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In Utero: What it left out

Bridget Wood

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By Bridget Wood

Balance typically doesn’t make for good cinema. To provoke emotion and encourage action, documentaries need to follow a formula, and presenting ‘both sides’ isn’t really part of that. ‘In Utero’ explored compelling science and opinion into the impact of the environment and stressors pregnant women are exposed to, and how this impacts the foetus; in effect, how deeply we are all shaped by our prenatal experiences.

That we are feeling beings from the moment of conception needs no dispute. What we should question though, is whether trauma or stress experienced in pregnancy necessarily has an outright negative impact on the baby, as the film concluded. This classic x = y approach is similar to the ‘magic bullet’ theory of mass media (now debunked) which said that media messages were fired from the ‘media gun’ into the viewer’s “head”, essentially saying that audiences are passive ‘sitting ducks’ for whatever agenda is at play. We know this is too simplistic a view – and judging from the often diverse opinions we get in our audiences, is clearly not true!

Our own unique experiences, values and beliefs mean that ‘reality’ looks different for all of us. These shape how we see and react to the world. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we perceive it that determines the impact on our life, and what we take from it. Take this example. At an intersection waiting to cross the road are two teenage boys, a nurse, and a middle-aged woman on crutches. Just before they get the signal to walk, a car careers out of control through the intersection and slams into a car in front. The teenagers exclaim, ‘Cool!’, the nurse runs over to assist the driver, and the woman on crutches collapses in shock – witnessing the accident brought back her own experiences of being in a crash recently. They all saw the same thing unfold, but through their own filter, which determined their reaction.

Some of the greatest leaders of our time experienced untold adversity in their early years, those experiences the fuel to create a different life of great meaning. Children born of mothers in time of war, while likely marked by stress, also tended to be larger babies prepared for the world they were being born into; the mother’s anger creating increased production of testosterone to stimulate their baby’s growth. We are an incredibly adaptive and resilient species and all the traits and emotions we experience, however much we may wish to disown them at times, serve us to create inspiration, meaning, and change. How could we produce great art, music and poetry if we didn’t know pain? How would we have the technology like mobile phones, the internet and staggering technological development if we didn’t have war? The great physicist Paul Dirac once said ‘It’s not that we know so much, it’s that we know so much that isn’t so’.

This is why it’s important to us that we engage audiences in discussion with a panel of experts who can extend the conversation, offer different perspectives, and add richness to our learning. The key takeaway we wanted everyone to leave the event with, is to understand that we don’t have to let our past dictate who we are today. We get to choose. Through different healing modalities we can uncover the patterns playing out in our lives that keep us and our children stuck in anxiety or fear, and transcend them. Through the quality questions we ask ourselves, we can enquire as to whether we want to keep reacting the same way to a situation, whether we want to continue to run our story, or instead choose a different way.  

Yes, we need greater support for pregnant women and mothers, and more awareness of our own unconsciousness that we as parents are playing out with our children. This will come as we as individuals and a society place greater reverence on the role of mothering and its contribution to all of our futures. Support for parents needs to come from a place of empathy and understanding, and with a practical toolkit for moving forward, not lip service that keeps us stuck in own self-limiting behaviours. Our potential, and the essence of who we are, is so much more than that.

Bridget Wood is Director and Events Manager of Suburban Sandcastles and Co-Founder of Nourishing The Mother. She's a lover of life and connecting people to themselves through wisdom, introspection and quality questions. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a desire to understand the bigger picture of human behaviour and how the world works, Bridget is on an inspired path to learn more deeply who we are beyond the limitations that we, and our society and culture, place upon us.