Songs from the Womb: Healing the Wounded Mother
Publication Date:March 2000
Reviewed Title:Songs from the Womb: Healing the Wounded Mother (1998)
Reviewed Publisher:Dublin, Ireland: Collins Press. 208 pages. ISBN: 1-898256-54-3.
With its Jungian perspective, this book is a unique contribution to the literature of pre and perinatal psychology. The inclusion of the natural world, archetypes and the soul broadens and deepens this work that bridges between perinatal and transpersonal psychology. The experiences of individual child/mother couples are seen in the context of a culture that has lost both its intimacy with nature and its guidance from the archetypal feminine.
Benig details both the physical processes of pregnancy and birth and their parallels in the soul work happening at the same time. She shows how conventional medical birth with its emphasis on the physical creates problems by ignoring the soul. I particularly liked the section on "primary maternal preoccupation." This phrase names and legitimizes pregnant women's inward turning tendency and their active imaginal and dream life. Pregnant women are not, as often thought, emotionally unstable, rather they are doing important soul work as their psyches expand and transform to greet the new being and to embody the mother archetype.
Songs from the Womb also continues perinatal psychology's tradition of valuing anecdotal as well as statistical data. Statistics engage the mind, while the many stories found in this book also engage the emotions and, if the reader allows it, one's own body knowing. As she is, like myself, one of the few cesarean born people active in the field of perinatal psychology, Benig includes valuable material on cesarean born people and their mothers. (In some areas up to 25% of births are cesarean!) I was delighted with this new contribution to the very sparse literature on both the child's experience of cesarean birth and the soul journey of the cesarean mother. It was personally gratifying to me to see her build on work I did around 15 years ago exploring the cesarean perinatal experience. Embodying Jungian psychology's archetype of the Wounded-Healer, Benig enriches the book with some of her own journey, though near the end of the book she reverts to a stance of professional objectivity and attributes what I suspect are some of her own therapy experiences to an anonymous woman, thus diminishing for us the healing power of the Wounded-Healer archetype.
The only other weakness I found in the book was in the second half where I felt she attempted to cover too much of the history of various methods of healing birth trauma and let the tone of her writing become more dry and less immediate. However, this is a first book. In my own experience as an author I also over-reached myself toward the end of my book. Vision sometimes outstrips experience! I trust that in subsequent articles and books Benig will continue to enlarge on what she has started here. For its fresh perspective I warmly recommend this book both to those new to perinatal psychology and to those with more experience.