At the end of October, I returned from a two-week speaking/teaching tour of Norway and Denmark, encouraged not only by their warm interest in prenatal psychology but by their enlightened birth practices.
Under the general theme, "The Prenatal Time: Our First Learning Environment," my sponsors arranged for me to address general audiences, do four-hour seminars for midwives, and eight-hour workshops for therapists on "The Treatment of Prenatal and Perinatal Trauma"-about five events in each country.
I went to Oslo and Trondheim on the invitation of Forening for Oppdragelse for Fodselen (FOF), the Norwegian branch of a group inspired by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov (Education Begins Before Birth, 1982). This goal of this organization-also in France, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and Russia-is to alert mothers to the great influence they have on their babies during pregnancy.
In terms of attendance at meetings, midwives were in the majority, arranging for seminars in their hospital lecture auditoriums in Oslo, Trondheim, and Copenhagen. In Norway, a number of people came for private consultations, including the editor of a midwifery journal who wanted to experience birth recall; she will write about her experience in the next issue of their Journal.
My sponsor in Denmark was Bodynamics Institute, Copenhagen, led by Lizbeth Marcher and Eric Jarlnes who have spoken at several APPPAH congresses and offer on-going training in their method of bodywork in the U.S. They were responsible for publishing the Danish version of my book, Babies Remember Birth (1988).
In addition to arranging for me to speak to the Parents & Birth organization (a very influential group in Denmark) and to do a workshop for therapists, they were able to win the cooperation of the School of Midwifery (Danmarks Jordemoderskole) in Copenhagen for an official three-hour seminar where I was introduced by the head of the School. Following this, I was interviewed on camera for a video about babies which the hospital is preparing for parents.
Another highlight of my Copenhagen visit was the invitation extended by the Chief Midwife of University Hospital (Rigshospitalet, the largest in Denmark) to give a two-hour lecture at the hospital, visit the maternity floor, and tour the NICU. After the lecture, a newspaper reporter was waiting with a photographer, who took my picture holding a newborn baby in the maternity ward. This appeared in their newspaper, Berlingske Tidende1
You must understand that in the Scandinavian countries, it is the midwives who have always been in charge of birth. Doctors cooperate fully with midwives and are ready to serve when called upon. I learned from the midwives in Norway that they were absolutely dedicated to natural childbirth-something I think we have lost in the Americas. Ten years ago they stopped putting medicine in every baby's eyes at birth, opting to treat only those who needed it.
In Denmark, they have long-since closed the so-called "normal newborn" nurseries: all babies stay with their mothers. They showed me the "delivery room," which looked like any other room on the maternity floor; it was not a surgical suite. I was told that half the hospitals in Denmark were already equipped with water tanks for women who wished to labor in water.
They were shocked when I told them we were circumcising 60% of our male babies, and seemed baffled to hear that midwives were still being persecuted in California and could not practice legally in many states. I complimented them on their low infant mortality rates, very low Caesarean rates, and their commitment to natural birth. They seemed serious about meeting all the qualifications outlined by the World Health Organization's "Baby-Friendly" Hospital Initiative, which calls for incorporating "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding"-something American hospitals seem reluctant to do. I left these countries feeling that their midwives were world leaders in accomplishing safe, natural birth.
David B. Chamberlain, Ph.D., San Diego, California President, Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health