Beginner’s Mind: What Babies Are Teaching Us
Prenatal and perinatal psychology (PPN) has been immersed for over 40 years in learning about our earliest human experiences and how those early experiences set in motion our fundamental life patterns. What is unique about the PPN field of study and clinical work is that, at its core, it arises from and values understanding early development from the baby’s point of view
Most of western early development theory, research, and practices arise from understanding very early development from outside in, from observation. These understandings are based upon assumptions that we are first and foremost biological beings, and that our capacities and consciousness are dependent upon brain and physical development.
Yet, when we explore the baby’s point of view, a greatly expanded landscape of early development unfolds, a multidimensional lens that begins with our primary consciousness rather than our biology.
By 1989, when I was first introduced to prenatal and perinatal psychology, my western views of early development and what babies are capable of were already well established. I had been an obstetrical nurse, childbirth educator, and a marriage and family therapist. I had a Masters degree in infant development and a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. I had done original research on the transition to parenthood. I thought I had a solid understanding of how to best help families at the beginning of their baby’s life.
All that changed one weekend in 1989 when I attended my first conference given by the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (current name). I write more extensively about this watershed experience in my book, Welcoming Consciousness, than what I can convey here, but let’s just say that my usual way of perceiving and conceiving who babies are, what they are capable of, and what is going on during prenatal, birth, and newborn experience, could not begin to encompass what prenatal and perinatal psychology clinical findings had discovered.
During that weekend, I had an existential awakening while watching Dr. William Emerson in a PPN-oriented therapy session with a young baby. They were having an intimate conversation, a meaningful dialogue, about what had happened during the baby’s birth and the feelings that were coming up in that moment together. I saw something more in that baby than I believed to be possible, yet it held such integrity, such rightness, that it awakened something in me I have been exploring ever since.
From that moment on, I attempted to suspend my cultural and educated western lens of who I thought babies were or what was possible. I valued having a beginner’s mind while I interacted with babies, and later while I was doing therapy with them, so that I could learn directly from them without my cultural and trained overlays. Over the years, babies continued to lead me into ever expanding, multidimensional possibilities of who they are, but also to show me how I could best meet them there to support their human potential and positive relationships from the beginning of life.
If you are new to prenatal and perinatal psychology, I invite you to read the 12 Guiding Principles of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and to explore more of what we have learned from the baby’s point of view.
And, most importantly, I invite you to experiment having more conscious communication with the babies in your lives—from pre-conception forward. If we can suspend our ingrained notions of babies and we begin our interactions with beginner’s mind—opening to greater possibilities—babies show us more of who they are. With the spaciousness of our beginner’s mind, and our intention to listen deeply to what they are expressing to us, a whole new range of possible relationships and ways to support them is right there.
From my 29 years of exploring this territory with babies, they have taught me how eager they are to communicate and have more conscious relationships with us, from pre-conception forward. I have experienced the awakening in many people, professionals and parents who have their own direct experience of these new concepts with babies themselves. One warning…entering this multidimensional world of the conscious baby can be not only captivating, but also life-altering, for it also awakens us to remember and live from more of who we are!