Echoes from the APPPAH 16th International Congress

Since its founding, APPPAH has been on the cutting edge in exploring the long-term importance of pregnancy, birth, and bonding. We were pioneers in this field, and still are. We continue to research, learn, teach, and apply what we discover. Every year we hold a Congress to come together to reconnect and share our knowledge and ways to apply that information. As Chair of the 2011 Congress, my vision was that APPPAH would expand and grow, including new speakers and ideas, while still retaining the warm community feeling that is so much a part of APPPAH. Together with committees, the administration, and lots of input, we forged ahead. It was indeed a wonderful event. I would like to share a few of my experiences from the APPPAH’s 16th International Congress.

Bruce Lipton, Ph. D., was one of the presenters. He spoke of research revealing that, from the beginning in the womb, cells are responding to the mother's environment and are either in growth or protection. He reminded us that each individual is a community of trillions of cells communicating within a body. I wondered what my own internal environment was like...toxic or nurturing? I thought about APPPAH and how we can make sure we are providing a nurturing and growing environment for our association.

Speaking of books, Debby Takikawa and her team did an attractive and effective presentation of the bookstore. One morning I came down to the conference and discovered that the book store had been moved over night to another space. The team spent most of the night getting it nicely set up in the foyer.

Raylene Phillips, M.D., is head of a very large Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in California. Dr. Phillips invites parents to be an active part of her team and allows them round-the-clock access to hold, comfort, and stay with their babies. She shared research which reveals that skin-to-skin holding of babies affirms the bonding and supports secure attachment. “They feel safer.” It is no surprise to us that being held in the arms of a loving person when you are helpless and small makes a difference in the way relationships are later experienced. As Dr. Gabor Maté says, “Our coping styles are formed in our earliest experiences.” Dr. Phillips is doing wonderful prevention work which will echo in the lives of the babies and their families for the years to come. She was another inspirational speaker who touched our hearts.

There were unexpected delights, like the press conference when Dr. Arthur Janov stopped by and participated. Janov, who developed Primal Therapy and was one of the pioneers in prenatal and perinatal psychology, signed copies of his brand new book, Life Before Birth. What an experience it was to hear him and Bruce, William, David, and Phyllis Klaus. The small group of attendees shared ideas and opinions and asked questions. Agree or disagree, the panelist are all giants in the field. WOW! (Thanks to Deb Puterbaugh for making the arrangements!)

Jeanne Ohm, Annie Murphy Paul, and Bruce Lipton were the Friday morning keynote speakers, followed after lunch by a dynamic panel moderated by Thomas Verny. Saturday morning we followed the same set up with Raylene Phillips, Michael Trout, and Gabor Maté giving terrific presentations. After lunch, Marti Glenn moderated a lively and exciting panel with lively interaction with the audience.

There is no way I could mention everyone who gave of their talent and wisdom. I was inspired by the quality and authenticity of who we are and what we know. In brain science terms, I could use the metaphor of the neurobiology of WE, who are APPPAH. We could not do it without the volunteers. I am especially grateful to Maureen Wolfe and Jeane Rhodes who did the lion’s share of the work , the Committee with Pat Martin, Marti Glenn, and William Emerson, the APPPAH Board, as well as the ongoing support of Thomas Verny, and Donna and David Chamberlain, whose counsel is always appreciated. My gratitude extends to everyone.

It was perfect that we closed the program with Marcy Axness presenting, “Parenting For Peace,” which is also the title of her first book, which has just been published (see page 6 for a review of this wonderful work which deserves a wide distribution).

We had fun and learned a lot. I look forward to next year. Don’t miss it! Happy and peaceful 2012 - may it be a year of positive transformation that blesses the WE of us all.