Published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, ISBN 1 55643 264 X
This is a clear, well-written and important book. David Chamberlain is a clinical psychologist who has been working in this field for over twenty years. At present he is the president of the Association of Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health(APPPAH). In this book he demonstrates that newborns are fully cognitive human beings with the ability to discriminate and experience the world in sophisticated ways. Not only do they perceive and understand their births, but they can hear, feel and act while still in utero.
The book is divided into four parts the first of which looks at the newborn considering such things as the way they learn, their mind, their memory and how they communicate. In the last twenty five years research on the newborn has flourished and the territory of life before birth has been charted as never before. This part of the book brings home the importance of the prenatal environment. For example the earliest experiences of sound in the womb can have a stimulating or discouraging effect on the baby’s desire to listen and communicate. Humming, singing and speaking softly are recommended.
The next section of the book is about birth memory. David Chamberlain was introduced to birth memory by his clients having learnt clinical hypnosis in 1975. By 1980 he had worked out a method to prove these memories were reliable by comparing the memories of mother and child pairs in hypnosis. In this book he first of all gives us a bird’s eye view of the history of birth memory looking briefly at the work of Freud, Rank, Janov, Fodor, Grof, Sondra Ray and Leonard Orr. He shares some of his own research case studies and gives us a sense of birth as babies see it.
Difficult experiences during the birthing process can leave negative imprints. As long as babies were thought to have no emotions, no developed senses, and no thoughts, concern about birth trauma attracted little attention. Now that babies are known to be intelligent, sentient beings, their mental and emotional vulnerability must be reconsidered. We have to get discriminating about babies.
They are not what we thought they were. He looks at the impact of such experiences as rejection, hostility, fear and criticism. Again, the material is enriched through the use of case studies.
Part Three shares with us five different experiences of birth and bonding in more depth. These are fascinating to read. This book was originally published ten years ago and at that time was called Babies Remember Birth. Towards the end of the book Chamberlain gives us a tenth anniversary perspective. He mentions three areas where scepticism still exists, even as evidence continues to mount. These are the understanding of memory, the understanding of infant pain and the importance of early bonding.
There are two helpful appendices on abortion and on parental guilt. Extensive sources for additional reading are provided. In my view this book is essential reading.
We were privileged to welcome David Chamberlain and his wife to Dublin in mid September. He came at the invitation of Amethyst and gave two well-attended lectures on the Wonders of Life in the Womb and the Lifelong Impact of Birth.