I Remember Being Born

•October 31, 2008 • 23 Comments

The Ultimate Symbolism

I remember being born. Scoff if you must, but it is possible, I believe. This is a form of memory pre-dating the development of the cerebral cortex, but it has been interpreted by me after the fact by “the little grey cells”, the cerebral cortex. When I was a child, I had two habits that were hangovers from being in the womb and getting out of it. In that dark place, I must have had some contact with the umbilical cord. Thankfully, I didn’t squeeze it; I probably didn’t have the strength or the desire or the know-how. However, I feel I had the tactile sensation of touching it, and I may have had my hand around it. The symbolic vestige of that behavior was the way I fingered the open end of my pillow-slip while going to sleep.

The more dramatic event was the ultimate symbol. It took the form of a nightmare. A very bad dream. Waking up screaming. A real trauma. Momma comforting me. Assuring me. There was a large, menacing white form, akin to a monstrously large polar bear. (Of course, that supposes that I had vision. That may be wrong. Do neonates have any kind of vision? I believe I had some sense of presences. Neonates are not born completely insensitive. In fact, the emotional nature of newborns has developed quite a bit. Check me on that. I am speaking of an emotional memory here with some small external perceptual response.)

I think that was the doctor in a white coat who delivered me. I think that memory was a function of the old brain which is more mature at birth and instrumental in processing emotion, in the absence of the cortical overlay that develops much later. I know what I saw. That monster slapped me around a bit, too, probably. So there it is, a memory assisted by my more rational self as I much later turned it over and over in my mature, educated mind.

Recently, I have come across some interesting items that reinforce my insight. First, a worried grandma in a letter to an advice column said this: “Last night, Zach [a 12-year-old grandson] confided that for several months, he has been having ‘visions’. One is of a man, whom he described in detail. The second is a dog, and the last is an animal that he says resembles a polar bear…. [He} is articulate, intelligent, sociable and not prone to exaggeration.” (The Denver Post, June 30, 2004) Just a coincidence? Maybe.

The second is the more advanced moving pictures taken in the womb. The developing embryo is very active, smiling and stretching, opening its eyes, sucking its thumb, and so forth.

There had to be some explanation for my nightmare. I concluded that I remember being born and retained something from the time before. I get a lot of doubting from people and laughs. It’s funny to them to hear me say, “I remember being born.”

(Last updated on January 31, 2006)