Thursday, September 10, 2009

Birth Script: Forceps

Every baby is an expert on her own birth. Yes, there are babies who require assistance to be born, and medical intervention is necessary in a small percentage of births, but the vast majority of babies know exactly what they need to do to be born and are very good at doing it.

Enter the obstetrician armed with forceps, a pair of metal tongs that is fitted over a baby's head and used to pull/drag/tug the baby out of the birth canal. For a baby engaged in the hard work of being born, the use of forceps can be interpreted as interference and carry the message "you're not doing this fast enough."

One of the primary characteristics of those born with forceps is a conflict with authority. Birth is the baby's first experience of a relationship with an authority figure, namely the obstetrician. The use of forceps by the obstetrician forces a baby to be born on the obstetrician's timetable, not the baby's. The message to the baby from the obstetrician/authority figure is "I know better than you what's good for you." The use of forceps peaked during the baby boom generation; it is any wonder that the boomers, who started coming of age in the early 1960s, is a generation of individuals who taught us to rebel against authority?

(As long as I'm on the subject of conflict with authority, I want to point out how another birth practice affected the baby boomers: that of holding the newly-born baby upside down by his ankles. Picture a baby in the womb, curled in the fetal position, his spine one continuous curve from skull to sacrum, a position it has been in for nine months. If an obstetrician holds the newly-emerged baby upside-down by his ankles, his spine is suddenly and excruciatingly straightened out against gravity, with the point of greatest strain in the lumbar/lower back region. Babies born between 1946 and 1964 now, as adults, lead the country in the highest percentage of low back problems, most of which can be traced back to our unpleasant experiences with our first authority figures.)

Typical physical attributes of the forceps birth are:
  • Low back problems
  • Chronic headaches, vision and eye problems
  • Jaw and dental problems, particularly TMJ syndrome (temporomandibular joint syndrome caused by placement of the forceps)
  • Neck issues, including sensitivity and chronic flexibility problems
  • Gripping the forehead/rubbing temples with one or both hands in times of stress (I have seen people who actually develop red forceps marks on their heads when stressed)
  • Baldness/receding hairline where the forceps gripped
In addition, forceps births tend to have timing issues which manifest as always being early or late, but strenuously avoiding an appointed time. This is because, having been robbed of their own timing at birth, they spend the rest of their lives never being anywhere in anyone else's time. And, as mentioned, a lifelong conflict with authority figures, a conflict that increases geometrically if the person is, herself, an authority figure. 

Were you a forceps birth, and do you see in yourself a lot of these characteristics? If so, remember that these behaviors are simple habit. Once you understand that, you may also understand that it's not "just the way you are," but a behavior you developed based on early experience.

A note about my late posting this week. In two weeks I will be in Philadelphia teaching the 2009 Collard Method Program with Russell Lipensky. Preparing for this is taking a lot of my time. I will be posting only once a week for the time being. I hope to bring you lots of information during the program, along with photos of what promises to be a wonderful, enriching experience.


  1. I can relate to all of this, as I was a forceps baby born in 1977! 😌

  2. I was born in 1979
    and I still have a dent and scar in the middle of my head the size of a 50c coin.