Being Born Caesarean: Physical, Psychosocial and Metaphysical Aspects
Only in the past 80 to 100 years have there been appreciable numbers of people walking on the earth without having been through the hitherto universal human experience of labor and delivery, the trip down the birth canal. In 1882 advances in surgical techniques made caesarean delivery a reasonably safe procedure for both the mother and the child. Before that, most of the mothers died. Now, a little over 100 years later, seems an appropriate time to look at the psychological, social and spiritual aspects of the experience of being born caesarean, especially in light of recent research1,2 that shows the importance of the birth experience in formation of self image and world view.
(compiled jointly by Jane English and Timothy West)
1. Feher, Leslie (1980). The psychology of birth. New York: Continuum. Good descriptions of personality traits associated with different kinds of birth. Interpretations are limited by its author's Freudian, mechanistic conceptual framework. This is a basic resource, one of the first to look at the psychological effects of different birth processes in a systematic way. A mainstream, accepted text in the field and, as such, a good resource around which to build further research.
2. Grof, Stanislav (1976). Realms of the human unconscious. New York: Dutton. A pioneering work that maps the progressively deeper layers of the psyche: personal history, perinatal experience and the transpersonal. Includes a detailed map of the relations between a person's vaginal birth experience and their later personality traits. A basic text in the field of perinatal psychology and its implications for subsequent development.
3. Dickie, Marilyn (1988). Caesarean births: Different doorways to life. Master's thesis, Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, MA. Important research. Dickie follows three main caesarean trends from the anecdotal literature: lack of interpersonal boundaries, difficulties making plans, and dependency. She found that in all three of these areas, non-labor caesareans had statistically significant deviations from a vaginally born sample in their responses to a questionnaire. She includes numerous suggestions about how to improve on her methodology which can be of help to future researchers in the field.
4. McCracken, Dennis (1989). Caesarean personality traits. Doctoral dissertation, The Professional School of Psychology, San Francisco, CA. A recent piece of research that did not find correlations between certain personality constructs and non-labor caesarean birth. Includes a good discussion on the confounding variables that may be involved with survey-based research on caesarean birth. A fine collection of background material and rationales for hypotheses concerning the caesarean-born. This study is invaluable in determining what psychological tests will detect the caesarean "difference." Results imply that caesareans may compensate to hide their differences in a vaginally born culture.
5. West, Timothy (1992), private communication regarding doctoral dissertation research proposal, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA. Research in progress on the existence of "caesarean differences." Considers the possibly destructive attempts to fit caesarean functioning and world view into the structure of majority (vaginal) culture, in the research methods themselves as well as in society in general.
6. English, Jane (1985). Different doorway: Adventures of a caesarean-born. Mount Shasta, CA: Earth Heart. An anecdotal account of a caesarean-born woman's journey of self-discovery. The work includes memories, dreams, and a chronological account of a ten-year psychotherapeutic process that directly addresses her experience of being born non-labor caesarean. The last section contains interviews conducted by the author with other caesarean-born individuals. A source of subjective accounts of caesarean birth's psychological effects over the life cycle. Transpersonal values are kept in the foreground throughout the book.
7. Donovan, Bonnie (1977). The caesarean birth experience. Boston: Beacon Press. This book covers the caesarean experience from the medical recovery aspect rather than its psychological or transpersonal aspects. It is a basic, mainstream perspective on caesarean birth.
8. Mayer, Linda D. (1977). The caesarean (Revolution. Edmonds, WA: Chas Franklin Press. A guide to caesarean birth's medical aspects and to the mother's experience. A handbook for parents.
9. Mutryn, Cynthia (1989). Psychosocial impact of caesarean section on families: A literature review. Technical paper presented at the Fourth International Congress on Pre and Perinatal Psychology, Aug. 3-6. An overview of research findings concerning attitudes of families toward their caesarean-born children, with focus on the mothers.
10. Marieskind, Helen (1979). An evaluation of caesarean section in the United States. Washington: Dept of HEW. A goldmine of statistics on caesarean birth.
11. Pundel, J.P. (1969). L'histoire de l'operation cesarienne. Brussels: Presses Academiques Europiennes. An excellent comprehensive history of caesarean birth. Many illustrations, good sections on mythology and legend. In French, but worth looking at just for the illustrations.
12. Affonso, Dyanne (1981). The impact of caesarean birth. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis. This book is written for medical professionals, but is easily read by others. Covers in detail the medical techniques of caesarean birth and also some of the psychology of the mother's experience. An excellent background source covering the caesarean operation and its medical implications.
13. Montagu, Ashley (1971). Touching. New York: Harper and Row, pp. 48-58. Brief mention of the caesarean born person's experience with touch.
14. Hidas, Andrew (1981). Psychotherapy and surrender: A psychospiritual perspective, J. Transpersonal Psychol., 13, No 1, p. 27.
Jane English, Ph.D.
Jane English was born non-labor caesarean in 1942 in Boston. Thirteen years of exploring the psychological, social and spiritual aspects of being caesarean-born led her to writing and publishing Different Doorway in 1985. Her black and white photos of nature illustrate six books for major publishers including a best selling translation of the Too Te Ching. Her other self-published book is Childlessness Transformed: Stories of Alternative Parenting. She is also a Ph.D. physicist. Address correspondence to the author at P.O. Box 7, Mount Shasta, CA 96067.