Int’l Congress Spotlight: "Echoes from the Womb"

We wanted to offer our newsletter readers a glimpse of what inspires the 2011 Congress keynote speakers towards the work that has led them to the APPPAH podium. So here it is, in their own words: In his Saturday keynote "Kids in Chaos: Recognizing the Consequences of Impaired Attachments and Fostering Resilience," Gabor Maté outlines the mental health implications of early childhood emotional loss, whether due to abuse, trauma, or the loss of parental attunement with the child owing to stress on the parenting environment: "My impetus for learning about child development and what threatens it came from my observations as a physician and recognizing the links between adult outcomes and childhood experiences. Also looking at my own life and my behaviors and dysfunction and finding the sources of that, and then thirdly, as a parent, the impact I had on my children in the long-term. I find it so far almost impossible to drop that sense of guilt around what I did or didn't do as a parent when my kids were small. If anyone had ever asked me to throw myself into a fire for my child, I'd have done it. Unfortunately, no one ever asked me to throw myself into a fire. My child just needed me to be present. I can deal with the guilt in a healthy way, but so far I haven't been able to make it disappear. A way in which I've transformed it is to do the kind of teaching and work that I do in the world." Bruce Lipton's talk, "The Biology Of Belief: The Science Of Personal And Global Transformation," will illuminate connections among biology, psychology, spirituality and our imminent evolutionary upheaval, including how pre- and perinatal programming shapes our genetics, behavior, and thoughts, and thus the conditions of our body and our place in the world: "I like to ask an audience, 'Go back to when you fell head over heels in love with someone,' and I ask them, 'Were you healthy?' And of course the answer is 'Yes, very healthy.' 'Did you have energy?' 'Of course, lots of energy.' 'Was life so beautiful that you couldn't wait for the next day?' 'Yes!' That's the equivalent of living heaven on earth. The most important thing is that it wasn't an accident, it was a creation—you did that. And if you understand the mechanism of how you did that, then it could be a way of life every day. The only reason we don't all have this honeymoon experience as a way of life is because it was programmed out of us. The interesting part is, I've been living this experience for so many years in a row with my partner, and the fact is, it was not an accident, there was a knowingness to it. This is heaven. I can't wait to get out there and enjoy it, but I've got a lot of people to tell about it before I can sit down and enjoy it that easily, so they start propagating it as well, then all of a sudden it will just be here—heaven!" Journalist Annie Murphy Paul will speak about bringing the importance of prenatal life to the mainstream in her book and Time magazine cover story about "Origins: The Important First Nine Months of Life," written while she was pregnant with her second child: "I'd been keeping tabs on a lot of interesting, varied types of research in different fields, and slowly I came to realize that many of the most exciting and surprising findings were clustered around the prenatal period. That realization clicked in for me around the same time that I realized that I had a lot of personal questions as well, about what makes us the way we are, about the nature vs. nurture debate, about how much my behaviors and even feelings could affect my offspring before they were born. So all those things came together when I realized that this was a rich, engaging topic that I could explore as both a science writer and a pregnant woman. I also became conscious of how critical it is that everyone in society—not just pregnant women themselves—feels the responsibility to promote and enable healthy pregnancies. This is the next generation of citizens, students, and workers that we're talking about—something that should concern us all!" Michael Trout will speak on "The Narrative Of The Infant: Why Our Story Matters," proposing a clinical model for helping parents develop a series of stories that will fill in some of the blanks, and clarify some of the perceptions, allowing their children to work out more coherent stories of their early experiences: "I was born into a grieving house. My very young mom treated her grief by getting pregnant with me. My uncle had been captured as a WWII prisoner, and for nine months they waited for news. My grandparents finally received confirmation that their oldest boy (my mother's older brother) was dead, just days before I was born. My grandfather fell into a terrible depression, from which he was saved only by hours of holding me. This is my story, and it helps me understand a lot. Daniel Siegel has taught us that what happens to us is less important than the coherence of our narrative about it. I will explore with you how such coherent narratives can be developed to benefit children—particularly adoptees and foster children—whose histories may be unknown, or whose narratives may be garbled." In her talk "Where Is My Mother? Supporting Mother-Infant Attachment In The NICU," neonatal physician Raylene Phillips will describe the effects of separation during newborn hospitalization on infants and their mothers, explore ways to heal the wounds that inevitably result, and propose a model to care for premature and sick newborns with minimal mother-infant separation: "I experienced the effects of this separation as a new mother, when my firstborn son was observed in the newborn nursery for 24 hours before I was allowed to see him. After secretly wondering for years why there was such a disconnection with this son that was not present with my next two children, I learned about the sacredness of the first moments and hours after birth and what often happens when that time is interrupted. My passion for the importance of mother-infant attachment is the reason I went into neonatology—to find ways to help heal the wound that always occurs with the separation of mothers and infants in the NICU." Jeanne Ohm's talk, "Chiropractic Care for Safer, Easier Births," will address the potential physical and emotional stressors of birth on the infant and the chiropractic role in eliminating these contributing factors with care for the mother throughout pregnancy: "When I looked at APPPAH, I immediately felt akin to them, because, 'Wow, they're dealing w/ the emotional stress that a child goes through in birth!' I'm so tired of the perspective of, 'It's all about the mother, that she has nice lit candles and incense going in her room.' No, it's about the baby, it's really about the baby. I really appreciated APPPAH because they were recognizing the emotional stress that affects that baby from conception on, and certainly during birth. And I said, 'Yeah—and it's physical, emotional, chemical stress that subluxates a child, and it's physical, emotional, chemical stress that we help reduce with adjustments throughout pregnancy, on the mother, which then affects the baby, and steers her toward a more natural, trusting type of birth." Closing the conference on Sunday, Marcy Axness will speak about her new book, "Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers," and what savvy APPPAH-ites might call "physiological parenting"—fostering optimal growth-mode from before conception: "As an adoptee I've experienced a personal study of epigenetic influence on phenotype, which speaks to this central theme of what cultivates children's growth versus their defense posture. I was always tiny growing up—skinny, small-boned, flat-chested, with a meek voice and the metabolism of a hummingbird. This was challenging, living with a voluptuous adoptive mother who filled a room with her voice and personality. When I was 21, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to reunite with my birth mother, I anticipated meeting someone Audrey Hepburn-esque, in whose string-bean silhouette I would see the genesis of my own. I was stunned to meet a tall, "normal-sized" woman, zaftig even, with average bone structure. And a bustline! Years later, after a wonderful pregnancy, I had a daughter. As she was moving into adolescence, I started learning how a pregnant mother's stress can imprint its message of constraint on her developing fetus, eliciting defense-over-growth expression of genomic potential. My daughter is now a stunning 20-year-old woman who can fill up a room with her presence, her engaging openness, and her statuesque, curvy body. Call it "nature, nurture, and cup size'."