One of the most uplifting experiences of pregnancy is to work at forming a relationship with our children when they are still in the womb. Unborn babies are connected to the soul’s knowing and hold a wisdom that far surpasses our narrow, limited version of reality. Unborn children quickly reveal themselves to be filled with unconditional love and a deep acceptance of us and our inability to understand life from their much clearer perspective.
Babies are astonishingly responsive to being “seen” and noticed when they are in the womb. Paying them attention, sending them love and actively imagining how they look, feel and respond on a soul level is rewarded with a very real sense of their appreciation. This appreciation is expressed not only with responsive kicks, but also with a feeling of well-being that emanates from them and is fed back to us through the invisible pathways of thought and a felt sense of connection in the body.
Babies in the womb can give their parents a clear idea of what they need in order to feel supported through labor, birth and parenting. As parents we can connect with our unborn babies using a process of active imagination, whereby, after relaxing, we allow symbols, images and colors to spontaneously arise. It's been my experience that parents who engage this process find their way to a place of connection with their babies, often while resonating on an extremely high level of consciousness.
Even parents who don’t trust in their ability to connect intuitively to their child in the womb seem to easily establish a relationship once they relax and allow the process to unfold. As they soften, listen and feel the quality of their baby's essence, the baby tells them what it needs to say. This valuable work can create healing in the family dynamic and helps to resolve, prior to the baby’s birth, certain patterns or themes that the baby might otherwise have to experience as lessons later in life. Justin, a father I lead in a session of active imagination, was able to connect with his unborn son and experienced the healing of old father-son patterns prior to his son’s birth.
“I see a circle, and the more I look at it the more I see the features of this circle. It is solid, gold in color, like metal. I'm overwhelmed with this feeling of completeness, of being whole again, this feeling of never-ending love. My baby looks like me, with lots of dark hair. I can see myself playing with his fingers and his toes, and he's giggling and there's this mischievousness about the whole experience. As these images are going through my mind, I am struck with the realization of what all of this means to me. With the birth of Luis, something broken will be whole again. The father-son relationship that has been missing in my life will return; except this time, I'll be the dad. And Luis will be my son. I realize the significance of the gold, shiny circle. I wear it everyday. This is my dad’s wedding ring which I wear as my own. It signifies the love I share with Heather, the love for our family, the commitment we've made to each other.”
Projections such as Justin's are created from the thought pathways and heart connections we construct with one another. How we think and feel as parents will be recognized and imprinted in the thinking and feeling pathways of our infants' brains. As parents, we already carry all we learned subconsciously from our own parents. We are formed by their feelings and beliefs as definitively as by the genetic coding we inherited from our ancestors.
Neonatal research identifies how the neurons in a baby’s brain link together to form pathways or roads along which thoughts and feelings travel. Neurons are the basic building blocks of our nervous system. After birth, they form chains, and the thoughts and feelings that are experienced most frequently form well-used highways. Unused paths become difficult to follow. By the age of three months, the thoughts and feelings that we have experienced most often are those that we continue to feel most easily throughout life. If we are loved and held close, the neuronal pathways responsible for feelings of security develop strongly. If we are separated from our parents for long periods or cry without being attended to, we are likely to build pathways in our brains that mirror a fear of abandonment. These fears might be so deeply entrenched as neural highways that as adults we become anxious and experience insecurity about our self-worth.
As parents, we can recognize our infant's sensitivity to our thoughts and feelings through simple awareness. Babies register shock or fear when we ignore them or are unable to truly recognize their primal needs for safety, nourishment and love. They gurgle and relax and are fully in their little bodies when we notice them with full awareness. They love to be "seen" on every level of their beings—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Babies born in an atmosphere of brisk efficiency, where not much attention is placed on the sacred significance of birth, can register shock and toxic stress as a result of not being sufficiently “seen,” held and loved. Yet, it is not the physiological trauma of an overly medicalized birth that creates the worst shock. Regression studies show that we are more traumatized by being emotionally unwanted at birth than by being physically separated from our mothers. If, during labor and birth, parents consciously send their baby love, birth trauma seems significantly diminished and a baby’s response is often one of calm and ease. A baby who is not shocked at birth will often smile within a day or two instead of at six weeks, which is when we generally expect babies to start smiling.
We “see” our unborn babies in the womb by connecting with them on a soul level, the wise and unconditionally loving core essence of ourselves. Each of us, no matter how judgmental we are of our outward personality, has this unchanging essence. Because unborn babies are still intimately connected to the soul’s knowing, pregnancy is a time when mothers and fathers can generally choose to experience their own soul's reality more profoundly than at other times in their lives.
In a session with her unborn child, Ana’s own soul essence was symbolized by a beautiful blue light that made her smile. “My baby is at peace. He touches my eyes; it’s just the way he looks at me, full of love. It’s empowering, pure. It’s happiness. All he wants from me is love, and in labor he wants me to talk to him and think about him so he will feel safe. It feels white and shiny…Our baby is letting me know he never judges us, no matter what we do or where we are.”
An advantage to “seeing” our babies on a soul level prior to birth is that we can learn to recognize their wisdom when they are helpless infants and little children. As Ellen said of her unborn child session after the birth, “I was amazed that what my child told me in the session was so true.”
Another mom, Hannah, felt “the unborn child session was intense, but tremendously beneficial in helping us understand each other on a level we wouldn't ordinarily explore.”
When they are in the womb, babies don’t seem to take our stress and anxiety personally. After birth, however, babies are so responsive to our feelings that their bodies may contract if we are stressed and constricted. This sensitivity can cause digestive cramping and unsettled responses in their bodies. Being gentle with ourselves and allowing for our imperfections is important for settling our babies. Honoring the deep wisdom and high level of consciousness from which our babies are emerging can help us to create an aware environment that allows our babies to adapt to life outside the womb.
Babies being born these days seem more highly evolved than in the past, perhaps because our expectations of their wisdom, compassion and enlightened awareness are growing and they are not closing down as readily to fit our assumptions of their limitations. Parents who connect with their unborn baby don’t perceive the baby in abstract concepts, but rather, as a clearly felt, bodied being. Even cynical parents have the ability to feel, imagine, visualize and express who their unborn children are on a soul level. Parents form a connection with their unborn baby because they want to, because they already love their baby. Even when they are not yet consciously aware of this love, they create the connection.
Parents are often incredulous at how authentic their baby feels when they are prompted to visualize the baby. They are invariably awed by their baby’s compassion, especially if their behavior has been unsupportive of the pregnancy. Parents might visualize their baby as taking a symbolic form, yet the form the child takes always holds an aspect of who the baby really is at a deep level of its being. It is a rare parent that does not visualize their child as unconditionally wise and loving.
As Lisa said of her soul session with her baby, “It gave me the space to express and explore and connect and move and dance and be centered and feel moments of deep connection with my baby and experience her wisdom and beauty, this being filled with love.”
The more we collectively expect our babies to be wise and wonderful, the more they become so; we can only watch, a little awestruck, as the wisdom of our children blossoms and expresses itself. Pre-verbal communication is similar to animal communication; babies understand and respond to the language of projected symbols and images from our minds. Using active imagination to figure out our baby’s needs or to show our baby love often has excellent results. After birth, a sleeping baby will often smile if we consciously send it feelings that include not only our thoughts, but also images and colors that remind us of love.
Our babies have a primal, instinctual desire for tenderness, for safety and for food. As parents we have an intrinsic and essential need to protect them, to provide for them and to love them more deeply than we have ever loved anyone or anything before. Their sensory antennae are sensitive and alert to our love. Coming into resonance with our unborn babies through opening our hearts to love, we get to deeply “see” life through the eyes of our newborns—and from that perspective life looks sparkling, fresh and very alive.
With a three-year-old, a 21-month-old and 27 weeks pregnant with my third baby, I had a strong sense that I was ignoring the growing baby inside me—poor thing would only get noticed when I finally managed to sit down at seven o'clock after the chaos of dinner, bath, bottles, books and bed, when he or she gave me a full blown kick in my ribs. I had read a lot about communicating with your unborn child and the process really appealed to me, although it felt a bit “hippie dippy.”
With an open mind and heart, and a dash of skepticism, I arrived for my session with Robyn. She explained that I was not going to be hypnotized or put into a trance or anything like that, but that she would simply help me to relax and give my imagination a chance to let go.
First she asked me to imagine or remember, then describe a place where I felt calm and safe. She asked me to think of the colors, textures and smells of this place. This was a great way of getting me into the right mental space to let my imagination go. Robyn then led me through a series of questions, asking me to describe any images and feelings that came into my mind. At first she asked me about my body and then she focused on the baby.
At this point I realized I was not going to hear a little voice telling me things about itself, as I had naively expected, but that “talking” to my unborn baby meant recognizing feelings—feelings I had about being a mom for the third time, feelings about my own mother, feelings about this child, feeling about what this child was like and what this child would bring to our chaotic little family.
My sense of who this child was, was very strong—a wise, old soul that would bring balance, calm and “rootedness” to our family. It also felt like I knew this child already—that the birth would be like meeting an old friend of mine.
I left the session deeply moved, feeling connected to my baby, feeling very calm and really looking forward to welcoming this baby to our family.
First Published in Midwifery Today Spring 2011. Robyn Sheldon is a midwife and natural birth consultant. She holds a deep respect for the significance of birth as a means of transformation and for its impact on the newborn psyche. Robyn’s book, The Mama Bamba Way: The Power and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth, was published by Findhorn Press in 2010.