Babies Know Co-Founder, Course Leader
Consultant Doctor; Gynaecologist & Obstetrician (in Clinical Practice since 1981)
MB; BCh; FCROG; FCOG (SA); MRCOG; MD
Founder: The Birth Unit and Viveka Author
“Why is Babies Know so important to me?”
It is because I have always been fascinated by how my earliest experiences have influenced who I am and how I think today. I have had a long term interest – almost a fixation – with what happened all those years ago when I was born and after my birth.
I studied medicine and became a doctor specialising in birth, particularly natural birth. This has been central to my journey of discovery.
Fascinated by the science of pregnancy, birth and babies, I spent years in the 70’s doing biochemical research into monitoring babies’ health in the womb. But I missed being with pregnant mothers and newborn babies – so I returned to birth practice in the late 70’s. I was deeply inspired by holistic natural birth and I devoted many years to reducing medical rules in the birthing room and encouraging Active and water birth. I practised with complementary therapists in ‘integrated healthcare’ where modern obstetrics co-exists with a variety of complementary therapies and yoga. I also founded the Birth Unit which has an international reputation for holistic integrated birth practice.
I have always been aware that the focus on birth – B-day – was very narrow. B-day is important but it is only a moment in our lives. We prepare for B-day for months in the womb and we emerge from our birth into the rest of our lives. Our mothers also prepare for B-day for many months. Of course B-day is special and if all goes well for us and our mothers it is a wonderful start. But even if it is difficult there is the whole of life to make repair and move on.
Babies Know has allowed me to explore the first years of life and become much clearer about the issue of ‘nature versus nurture’. We each have a set of genes and then a multitude of experiences shape us. I have thousands of genes and who I am now has depended on my experiences in the womb and everything that has happened since my birth.
I know that the separation I experienced in my early days was immensely important to how my personality developed. I am an anxious person and I realise that early separation adds to anxiety later in life. Scientists call this separation distress and I had it in big chunks. On the positive side it stimulated my interest in birth and the Babies Know exploration. My experiences during and after birth set me on this road!
I am a father and a grandfather and among my most important teachers are my children and grandchildren. They give me the opportunity to re-experience infancy, childhood and adolescence through their eyes. It has been a profound blessing. I love and enjoy my grandchildren’s teaching as the Babies Know program evolves.
Babies Know has been the stimulus to study recent scientific trends and to look to traditional cultures to see how children are loved and cherished. It is amazing that modern scientific understanding of how our brains and emotions develop has coincided and reinforced traditional practices. For me, this is well summarised in the words of Nils Bergman – ‘hold me, love me, feed me’.
In the exploration of Babies Know I have loved being in conversation with Kitty Hagenbach who has a profound experiential understanding of how babies think and feel and what their needs are. Kitty has the skill to contact the inner baby within every adult and help all of us to accept and relish the positive aspects of ourselves while having the facility to make repair and alter negative feelings.
Harriet Fraser (formerly Harriet Sharkey) and I have written Birth and Beyond and Mother and Baby health and have worked as a team for over 10 years. Harriet has inspired me and she has taken my dense medical phraseology and written it in easy words. Harriet not only writes with us but she brings her own experience as a mother to Babies Know and she is a very active member of the research team.
I love the concept that babies do indeed know what they need and who they are. I love the idea that as parents we can find out so much by slowing down and listening to our children. I feel that Babies Know is one of the most important aspects of my career and of my personal and family life.
Bravo and love to all the babies who teach us and who will benefit from Babies Know.