Friday, August 28, 2009

Birth Script

As promised, I am going to start talking about birth script. Birth script is the collection of circumstances surrounding your conception, development in the womb, labor, birth and the moments or hours following your birth. This is a subject that is not easily contained in a single post, so I will be writing many times about birth script in the months to come.

Why is birth script important? Birth is our first experience of change, and also our first experience of aliveness. As we mature and develop from birth to infancy, childhood and beyond, we will tend to react to change and aliveness based on our first experiences. This may be an unfamiliar and unlikely claim for many of you; but let's say the first dog you ever saw bit you. Wouldn't that have an effect on how you reacted to dogs in the future? Same with birth script.

Most birth scripts fall into a number of broad categories and for most of us, our birth scripts span more than one category. Factors that affect birth script can be things that were present/actually happened at your birth, such as whether or not your mother received anesthesia or other drugs, the use of forceps or suction, delivery by C-section, or whether you were a premature birth. Conception issues also play a role, including whether you were wanted and/or planned, wanted as one gender over the other, or even conceived as a replacement for a baby who died before or after birth. How about your labor? Was it long or short, started by a drug, or maybe you never had a labor, as in a child born by planned C-section. What about after you were born? Were you separated from your mother, maybe placed in an incubator or taken away to the hospital nursery? 

You can see that birth script encompasses a very broad range of events and circumstances. To get you started, I'm going to provide an example, and then give you an assignment to help you understand your own birth script. First, the example -- my own birth script.

I am a first child, first pregnancy, wanted and planned. I was wanted as a boy by my father, but my mother was happy with either a boy or girl. I was born after 24 hours of labor by natural childbirth, no drugs, no forceps. I came out face-up, an unusual and startling event for the doctor and nurses. I was placed in an incubator for my first 24 hours, standard procedure for all babies at the hospital where I was born. 

This birth script affected me in many ways. Being wanted as a boy by my father caused me to have uneasy relationships with men, always thinking I was not what they wanted. Twenty-four hours of labor is considered a long labor, so I am used to having to struggle to get what I want and do not trust things that come to me fast and easy. The separation from my mother and "incarceration" in an incubator just when I needed my mom the most contributed to me feeling like there was something wrong with me. But the central fact of my birth, the thing that has affected me the most in my life, is the face-up presentation as I came out.

Most babies emerge from the birth canal face-down with the top of their head coming out first. I, however, came out face-first. Obstetricians do not expect this. A baby coming out face-first can be a tricky delivery because the baby's head is bent at an odd angle, putting pressure on the neck. The obstetrician and other members of the delivery team were shocked at my face-first presentation and the doctor tried to take pressure off my neck by pushing on the back of my head. Ouch!

Face-up births usually feel like they have something to prove; indeed, they are literally "in your face." Ironically, most face-up babies grow up avoiding confrontation of any kind and preferring to work behind the scenes. They will agree with you just to get away from you. They often have hyper-sensitive skin due to lymphatic system issues caused by the pressure to their sinuses as they exited the birth canal. Check, check aaaand ... check!

Now for your assignment. Write down everything you know or have ever been told about your birth. Here's a list of possible issues, but it is by no means complete. 

Conception: Were you wanted, planned, a secret, a surprise, conceived after an abortion/miscarriage, a "honeymoon" or "menopause" baby, were your parents trying to conceive or just having sex, were they sober, conscious, high, were you conceived in a car, elevator or some unusual location. Where are you in the birth order?

Pregnancy: Did you mother have an easy or difficult pregnancy with you, was she stressed or happy, did your parents want a boy/girl, did she know who your father was, did she smoke, drink, use drugs, was she worried about have a miscarriage, did she consider aborting you, did she try to abort you, did she receive medical care, did she like the obstetrician, was there medical intervention during the pregnancy.

Labor: Long, short, induced by drugs, started and stopped, no labor (planned C-section.)

Delivery: Home, hospital, taxi, unusual location, emergency C-section, breech, transverse, placenta previa, drugs/anesthesia, forceps, suction, held back/had to wait for doctor, face-up, umbilical cord around neck, premature.

After birth: Did you stay with your mother, were you taken away, were you handled with respect and care by the delivery team or were you weighed, measured, blood taken, held upside-down by your ankles, did you need emergency medical intervention.

Take some time to make a complete list. Over the next few Fridays I will present some common birth scripts and how they may manifest in someone's life.

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