Energetically, I want to explore the idea of being “born too soon.” While each birth goes the way it is meant to go, and happens when it is meant to happen, the mother and child can carry emotional trauma around the event depending upon what occurs. I believe that our main goals for this lifetime are set in motion by the experiences of the womb, birth, and early childhood. Stating that a child is born too soon seems to imply that the birth is not just the way it was meant to be. When I reflect upon a baby being born too soon, I’m talking about an energetic and emotional pattern within a family system of children being born too soon. Let me explain. I always considered my pattern of giving birth to be very different from that of my mother and grandmother. I thought I had done it differently from all the other women in my family system and this puzzled me. Why me? – it seemed to be a logical question.
I received some profound insight in the first two days that followed a recent systemic constellation training and workshop in Los Angeles on chronic illness. I was fortunate to have a constellation placed for my family system by international facilitator Stephan Hausner from Germany, and I came to realize that my mother and I had a very similar energetic and systemic birthing pattern. While my mother’s children were born too soon in the sense of being born close together, mine were born too soon, as in premature labour. When we look at the dynamics that occur within our family system, we do have to put on our metaphoric or symbolic thinking cap to fully understand the significance of certain events or situations. Being born too soon can have various meanings.
My Family of Origin
I was the second of five children in my family of origin and at the time of my birth I had a 31-month old brother. So far so good with a nicely spaced birth you might say, and then the pattern shifted.
The brother following me is just 10 ½ months younger than I am, which is often referred to as Irish twins. I just learned about this term about a year ago and it felt like a term of endearment. Since I have plenty of Irish ancestry in me, I do not look upon the term in a negative way as many do, considering the early usage of the term. Originally, the term Irish twins was used in a denigrating way in the 1800s, as a slur about the large families of Irish Catholic immigrants to North America and other regions of the world. Well, I was born at a time when the birth control option was abstinence. Knowing how close my brother and I are to one another in life, I use the term Irish twins with affection. We are the same age for about a month and a half every year and we joke that we are twins. When we were young living in a small town in Saskatchewan with a 6 room schoolhouse for all 12 grades, my brother and I were in the same classroom.
When children are born very close together they may be the same age as their sibling for part of the year, or they may be born in the same calendar year. Sometimes they end up in the same classroom in school, which is likely to be very difficult for the younger one because they are developmentally almost a year younger than their sibling. It might set up a competition or rivalry for life. This competition mirrors their early need for attention from mom that may not have been met for either of them.
After my second brother was born, another brother arrived 17 months later, and in some circles that is again considered to be Irish twins. If not Irish twins than we fit the next sibling grouping. When three children are under the age of three they are called Irish triplets and we were three in less than 28 months. I had a very busy mother raising all of us without an electric washer or dryer for a number of years. I can’t imagine getting all those little mouths fed in a timely manner let alone the number of cloth diapers needing to be changed and washed at any given time. My older brother was still four years old when there were four of us siblings born, so that is close together. There were three baby cribs in use at the same time.
In the era of my birth, which was the baby boom, it was common for families to have many children close together in age so this wasn’t greatly unusual. My mother used to say that we three close together siblings were three peas in a pod because we all played together nicely and got along so well. Interestingly, since I study numerology as well, and love the synchronicity of dates and anniversaries, the three of us all have birthdates that total to the same number. There is every sense that our births were as they were meant to be. Of course, I can’t forget to add my younger sister who was lovingly welcomed 5 years later.
Emotional Response Patterns
It seems to me that my mother would have been feeling a bit overwhelmed much of the time with the work involved in the raising of four young children under 5 years of age. We have learned that our childhood emotional response strategies develop from the early relationship with our mother, and with children close in age, some of them tend to become a bit independent for survival. Emotionally, I did become independent to a fault. Learning how to ask for help is a challenge even today.
When children are born close together, the older baby is only a few months old at most when the woman discovers she is expecting another child. The woman must have a thought or two about another pending birth being too soon when she learns she is pregnant again. When we look at families systemically, and we want to understand the emotional energy that an individual carries within themselves out of childhood, we often consider what is going on in the life of the mother when the child is conceived, when she carries the child in the womb, when the child is born, and the first few years of early childhood.
We also look at what was going on the generation before for the maternal grandmother when she is carrying mother in her womb, because when mother (the baby) is just 5-months gestational age in the womb, she has all the eggs in her ovaries in place for her lifetime. Pregnancy and early childhood emotional processing flows from the mother to the child. Did grandmother live through a war, a famine, a family tragedy, or other hardship? What maternal grandmother experiences emotionally in life, and if it is suppressed, repressed, or unexpressed by grandmother, it is felt by mother in the womb and all of mother’s potential future children as well. This is referred to as transgenerational trauma.
In my situation, both my parents were born during the height of the depression – the dirty thirties in the province of Saskatchewan. Here is an excerpt that describes this era:
The province of Saskatchewan experienced extreme hardship during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Grasshoppers, hail and drought destroyed millions of acres of wheat. The drought caused massive crop failures, and Saskatchewan became known as a dust bowl. The term “Dirty Thirties” described the prairies, creating pessimistic perceptions and negative stereotypes about life in Saskatchewan. In 1928, the net farming income was $363 million; by 1933, it dropped to $11 million; and by 1937, two-thirds of the farm population of Saskatchewan was destitute. […] While the federal and provincial governments struggled to address the desperate conditions of poverty and unemployment in Saskatchewan, aid came from across the country. Media accounts alerted the rest of Canada to the hardships faced by farmers: photographs of massive dust storms, huge Russian thistles, and the bleached bones of Saskatchewan cows dominated Canadian newspapers. (Excerpt retrieved from http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/great_depression.html)
For my grandparents, keeping all of their children fed, clothed, and healthy must have been a concern. Upon reflection, I can see where this environmental trauma may have sat in the cells of my body for most of my life, guiding many of my life decisions. Through research, it is now understood that the pre- and perinatal environment of the mother significantly impacts the life of the child. One way this occurs is through epigenetics, with the response to environmental trauma shifting the expression of the genes of the pregnant woman, sometimes impacting the wellbeing of the child for decades.
When a pregnant woman suddenly experiences emotional stress or trauma, such as discovering that she is pregnant again after just giving birth, the mother’s attention shifts away from the baby that is a few months old onto the baby she carries in her womb, or perhaps her attention goes to the baby that is born and the baby in the womb does not feel welcome. In reality, the mother is caught between the two children unable to give either of them the attention that she wants to give them. Over the past few years, engaging in my own emotional healing work, I had the sense that the shift occurred when my mother went off to the hospital for a week to deliver my brother when I was 10 ½ months old, however, after the constellation in LA I now realize that the shift may have occurred 9 months earlier, or at least when my mother discovered she was pregnant again.
Separation and Bonding Wounds
A young child can experience an earlier separation from mother as if she had died. Mother suddenly disappears from life at 10 ½ months and then reappears a week later. A sense of abandonment may have set in and perhaps feelings of sorrow and grief. The young child is so excited to see her mom again upon her return, after an absence that seemed like forever, and she reaches for mom to pick her up. The child feels hurt when mom cannot pick her up. The child realizes that mom is busy holding another baby. The emotional response pattern that is set in motion is “I’m alone. I have to take care of myself now.”
This loss of emotional attention is something we carry all of our lives in the cells of our bodies until we do the emotional healing work to shift this response pattern into a more mature emotional response. It is vital to remember that we look back without any blame or judgement. We look back to see what was emotionally and energetically present. We look back knowing that each of us did the best we could considering the twists and turns life threw our way, and this pertains especially toward our parents and grandparents. Our parents could only pass onto us emotionally what they learned or experienced emotionally from their parents.
Too Much or Too Little?
Our energetic character style tends to develop early in life depending on whether we unconsciously perceived getting enough energetically from our mother or not? Do you feel that you got enough of mother, or too little or too much, energetically? When you are in relationship with others, do you tend to draw people in and then push them away when they come close because you feel overwhelmed, or do you prefer to be alone much of the time and then begin to feel isolated, eventually making an effort to put up with others being around for a short time. When children are born very close together in age, the woman will struggle emotionally to give them enough attention. If there are other children, this emotional sense of abandonment will be even more exaggerated. The older child of those born very close together may get the message that they need to grow up fast and be responsible beyond their years. The child may take on a persona that is overly responsible. He or she may have the sense that they were pushed off mother’s lap too soon to make room for the next child. In response, the child becomes highly independent and may become an overachiever or perfectionist to be seen in the family system.
The younger of children born very close together may not fully feel welcome. They may have the sense that they are an “oops” child, a mistake, or have a sense of not being wanted, resulting from those early moments when mother finds out she is pregnant again so soon. You may have the feeling that you didn’t get enough emotionally from your mother, or you may feel that you got too much, which can happen if mother feels like she didn’t get enough from her mother and overcompensates when she becomes a mother to do it differently. Many new parents in the past few decades have gone the way of overcompensating in their own parenting style, because they didn’t feel like they got enough from their parents. I believe this may be the energetic dynamic that creates helicopter parents.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, if things were not ideal with your parents, or you feel your parents didn’t meet your expectations in some way, then you might want to do some emotional healing work for yourself by setting up a ritual to honour your mother or your father. Once you are an adult you can no longer expect anything from your parents, and if you do, you will likely struggle in life in some way. As an adult you need to go seek help for yourself if you need outside guidance to transform something about your life. You are encouraged to develop the capacity for self-parenting, self-care, and self-love. In a ritual, you might say something like this, “Dear Mom/Dad, I honour your love and your pain.” When we gain compassion for the emotional journeys of our parents, and accept their love just the way they show it to us, we are taking a step towards emotional wellbeing. This does not mean we have to forget anything bad that happened to us in childhood, however, to move forward in life we are the ones who have to shift.
Born Too Soon
Now earlier I mentioned that I thought I had done life differently than my mother; however, I now realize that energetically I did life the same. Like you mom, I had my children too soon. My first son put me into labour at 7-months gestation and I delivered him a few minutes after midnight about fifteen hours later. As I reflect back in time, I think having a child born prematurely, after a relatively healthy pregnancy, put me into shock. My life became a whirlwind of machines and warning alarms. There was nothing warm and snuggly about it. My son spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator, which has a huge emotional impact on a child’s life. The child comes into the world and learns very rapidly that they are on their own in the noisy world of a neonatal unit. Mother is emotionally and physically not there. While I could touch my son’s tiny body, there was no snuggling for several weeks. My son arrived when he was supposed to arrive, however, it definitely felt like he was born too soon for me. I didn’t even get to go to my prenatal classes to learn how to huff and puff (breathe properly) for delivery. The premature birth of my son, and his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy (CP) fourteen months later transformed my world in many significant, amazing and profound ways. It is an understatement to say that in an instant my life was set in motion in an entirely new direction.
My second son put me into labour when I was five months pregnant, which definitely felt way too soon. I had just found out my first son had CP the month before, so premature labour again greatly increased my stress level and worry for the wellbeing of my second child. We were able to hold off the delivery of my second son until I was eight months pregnant, however, those last three months were full of turmoil. My two oldest sons are 20 months apart in age. Like the situation with Irish twins, I had to use a double stroller for several years. A few years later, my youngest son put me into labour when I was six months pregnant, and once again it was the situation of a baby attempting to be born too soon. At the time, I thought I did it very differently than my mother, all of these pregnancy issues which she didn’t experience, and yet, I did energetically do it the same. With each pregnancy that I carried emotional trauma, my energetic attention would have shifted away from the baby to be born, and also from the children who were already born. In fact, in all likelihood I was still carrying the emotional distancing – the independence and the feeling I had to take care of myself – that was set in place when I was only a few months old, and I continued to live it with my children. I have learned that it is never too late to shift unhealthy relationship dynamics into healthier relationships.
In my family system, it was the pattern for women to have children born too soon. My maternal grandmother had her first four children within 5 years and 1 month, which was very similar to my mother. She went on to have 10 children in total. My birth situation was not very different from my mother’s as she was born 28 months after her brother and 17 ½ months later her sister arrived. On my father’s side of the family, the first 4 children were born in 5 years and 8 months, with 6 children in total. He was born 20 months after his nearest sibling.
I figure that when my first marriage did not last, and I didn’t start having children around age twenty like my mother and grandmother, the energetic knowing field that surrounds us all had to become very creative so that I could live the same patterns as those who came before me. Often, that is how we fit or belong in our family system. I experienced premature labour in all of my pregnancies so my babies would be born too soon. It is important to remember that these emotional holding patterns in the body can be shifted at any time in life. We can learn to show love to our parents and grandparents in new healthy ways, rather than living an emotional response pattern out of blind love and loyalty that does not serve us well.
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