Michigan benefits from having thick insulation to keep cold air out during winter and warm humidity out in summer. Screened in windows help keep flying and crawling bugs out when it’s time to open windows for a breeze. Hail and ice will slowly damage roofs, gutters and siding over time, requiring them to be replaced every 20 years or so. A house in Florida will be built with different necessities, like hurricane shutters.

Our human bodies react to external stimuli every second of every day. Whether the body is warding off invasive germs at a cellular level, working to return to a state of rest after being frightened, or embodying the laughter and companionship of a loved one.

“World ecology has to start with womb ecology.

We cannot have peace and good people in the world without raising peaceful, good children.

And that has to start at conception; not at birth, but at conception.

It is our responsibility to make a better job of it than it was done in the past. There are too many children neglected, born and raised unloved. 

Unless this changes the world will not change.”

- Dr. Thomas Verny 

A couple important points to understand the landscape of how we think humans evolve have to do with unlearning two major mistakes:

  1. Up until the late 1990’s The American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists did not believe babies or infants could feel pain.
  2. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s medical doctors did not believe babies could remember anything before age two.

Modern psychologists who study prenatal and perinatal mental health have proven we do remember and can feel… and if there is stored or unresolved trauma - it is never too late to heal.

Researchers are also discovering dreams can reveal our earliest moments of life. Since there are no words or ability to express oneself at the earliest moments of life, we know we are feelers first.

We feel.

We hold feelings within our body - and this has the potential to create stress.

Have you ever wondered why and how elephants are compliant in zoo or circus settings? Young elephants are chained or roped to a stake. They yank and pull the rope to try to break free, but to no avail. Within a few days they give up trying. As an adult, even though they are larger and stronger than the stake or human guiding them, they still do not try to pull away. They continue to think (unconsciously) and operate as when they were a young elephant.

Imprinting in humans happens similarly. 

One example may be: while one is the womb with a birth mother who does not feel safe, is not nurtured, does not feel confident about her ability to bring one to life, etc... then one (baby) will likely give their own energy to mother in order to survive. For both to survive. 

This can be a potential imprinted pattern of behavior. It may show up as putting other's needs ahead of their own or a "God-like" complex of the deep desire to help others no matter the cost. (Many healers extend their energy outward to help others while ignoring their own sense of self and well-being.)

The limbic system controls our emotions, memories, and arousal. 

The two structures in the brain which house limbic imprinting are the hippocampus and amygdala.

The hippocampus stores memories of physical and emotional experiences. The amygdala is the emotional regulation and response of such experiences from the hippocampus. 

These systems connect to the cerebral cortex allowing us to label something as positive or negative through remembered emotions (perceptions) with an accompanied feeling.

BUT before the cerebral cortex connected with the limbic lobe - there was no way to make sense or label experiences. Instead, the energy (feeling) of the experience is stored at a cellular level. An unconscious level.

When the stored memories remain unconscious it is possible to carry inherited imprinting or sometimes called Inherited DNA into multi-generations of a family.

Every baby comes into this world open to receive love. When they are met and embraced in love like being in their mother’s arms, breastfeeding, a calm environment, etc. their nervous system is limbically imprinted (programmed) with a strong sense of security.

When they are met with anything less than love, like fear, pain, loneliness, etc. their nervous system will validate these feelings and experiences as love. Programmed as a comfort zone in lieu of love, no matter how undesirable the experience(s) was.

Pregnant mothers who are healing dysfunctional inherited DNA

A major component in becoming a conscious mothers is knowing how you came into the world. What is your birth story? How did your mother care for herself when you were being conceived and growing in her womb? If you can go back further, find out how your maternal grandmother viewed birth and how she was cared for. Go back as far as your lineage of information can take you. Notice any patterns in conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and views of motherhood.

Due to limbic imprinting, most women birth the way they entered the world: fear, pain, and uncertainty. It is only what the body knows.

Giving birth is a profound opportunity to heal multi-generational dysfunction and deeply connect with your sense of self. We owe it to our children to welcome them earth-side from a space of calm, love, and trust. These moments will create magnetic energy for who they become in life as a career person, who they choose as a mate, and the impact they have on their community.

What parents can do today with little ones in womb or earth-side:

Talk to baby. Speak to baby with kind, loving, and affectionate words. Speak as though baby can completely understand you, because they do. Even when you are upset or making big decisions, include the baby in the conversation. Major decisions and stress will come up. Without placing blame, especially on baby, honor the stress. (For example, “Yeah, Baby, that was a tense conversation I had to have with my mom. We got through it, and now my mom understands where I am coming from. I did what I can do. Thank you for being there with me. It is over now. I am at peace.”)

Gentle and loving touch. Acknowledge baby’s life with touch; whether over the womb space or when baby is earth-side. Holding baby from bottom and back of head, rather than armpits creates a more secure position when being moved. 

Listen and play peaceful sounds. Be mindful of the movies and content you are watching while pregnant, as baby is watching and listening, too. Even when baby is earth-side and sleeping nearby, be vigilant to avoid violence and harsh language. The subconscious mind soaks everything in.

Journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings about becoming a parent. What are you experiencing today? Express yourself in words or drawings to get out of the hamster wheel the thoughts can get stuck in. Consider writing three gratitude thoughts or affirmations each day.

Prenatal or postnatal yoga classes. Yoga practices designed for specific phases of motherhood may help you dive deeper into self-reflection. As you become the mother for this baby, the ancient practice of yoga, can help facilitate your journey with greater compassion and trust.

Talk with a mental health professional (i.e. prenatal bonding, perinatal mental health professional). There are a growing number of perinatal mental health specialists who understand this tender phase of life. They can listen and support from a place where great research has already been conducted. You are not alone.

Moment of reflection

Now, envision yourself as a baby. You are in your mother's womb where she does daily meditations to communicate with you and your energy. Dad speaks to mom and you in your mother's womb with kind, loving words. On the day of your arrival into your mother's arms the healthcare providers praise and provide support while your mom focuses on breathing deeply to remain calm and present. Then, you are birthed at your pace with your mother's breath and she catches and pulls you to her chest to lay together in excitement and exhaustion. 

Providers and dad are calmly present. Everyone gives you time to acquaint yourself with the world, your mother, and father. 

Imagine if more children were birthed with such love and patience. We would have more loving and patient adults walking and caring for this planet. 

But it begins with us. It is not too late to heal and create healthy multi-generational patterns.

Resources and References for more

Pre-Parenting: Nurturing Your Child from Conception by Thomas Verny, MD and Pamela Weintraub

The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH)