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Spring 2013

Maria João Pratt

of O nosso gravidez (Our pregnancy) and O nosso bebé (Our baby) magazines
Interviews Karlton Terry

1 : What is a baby?

KT:  A baby is a new human being whose life has begun about nine months before its birth. It has a body that it will learn to use, a brain that is very busy adapting the its new world outside the womb, it has emotions like fear and sadness and anger and happiness, and it even has certain tendencies––a personality waiting to arise. It is different in subtle ways from any other baby, and it is our job as loving parents and as professional baby practitioners to become more skilled at observing our babies to see who they are. If we can better determine what an individual baby needs it is usually quite easy to provide that need, and by doing so we support them to become empowered: more independent, more affectionate, more creative and more expressive. Old school approaches to deny babies what they need (feed them according to a clock instead of their hunger, try to make them shut up when they need to cry, try to put them on a routine or schedule that conflicts with their own inner rhythm) and make them conform to adult social structures frustrate babies and create aggravations that express as crying and temper tantrums. When a baby is understood and given what it needs, it actually cries less, is more satisfied, less demanding, and less unsettled because it knows it is loved and will get what it needs. These babies have much more patience than babies who become desperate because their true feelings and needs have been overlooked or denied.

MJP:  2 : Is the child a non-entity with his/her mother imprints on him/her or is the child an entity on his/her own right? In what way?

KT:  I guess, by this question you mean is a baby a non-entity, or even a prenate. No child is a non-entity. Even before birth each baby is a complete human being in its own right. This is easy to understand if you spend any time with a baby who was born early because of certain health emergency. For example, a baby who is born (or taken from the womb) at eight months gestation will have its own personality, a personality different from its mother and different from any other baby. It is a full human being with feelings and responses to its environment. It reacts to the world. It can see, and experience, and even smile and suck. Just because a baby is on the inside of the womb, and can't be seen and observed, does not mean that it is not a fully ratified human being.

Obviously each prenate is affected by its mother’s imprints. A baby who gestates inside a mother who is, for example, anxious, depressed, or compulsive will have to find a way to endure such environments. They are directly affected by the hormones and neuropeptides generated by the emotional states of the mother. They know about the emotional state of the mother in the same way as another might, a father or friend, by observing and experiencing the actions and expressions of the mother with the sense organs (hearing especially). But they also know about these states because the hormones and neuropeptides associated with the mother’s state are bio-chemically expressed in the mother’s body and carried in her blood through the placenta and directly into the baby’s body.

Therefore the baby has to deal with these aspects of the mother’s emotional state from within its own body as well. Prenates react to stress hormones and affect neuropeptides in different ways though. Let’s use the emotion of anger as an example. A baby born to a mother who was angry during the entire pregnancy will know anger. But it may not be an angry baby necessarily. It might be angry, but it may have adapted to its gestational life in a field of anger by becoming docile, defensive, or strongly independent. Unique adaptive behavior is the signature of each baby, and starts prenatally. Because we are human beings and because we develop these big human brains, we are more diverse and creative than the other creatures in the world. Anger is not a simple steady stream that flows with the same taste at the same rate and at the same time around the clock. There are different kinds of anger with different intensities at different times, and so prenates are required to negotiate a relationship with their mother’s psycho-emotional bio-chemical state based upon an on-going flow of life that probably has certain patterns which are known and can even be anticipated.

MJP:  3 : Is there a consistency in behavior before and after birth, i.e., is there a relationship between pre-and postnatal personalities?

KT:  Yes. Rudimentary behavior patterns are developed before birth. Most of our fundamental behaviors begin in the womb. How we eat, how we breathe (i.e., umbilical patterns of intake and outtake), how our basic metabolism functions, issues around survival, intimacy, health, and relationship all begin in the womb. The resultant behaviors underlie and influence all of our other behaviors.

MJP:  4 : Being 9 months in the womb, knowing his/her mother from inside (literally), is the child loaded with his/her mother’s physical, mental and emotional features? How can these affect the child?

KT:  Besides being its own unique being, each baby has had to deal with its mother’s mental and emotional features in its own way, as I have explained. No matter how independent and strong a baby has been, it still will have consequences from the prenatal time. For example, I have worked with adults who suffered a persistent semi-conscious emotional inhibition, such as fear or anxiety that they could not explain, and that had no apparent cause in their day-to-day lives.

Let’s use fear as an example because it is a basic and well-known feeling. Through regressive therapeutic processes it often comes to light that certain fear tendencies living in the patient actually belonged to the mother. One patient explained, “I’ve been holding my mother’s fear in my heart all my life and it has kept me small and timid.” This statement can be literally explained by the action certain neuropeptides can make, as the can stack, structurally at the molecular level, into the receptor sites at the membrane surface and remain in place for years. A stimulus, whether threatening or not, can then activate these peptides and stimulate the organ at a cellular level creating the sensation of fear. The grown adult then feels the sensation of fear for no appropriate reason. Though there is nothing to be afraid of, the person still has an absolutely valid feeing of fear, and will therefore be unnecessarily timid and inhibited.

These unwanted emotional inhibition can be healed through pre and perinatal therapy for adults. The problem-causing neuropeptides and associated programmed reactions and responses literally can be diminished through therapy, such that a person who was timid and fearful can become relaxed and patient.

MJP:  5 : What is the ideal age for starting baby therapy?

KT:  2 to 8 months

MJP:  6 : When is baby therapy recommended? In what situations?

KT:  All babies can benefit from this work, but we specialize in working with babies who have crying, sleeping, eating, and bonding problems.

MJP:  7 : Is it absolutely necessary the mother to be present during therapy?

KT:  Yes, unless she is incompetent.

MJP:  8 : What is the role of the father in this therapy?

KT:  He should be there too, to see what happens, to support the mother, and to understand for himself how he can meet and get to know his baby at a deeper level.

MJP:  9 : In what way are the feelings of the parents towards their baby important to you and to the work you develop with them?

KT:  Most parents dream of a happy baby, with the hope for affection and cuteness emanating form a bundle of love. But babies also have dark sides: unexplained crying, that can keep parents from getting adequate rest and sleep, and make parents feel impatient and incompetent (because they can’t stop the crying, and seem to blame themselves for having an unhappy baby). Our work helps parents understand their babies, and what their babies are asking for with their body language and their crying. Then parents can meet with their babies and connect with them at a deeper level. Babies cry less and are less fussy when this happens. Our work helps parents and babies have more room to accept and give love. Babies are actually loveable no matter what they’re doing whenever a parent accurately understands them. Our work simply opens the door into the kingdom of the baby and creates more room for love and patience and affection to flow. There is room for all the difficult feelings too, but there are fewer exasperations.

MJP:  10 : Is the way the babies are born into the family––natural delivery, cesarean section, IVF, adoption––consequent to the way they face the world? How?

KT:  Yes. Babies’ brains are at the highest rate of formation during the six weeks before, during, and the six weeks after birth. More neuro connections are made at this time than any other. So the brain’s impression of what life is like, especially what transitions are like, is highly programmed and entrained during the birth process. Natural births, where the mom and baby feel each other and where they struggle together to create the birth, impresses that intimacy, working together, and finding your own power and your own way can get you through pain and difficulties resulting in success. Forceps births can program you that you need help from a powerful, if not overpowering, outside source. C-sections births can program you that an intense sudden invasion can get to you at almost any time, and that life is done to you or done for you, that your own rhythms and own pace and own power do not matter because you can’t do it by yourself. Adoptive births, unless the adoptive parents are there to receive the baby, tell you that you will be abandoned.

MJP:  11 : Do twins perceive the world differently from the «singles»? And how does the death of a twin in the womb affect the surviving twin throughout life?

KT:  Twins are somewhat different than singles, including twins who suffered the loss of a sibling prenatally. The loss is painful, and many twins spend much of their lives seeking the kind of companionship they lost, even comparing adult relationships to the 'ideal' twin relationship they think or felt they had. Twin transference can complicate and even destroy potential love relationships, especially when the partner does not satisfy the longing for the lost twin.

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