If early parenting is what takes place from conception to birth, then very early parenting begins before conception! This is daring new territory to explore.

To a pioneering minority holding the ideal of conscious conception, parenting has always been seen as a spiritual process in which they wanted to participate fully and consciously. A handbook for many in this group has been the book by Jeannine and Frederick Baker, Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey Through the Labyrinth of Sexuality (Monroe, UT, Freestone Publishing or Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1986). Their practice assumes the soul of the baby exists prior to its joining the family. Today, there are additional motivations for beginning parenting before conception, namely the lengthening list of reproductive hazards in the contemporary world.

A growing group of modern parents appreciate that their own health, habits, and environment will determine the quality of their conception and they know their efforts at "quality control" can spare their baby from a lifetime of sickness and handicap. They are not alone in realizing that with habitual use, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are teratogens which can create birth defects. For example, when fathers are cigarette smokers, they damage their sperm and pass to their offspring a higher risk of childhood cancer. Experts estimate that as many as 15% of childhood cancers could be due to smoking by fathers. The cancer risk is proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Parent smoking also plays a role in sudden infant death syndrome and in production of smaller babies. How many mothers and fathers would deliberately create cancer in their children if they knew how to avoid it?

Bad timing can have unforseen results. For example, if mothers consume alcohol at the time of conception, they raise the risk of giving birth to babies with facial anomalies (and having to look at these anomalies for a lifetime). To avoid other birth defects, couples preparing for a conscious (rather than unconscious) conception may want to rid themselves of heavy metals, eliminate the need for multiple prescriptions, or fortify themselves nutritionally before bringing egg and sperm together. Having sufficient folic acid in the system before conception may insure normal development of the neural tube, protecting their child from spina bifida and anencephaly. Chronic occupational stress can lower fertility rates, preventing parenting altogether. When it doesn't, an unplanned conception may provide a stiff challenge to the baby who must continually swim in a sea of discontent that is not their fault! Over the years, I have met a succession of pregnant TV producers and "anchors" who asked me whether working through to the last weeks of pregnancy might effect their unborn children! How could it not affect them?

Health risks aside, some parents today are being startled by encounters with babies before they have been conceived. These parents are drawn into very early parenting by vivid dreams, visions, and appearances that come weeks, months, or even years in advance of physical conception. Prepared for it or not, their perspective on parenthood becomes distinctly spiritual. Members of APPPAH have written about these encounters. When I first read their work, I was reminded of when I first read Raymond Moody's now-famous little book, Life After Life (1995), which quietly introduced the revolutionary concept of the "near-death experience." This book began sweeping the world, based on only fifty in-depth interviews with people who had had the near-death experience.

The remarkable book by Elisabeth Hallett, Soul Trek: Meeting Our Children on the Way to Birth (Hamilton, MT: Light Hearts Publishing, 1995), contains nine years of research collecting anecdotal reports from 180 persons who told about visitations, inner voices, subtle "knowings," and other types of contact with their babies prior to conception. One baby successfully pressed his mother not to have an abortion, saying "Mommy, I'll be a good boy, please keep me." These engaging and powerful contacts, imbued with purpose and intelligence, have made a profound impression on those visited. Showing up in spiritual form, the future babies have brought reassurance, conveyed love, announced, persuaded, offered guidance, and otherwise sought to prepare mothers (some of whom were not yet even married) for their future coming. In a case dramatized on television, the future child contacted the mother, father, and a sibling, independently appearing, disappearing, and returning to them (Sightings, 1997). Elizabeth's book is packed with stories which exceed the boundaries of the materialist paradigm. You can read some of these stories on our website at Life Before Birth: Communication Before Conception-A Spiritual Frontier.

Theresa Danna, in the booklet, The Link of Love (1996) tells her own experience as a single woman seeing a baby's face, 6 to 8 months old, with male energy, and light brown eyes "looking right at me." The same baby appeared seven months later as a three-year old, in a flash when she was falling to sleep. He smiled and said "Mommy, I'm coming." She said of this visit, "Never have I felt so much love flowing into me...In that moment my outlook on life changed."

Her friends passed off these experiences as wishful thinking. She wondered if she was going crazy. When she wrote to a magazine and asked if there were parents who had similar experiences, she received 20 replies from different parts of the United States. Stories came from mothers, fathers, and relatives who said they had had this sort of experience but had been too shy to tell others. Thirty very touching and compelling cases can be found in Coming From the Light: Spiritual Accounts of Life Before Birth, by Sarah Hinze (New York: Bantam, 1997). Sarah's own experience, retold in her book, captured her interest and inspired her search for others who had similar experiences.

In a time when new paradigms are forming to more accurately describe our babies and ourselves, it is exciting to have this new body of literature for study and discussion. New information on the nature of babies illuminates the true beginnings of parenthood and the true nature of parents.

Editor's Note: Helpful information about very early parenting can be found on the website of the Center for Creative Parenting

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