An article of mine from Breathe Magazine
In response to your request for a craniosacral approach to the first breath, I have scribbled some thoughts down based on knowledge and experience of this work.
I am a registered craniosacral therapist (CST) specialising in psycho-emotional, transpersonal work and mothers and babies.
Through my various clinics I have had a variety of experiences, I hope some of which may be useful for your magazine… the article starts here.
As a CST one of the first concepts we are introduced to is the “primary respiration”. This was discovered by an osteopath called William Karner-Sutherland who in his student days was observing the temporal bones and noticed that the edges of these bones were bevelled like the gills of a fish as if to breathe. The primary breath is not the respiratory breath….it is a fluid tide which organises everything including the respiratory breath. It is a fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid up and down the dural tube. Within it are contained many different rhythms all of which serve a different purpose yet all inter-connect together. This primary breath comes about through a deeper layer in the system of the body, which is known in the cranial world as core Intelligence. This acts as a “conductor” and “creator” within the human being… Enabling all regulatory systems to perform their individual functions as if in a huge ballet. A simple understanding of how powerful this is is how for example whilst performing its dance it notices that there could be a little more blood in the system and it will then initiate maybe a conversion from bone to blood and vice versa. Nothing is static within… even seemingly solid structures are breathing sand being breathed by the core Intelligence initiating the primary breath.
So, how does this relate to babies, respiratory breathing and birth experience?
Although there are many theories as I sure you are aware as to the exact mechanics of labour, I would like to acknowledge the part of this wondrous time which is a Mystery. In my experience, the Mystery evolved from the Knowing of the core Intelligence within as to the how, why and wherefore. What I have palpated over the years is when the process has been allowed to be natural, unadulterated, the mother has been allowed to be resourced, supported exactly as she needs it, the baby has been acknowledged for its part in the duet, the birth has been vaginal allowing the baby to feel its edges for the first time, receiving the greatest massage it will ever have!!!! Its reception into the world has been whole, the fluids of the interchange in the umbilical chord were allowed to complete in their own time, the baby was kept with Mum and all the “necessary” weighing, testing, cleaning delayed, to allow attachment, bonding and it to find the nipple and feed, the baby and Mum generally have a good experience as the knowing in the whole process has been acknowledged as greater than any other need which allows babe and Mum to Be in the Intelligence, and therefore safe.
O.k., o.k, I here you say, what about the real world. Well, joyfully this IS real, just not generally the experience of woman giving birth. The truth is that we live in a time, which is obsessed with screening, scanning, and prodding, which is where the harm starts. Even in a seemingly innocent comment from an obstetrician at say 26 weeks of “oh, its lying breach”!! can set up a fear response in Mum which baby registers and then gets puzzled as to what it has done wrong… yes, babies think this early. It loses connection with Intelligence and knowing and from then I can pretty much say with confidence that this can lead to an interventionist birth. At 26 weeks, this is not important, there is still room for babe to move, somersault to its hearts content and should not be interrupted in its play. From the moment fear is introduced into the proceedings, something changes. This can set up a devastating chain of events in the mother, who can end up having a birth she didn’t want and seemingly prepared to not have… which sets up anger, betrayal, sadness and gets carried in her tissues as she tries to mother her infant, who until the age of seven is connected in psychically and energetically to her umbilically, therefore gets it too.
Science has developed many wonderful pregnancies of its own including the way of induction, c/section and this leads to science needing to try its developments out. Although in all Consciousness we are linked and therefore nothing ever happens without permission and consent in Truth, going through a birth experience which includes any kind of intervention can have devastating effects on the individual. Most commonly attachment disorders, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual ill health can result many years later and not be connected to our experience in-utero and birth.
I have had clients who have been party to awesome experiences of healthcare in the mental health field, yet on being questioned by me in session, reveal that the membranes were artificially broken,(ARM) which led to induction and them not being here, fully present for the first two years of life. Another common symptom of babies born through induction is a feeling if “running before they could walk”. They find it difficult to feel truly safe with people, trust is hard, and are constantly developing strategies to cope and appear normal!!!! Caesarean birth babies become fascinated with doorways, burying under things as children, looking for ways to create the Inherent knowing and experience… wanting to feel resistance and massage. Forceps babies as children can become seemingly stubborn as they refuse to be pulled through life and not getting things their way when they want it becomes a trauma for them. (The Intelligence at work trying to offer healing of the pattern.)
So in working cranio-sacrally with the mothers and babies, I am seeking to find out how the baby and its mother have been able to retain connection to their Inherent Health.. the knowing within. If the answer is affirmative through palpation and listening, I know the chances of healing whatever experience is completely possible and may also be quick. If dis-connection has occurred, then I first need to encourage re-connection through palpation into the physical, energetic and psychic layers of Consciousness within the mother and baby. It is also worth mentioning that a baby may feel their birth to have been a positive, enriching experience and the mother feel it to have been the opposite!! Likewise the mother may feel it was a great experience and the baby could be feeling this was absolutely not the case!! It is amazing how often a parent will bring their baby to see me thinking it is the baby that needs assistance, however it is more often the case that it is the parent who needs the assistance.
I am also aware that the truth that babies know is expansion. In their physical body, the fontanelles are where the cranial bones have not fully grown. Babies therefore lack physical resistance and boundaries in their system so it is important to not focus too much on the on the expansive physicality of a baby but on connecting it to its Primary Respiration and Intelligence.
Another need in the practitioner is to allow the baby to See You, not to fix our own gaze on the baby. Anyone who has been fixed on with the eyes of a baby will know how vulnerable a position this can be as it can feel very exposing to the Practitioner. However, allowing the baby to see you will allow it to KNOW its Self. It is important to stay in there as a practitioner, (anyone who has been fixed on by a baby will know what I am talking about!!), let them see you, they don’t see right or wrong. It is their need to orientate in the human world. If you are lucky enough to be able to stay in, then the rewards are huge. It can take 1 minute, or 10 minutes. You will be witness to a miracle. The same seemingly unsettled baby, will either take a huge body breath and totally relax its body, it may have an explosion into its nappy or just reward you with totally resting in your arms, feeling you to be the person safe enough for it to come in to its Self.
Even if it is not possible to heal at birth, the Intelligence carries on finding ways to express itself and watching children play will show you as an adult exactly what it needs… It is a question of whether we are able to read their language.
So to answer your question as to is the respiratory breath pre-programmed in utero, I feel the answer is no … however the conditions under which it happens are already in experience and can limit its expression and fullness. How the baby was conceived and welcomed at that point is also a part of its history palpable in its system. Babies hold up mirrors to their parents showing where they need to heal, it is therefore essential to know about the history of the parents and even the grandparents in working with a newborn, some babies carry generations of pain and are therefore the essential pivot in healing not only themselves but the family too. Is the first breath important as to governing our experience and believe systems…. I feel this is a yes AND it is not the whole answer, we have experience in our tissues and cellular memory into which we take our first breath. the Primary Inhalation which begins to appear around the 2 week gestation… although the slower tides and flows are already in action. The thing that underpins all Conciousnes and therefore Form has no beginning or end, it transpires, it does not expire. It just changes Form.