This book is a treasure for anyone interested in how one of the most ancient, reincarnation-based cultures in the world approaches the creation of new human life. It is the first in depth record of traditional Tibetan birth wisdom outside brief mentions in sacred texts. The authors have succeeded in documenting information from an endangered culture. In so doing, they have also created a delightful, easy-to-read book offering a uniquely sacred and well-integrated view of birth for parents and healthcare workers. The Tibetans were among the first to study conception and fetal development. The book is chronologically organized to illustrate customs surrounding seven developmental stages in the formation of a new human life:
* Preconception, when the couple and community prepare to conceive.
* Conception, especially beliefs about reincarnation and Tibetan values about the creation of life
* Gestation, including care from the baby's point of view and how pregnancy is experienced by the mother and her community.
* Birthing, from the onset of labor through the birth of the placenta, including the roles of family and community
* Bonding, an ongoing process through all stages
* Infancy, when families undergo rapid physical, psychological and social change in relationship to each other and their community
* Early childhood, when children may reveal memories about birth, prenatal, and past-life experiences.
Using a warm, appreciative style, the authors have woven a narrative of the birth process from the experience of three extended families, a very traditional family only newly escaped from Tibet, one in which the parents had grown up in exile and were fairly assimilated, and one in-between family who spent a number of years in exile. The story is bolstered by information gathered from midwives, nuns, lamas, and ancient texts. The sanctity of human life fairly glows in these stories. Prospective parents and healthcare professionals will be interested in the many practical customs, supported by other wisdom traditions (including modern medicine), that can be easily adapted to everyday life in the West, such as the dietary recommendations for pregnant women. Spiritually, the Tibetans support paying attention to dreams for information about the child. They also listen for the toddler's memories of birth and life before birth. The author's intent to document Tibetan culture is sometimes at odds with providing a useful guide for parents or healthcare professionals, since the book, especially in the second half, includes many folkways that will seem little better than superstition to Westerners. Lay readers may have trouble assessing the value of some practices, presented uncritically and without reference to supporting or dis-confirming medical research. The reverence for human life behind all these practices is always clear nonetheless, and this is perhaps the book's greatest contribution.
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