REPORT ON THE 8th CONGRESS OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR PRE AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH
in San Francisco, December 1997
There were three Irish delegates among the 300 who attended from 14 countries. Alison Hunter of Amethyst was a breakfast speaker on the legacy of Frank lake with whom she had worked. Benig Mauger, a psychoanalytic therapist gave another breakfast time talk on the Wounded Mother and the Lost Child. I assisted William Emerson (along with 12 other trainees) at a two day pre-conference workshop on the unconscious connections between birth trauma and subsequent life relationships.
The conference theme was Birth, Love and Relationships. Those attending included midwives, doctors, parents, therapists and those with an interest in pre- and perinatal psychology. The three day event offered a programme of talks, music, art displays, panel discussions and lunch-time round tables, which was well planned and immensely stimulating. The difficulty was choice and allowing enough time for some integration.
Among the highlights for me were the presidential address by David Chamberlain on ‘Very Early Parenting: Extending the Conventional Boundaries’. David is a psychologist whose well known book Babies Remember Birth has just been updated and is now available with a new title: The Mind of your Newborn Baby (ISBN 1 55643 264 X, North Atlantic Books). In his view, parenting needs to start at conception but ideally even before. New information on the nature of babies is making this clear.
A session which impacted deeply was an interactive forum between a scientist and two therapists who specialise in pre- and perinatal work with clients. The theme was pre- and perinatal imprinting. Bruce Lipton, the scientist, made the point that as the millenium approaches, science is undoing itself. It is now known that the environment shapes the organism. The prenatal environment has a huge influence on development.
Marjory Rand spoke of the importance of working with parents before they conceive as well as during pregnancy. The most important relationship to be looked at is the mother’s to her own mother. If this can be addressed it prevents the passing on of narcissistic wounds. It is important to recognise that unworked- through generational material can be passed on until the cycle is broken by addressing the unconscious patterns.
Alice Rose looked at how prenatal trauma impacts on sexuality. She uses regressive work with clients for sexual difficulties. Frequently the traumatic moments occur at Conception or Implantation. Implantation is the most significant part of the prenatal journey for intimate relationships. These early experiences are locked into our bodies and brains. We cannot change our past but we can change our responses to it. By going back to prenatal work we can release the energies that have been repressed by the trauma. The father’s identity and birth issues also impact deeply on the foetus.
Dr Thomas Verny, the founder of APPPAH, told a moving story from East Africa about a woman who decides she would like to conceive. She goes and sits under a certain tree and listens to the song of the child. Then she goes and sings that song to the father of the child. They sing the song together at the child’s conception and birth. The song is then sung to neighbours, friends and the village. At every ritual during the life of that person the song is sung.
One of my enduring memories of the conference is of a colourful Australian aboriginal healer who blew into the chakras through an immense didgeridoo!
I came home laden with books and with enough material to digest for many months to come. Tapes of the conference talks are available from Sounds True Recordings, PO Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306. To order by E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
To contact Apppah: Apppah@aol.com