Belatedly, I would like to acknowledge the passing of two pioneers in the field of birth work: Marsden Wagner and David Chamberlain. Interestingly, they both died within weeks of each other, both at the age of 84. Wagner Died 27 April 2014 aged 84. Dr. Chamberlain, died on May 1, 2014.
I want to thank them for the inspiration they have given me. These two male pioneers have had a profound influence on my work, outlining the implications of medicalised birth for both mother and baby, as well as helping us understand that babies are aware of their experience in the womb. I hope that this knowledge is main stream now, but only just over 20 years ago in the 1980’s, this was ground breaking work. The scientific community tended to believe that, as the brain wasn’t fully formed, then babies weren’t really aware of what was happening to them.
served as Director of Women’s and Children’s Health for the World Health Organization for 15 years. He was a perinatologist and perinatal epidemiologist. His book “Pursuing the birth machine” published in 1994, detailed much of what he learnt in his years at the WHO and helped me to be able to articulate my sense of unease with the development of the “birth machine”. He presents the consensus findings of three WHO conferences on appropriate birth technology and highlights the work of Dr Galba Araujo in Brazil who pioneered a coherent birth system in one of the poorest parts of Brazil.
Wagner distinguishes between the medical approach to birth and a social approach to birth: arguing that birth needs to be placed in a community context. He was a strong advocate for midwives and regularly spoke at midwifery conferences. His work provides a wealth of information on how to move towards appropriate birth technology. Sadly, his work is still relevant today since, tragically in the past 20 years, the birth machine has increased in its power.
was a psychologist and founder and past president of APPPAH (Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health) . On their website there are tributes to him from former presidents including William Emerson, who has also been influential in my work, and Thomas Verny (Secret Life of the Unborn Child, 1982). All these presidents in their work, have done much to help us understand the importance of life in the womb and the birth experience.
David Chamberlain’s first book, published in 1988 “Babies remember birth” ,was one of the first books to document experiences in the womb and during birth. He continued his studies on babies in the womb, and his latest book, published in 2013 Windows to the Womb: Revealing the Conscious Baby from Conception to Birth, The Mind of Your Newborn Baby, updated his earlier research with new scientific knowledge derived from ultrasound and neuroscience.
His work shows us clearly how babies in the womb are capable of learning, feeling pain and communicating. He describes how babies are sentient beings, hearing, sensing, feeling and even having memories before the brain is fully formed. During his lifetime of research, he documented many cases of people remembering events that occurred in the womb, memories that were empirically verified.
He also found that the early experiences in the womb and in the time surrounding birth often had profound, and sometimes traumatic, effects on the baby, with lifelong implications.
I certainly can verify to this personally, having experienced communicating with my own babies when they were in my womb as well as supporting my clients to communicate with their babies. I have also recovered memories from my own time in my mother’s womb: and so have many of my clients.
Our time in our womb and our birth experience are powerful times. We need to acknowledge that life indeed does begin at conception, even before: then we can start to understand more about who we are and why we respond in particular ways in particular situations.
So thank you Marsden and David, for your contribution to helping us understand how to create a more humanised, even spiritual approach to birth, and indeed the whole of pregnancy, not only for the mother, but also for the baby. Your work helps us ultimately understand more about ourselves and the world in which we live: so we can live in a more humanised and spiritual way.