A month or so ago one of my sisters told me about a two page section within this book
in which the writer describes the drug I believe was given to my mother (and therefore in some form also to me) during her very difficult and no doubt terrifying delivery of breech-birth me during the 24-hour period from the morning of August 30, 1957 until I breathed my first breath at 8:31 a.m. on August 31st.
I just read that passage and present it here for information only:
Weil is describing Datura from the Nightshade family of which scopolamine is derived —
“During much of the twentieth century, scopolamine enjoyed great popularity in obstetrical medicine in the United states. Under the name “twilight sleep,” it was injected into millions of women in labor to make them amnesic for the experience of childbirth. Obstetricians thought of it as a drug that simply erased memory for a few hours, and women who did not want to know anything of their labor and delivery liked it in retrospect. In 1966, as a third-year medical student in Boston, I took several weeks’ training in obstetrics at a prestigious teaching hospital where scopolamine was still in vogue, and I watched many women under its effects. Anyone interested in altered states of consciousness who sees such cases will realize quickly that scopolamine is not simply an amnesic drug. Rather, it causes extreme confusion and disorientation, especially to people in pain. Women in labor who are “scoped” often appear agitated, hostile, even deranged. They writhe, scream, curse, and groan — hardly behavior that justifies the seductive term “twilight sleep.”
“In my opinion, the amnesia that follows this traumatic experience is not a direct effect of scopolamine but an inability to maintain continuity of awareness through such violent distortions of consciousness. The “scoped” woman is not unconscious. Her ordinary waking consciousness is fragmented. What comes through is primitive material from deep layers of the mind, strongly colored by pain and fear. People well versed in the repertory of altered states, who are familiar with deep meditations and trances or have trained themselves in the art of conscious dreaming, might be able to retain awareness through a scopolamine-induced delirium and not be amnesic afterward. People unfamiliar with such states do not have a chance.
“Far from simply erasing a portion of experience, scopolamine releases such intense energies from the unconscious that the experience is later repressed and becomes inaccessible in the ordinary waking state. I have no doubt that women who deliver under scopolamine would recall their experiences under hypnosis and find them intensely unpleasant. Neither do I doubt that scopolamine strongly influences the birth experience of the baby, if only because of the state of the mother. Back in 1966, when obstetricians did not think of babies as conscious entities, no one considered this aspect of procedures in childbirth. Today, women are more interested in participating consciously in childbirth, and some obstetricians think about the impact of what they do on the newborn. Scopolamine, not unhappily, has passed out of general use.
“In labor, scopolamine delirium is violent and terrifying, but it is hard to know whether this quality is inherent in the drug or is a result of the drug in a particular situation. Labor itself produces significant excitement and changes in consciousness. Also, obstetricians always gave scopolamine in combination with opiates and other psychoactive drugs.
“If we look over accounts of Datura intoxication far from clinical settings, we find the same thing: It is a violent experience, often characterized by terrifying hallucinations and delusions, and frequently followed by some degree of amnesia.” (pages 168-170)
My mother was neglected and abused as a child. She was probably pre-Borderline from childhood, and may have been fully Borderline by the time she went into labor with me.
As she was giving birth to me she believed ‘the devil’ was coming to get her – that the devil had sent me to kill her.
My mother did not forget this delusion when I was born. It was entirely real to her. Because we survived the birth, I was to my mother not human, but the devil’s child ‘sent as a curse upon’ Mother’s life.
I cried when I read Weil’s account of the effect of this drug on women in labor, and he is not even speaking of the effects of the opiates that were used in combination with scopolamine in a ‘twilight sleep’ concoction. I cannot prove my mother was given this drug, but EVERYTHING points in that direction. Everything.
I never had a chance. Not one single solitary chance from the moment I was born of escaping the 18 years of terrible abuse, pain, terror and suffering that I believe this drug caused.
That my grandmother did not save me from my mother, that my father did not save me from my mother, that NOBODY outside our family saw what was happening to me — is beyond my powers to comprehend.
Please click here to read or to Leave a Comment »