Part 1: Guinea Pig Number Two
All of us experience distress before we are even born. The events of conception, gestation, and delivery, and our emotional and physical experiences in our mother’s womb, are all absolutely necessary preparation for life after birth; yet if their effects are strong enough they can be traumatizing, holding us back later without our having any consciousness of the source of our limitations or pain.This series of articles will describe my personal experience of identifying and addressing my prenatal trauma, and the amazing effects of healing that trauma. I anticipate that you will recognize yourself in these stories.
I met Dr. Grant McFetridge in the mid-1990s. He had called me three times over a space of two years with an invitation to learn a recently developed healing modality called Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT, today also known as Tapping. I declined his first two invitations, but after the third (three is my number for paying attention), I attended his one-day course.
The EFT course opened my eyes to a new world of healing. As we were chatting afterward, he said he thought I might be interested in a research project he had recently designed. He had been talking with people who had had peak experiences such as a flash of profound awareness or wisdom, a momentary sense of deep connection with other-than-human beings, an awareness of flows of energy moving through and around us, or an ability to see profound beauty in all people and all things. His theory was that ongoing peak states of awareness are available to us, but these states are blocked by traumas that occur before we are even born. He invited me to join him in investigating his theory and finding ways to heal the injuries that can occur before birth. He had checked my background with people who were my students, and he hoped I would be able to help him.
Navigating a Different World
Grant asked me to help him explore the part of our life’s journey that begins with the creation of the sperm cell and the egg cell and ends with birth. I agreed. I was interested in exploring life in the womb firsthand, and in the potential benefits of applying EFT to healing the trauma and injury that may occur before birth. My official (tongue-in-cheek) designation was Guinea Pig Number 2.
Initially the biggest challenge for me was believing that the work was possible at all. This was new territory for both of us, but we soon discovered once we had blazed the trails, they were easy to find and follow. I now believe that these techniques can be learned by almost anyone.
Over time, we developed a routine. I would enter a deep meditative state, and he would verbally guide me to one of the specific developmental events he was interested in. The first ones we went to were conception, implantation in the wall of the womb, and the first contraction of labor. I would describe what I saw and felt while he recorded, made notes, and occasionally took photos. He would often ask questions or provide explicit instructions.
In order to access the locations in space and time that he had in mind, I would need four distinct skills. The first three were moving my consciousness to a different location (in this case, my mother’s womb!); travelling backward in time more than fifty years to my own conception and gestation; and communicating with organisms whose consciousness would be very different from mine: sperm cell, egg cell, and growing fetus. I was already comfortable with these through years of nature-based shamanic training and experience.
The fourth requirement initially appeared more difficult. I was to take on the first-person perspective of the egg, sperm, or embryo/fetus. In other words, I would attempt to perceive through the consciousness of that organism to see what it saw, feel what it felt, respond as it responded. I would not attempt to control it, but experience as an adult what it experienced in the womb in a fashion that was so intimate it would be my experience as well.
During the next several years, Grant and I got together from time to time at various locations in Canada and the United States. We would often work for ten hours a day, and I might be continuously in an altered state for as much as five days. The work was exciting because we were in territory that as far as we knew had never been explored before. It was also rewarding because it felt like we were making significant discoveries nearly every day. We felt like trailblazers.
Once in a while someone has the privilege of being a true trailblazer. I did not know at the time whether this was true for me; I thought it may have been more that I was like the first person to go through a landscape after a snowfall, only to realize after the snow melts that a trail has already been made by many earlier feet. Years later, as I was writing the book Born Whole (the full story of these journeys), I discovered accounts by people who had independently explored parts of this same territory. It was affirming to discover that their conclusions about prental tramua were similar to mine, but I found no one who had done what we did. It was exhilarating to realize that Grant and I truly did create and blaze trails into previously unexplored territory — that we truly were trailblazers.
We followed the timeline of fetal development in our research, beginning with my pre-conception identities: sperm cell and egg cell. In separate journeys, I re-experienced my own conception (it still feels odd to say that) as though I were the sperm, then the egg. I experienced implantation as a zygote in the wall of my mother’s womb. Nine months later, the most challenging stage of all: my own birth.
In the next segments of this series I will describe the wonder, the pain, and the healing of these experiences.