Originally Posted by CI Mama
I don't think there's any "one thing" that determines someone's temperament. I see temperament/personality as a complex stew of biological and environmental factors, plus something else (karma? divine intervention? whole-is-bigger-than-sum-of-the-parts something? I don't really know what).
I tend to agree with you that theories of this kind are BS. There is a persistent strain of psychology that is intent on blaming the mother for anything "wrong" with the kid. This just looks like the latest variation on that theme.
I agree totally with your first paragraph quoted, CI Mama. Personality is MUCH more than the result of any one experience. And I firmly believe that all of our children come into our wombs with already being a 'person'--with a given nature (and possibly, as some religions claim, with a past-life set of circumstances to process in this life). Now, that given nature is going to be subject to influences, of course, in the way it's expressed--but what some babies find upsetting, others might enjoy--or just don't much respond to it, one way or another.
But I don't think, in this case, that anyone is trying to blame mamas per se. I mean, the 'theory' is that birth itself traumatizes babies. The 'blame' goes to nature--to the very design of birth.
Obviously, if the mother has a difficult birth, and thus has more stress hormones running around in her system than usual, her particular birth could potentially impact her particular baby with 'trauma', than babies of easier births. So perhaps this theory could be used in some cases to implicate moms in their babies' trauma.
Anyway, NO! I most definitely do NOT believe that birth itself is traumatic for babies--not by design. We have to remember that so much of what presents difficulties to those of us already born, is about beliefs and expectations. We all know that two mamas could have quite similar births with quite similar providers and outward circumstances, and while one mama is traumatized, the other is happy enough...the main differences lying in what they hoped for and expected, their agreement or disagreements with the way care was handled. But Babies do not yet have much by way of expectations. What is, is simply what is. Babies, in general, also live so very much in the present...so let's say that while navigating mama's pelvis during birth, there were bad moments--even some pain for baby (which by the way, I think is pretty unusual): as soon as that pain is gone, baby's chemistry shifts, all is well enough again. They are onto the present moment already, and generally not thinking about or reliving the moment of pain. When their chest is getting squeezed, it might not be comfortable but they don't need their torso to be free for breathing or digesting at that moment--so it is just a sensation, not necessarily judged as 'bad' because it's no threat.
Now of course, there CAN be real trauma for babies at birth--and it can effect them in body and mind/feelings, sometimes even for a long time. But right now I'm thinking of a birth I saw once: a fairly quick active labor with an experienced mama and dh. At the very end, there was a greater than average amount of squeeze on that baby's head and chest--delivery was slowish and sticky-ish. Baby was born very dark blue. Normal heart rate, but very blue and 'low response' (not 'none', but slow to start breathing/moving). Parents and mw gave that baby a lot of stim in the first couple minutes--such as firmly flicking the bottom of the baby's feet (surely it stung! and was repeated a few times in those minutes). Parents were quite certain that only such stim was needed and the baby did come around nicely. Parents continued their encouragement and also physical stim until baby was crying heartily--and rather than comforting her immediately, they let her cry (they were holding her of course, talking to her--but saying 'that's great, you cry now, that's what we need'). Anyway--baby pinked up, calmed down....and from that moment forward was the calmest happiest baby.
Anyway, from physiological signs, surely that birth was a little traumatic for baby. And still--NOT traumatic in the sense of a clinging distress, baby-PTSD, nothing like that. Parents kind of joked after, that it wasn't the peaceful birth they hoped for--but hey, life is sometimes a bit rough and that's the way it is--the point is to move on through it. And even that, I believe, had a positive effect on their baby's dealing with a couple of really uncomfortable minutes during birth/after: THEY were not traumatized, not for themselves OR on their baby's behalf. Because they were never distressed by it, no one passed along the biochemicals of distress (through the milk, or their pheromones...) nor any other behaviors of distress. Because for them, it was just 'baby's first big adventure--happily achieved in spite of some scary moments', they did not communicate anything but the calm, joyous love that any baby benefits from. And baby, being a baby, just moved on as babies do so well--having every reason for contentment in the present.
Birth, I think, is meant to be stimulating to babies--in positive, health-serving ways. But to say that it is necessarily and by design 'traumatic' to babies just has no basis in fact whatsoever. Trauma can occur for some babies, yes--and that is due either to unusual factors of mama's birth (natural/unavoidable) or caused by poor care for mama/baby (which is a very big topic--not for this discussion).
As some have pointed out, a mama might be pretty traumized by a difficult birth--and yet babies can come out peacefully and ready for the world anyway.
Porcelina--I hope you will encourage your mom to shift the focus of her studies! Having more thoughtful psychotherapists studying birth trauma for moms and babies can be a very good thing, IMO. But I don't believe that any moms/babies are going to be helped by promoting a theory that birth is inherently traumatic. Now, studying the factors that CAN make for the experience of trauma, that would be great
In fact, you can pm me if your mom would like to talk to a birth professional about this topic in physiological and psychological terms...and a mom of 6 with anecdotes to share, too