My son Bryce gets physical therapy for a slight gross-motor delay. During one of our sessions with his PT, she asked if my kids ever talked about their early childhood memories. My daughter has a really good memory and she can recall things from her toddler years that surprise me. I’ve never really thought about it with Bryce, but once I did, I was surprised to realize that Bryce can also recall various events from as much as two years ago, and he’s only four.
Anyway, our PT went on to explain that she has a colleague who’s interested in early childhood memory, and had recently read about a study that showed evidence that some toddlers, if questioned before the age of three, could recall events from their birth experience. (Keep in mind we weren’t having a scientific discussion here. It was more sharing this cool story about kids who can accurately recall memories from their birth, which I thought was pretty amazing).
So, PT told me that one night she decided to ask her own two year old daughter, just to see what she would say. As she was putting her to bed, she asked the child if she remembered anything about being born. She said that her daughter got very quiet, and then responded by saying that her arm hurt, and she cradled her arm to her chest. PT then told me that when her daughter was born, her arm had been in a difficult position, which made the birth a bit complicated. Her baby’s arm was wedged up and pinned, and the result was a rather large and colorful bruise on her arm for over a week after the birth.
Holy shit! For a two year old to recall her arm hurting and gesture that seems pretty amazing to me.
I guess the idea behind the theory is that toddlers are like free-thinking sponges, and their brains aren’t bogged down by preconceptions of what they’re supposed to know and not know. They don’t know how to second-guess themselves, so their reactions and recollections are genuine and open. There are many studies that prove that learning begins in the womb, and what prevents babies and toddlers from expressing these memories is a simple lack of developed communication skills. I did an internet search for toddler memory studies and there were all kinds of cool things that popped up, but I was unable to locate the specific study on toddler memory of childbirth.
But I decided to ask my son Bryce and see what he had to say. Bryce is four, so I knew it might be too late for him to remember anything, but I asked him anyway.
We were snuggling together, just the two of us. It was quiet and I had his full attention. He was sitting on my lap and playing with my hair.
Me: Bryce, do you remember when you were born?
Bryce: Yep. (There was no hesitation in his answer).
Me: What do you remember?
Bryce: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!
(OMG! Does he remember the counting through the contractions? For those of you who are unfamiliar with this process, the nurses will usually count to ten while you are pushing through a contraction).
Me: Wow. Do you remember anything else?
Bryce: Yep. I remember shapes………..and power.
(Could the “power” be the contractions?).
Me: What kind of shapes?
Bryce: Circles and ovals.
(Does he mean the overhead lights in the birthing suite or bassinet? There were warming lights over the newborn bassinet and over the bed).
Me: That’s pretty cool, buddy.
Bryce. Yep. It was cool.
So, I have no idea if these were true memories or just something he decided to say, but I think the concept of toddlers remembering their birth experience is pretty awesome.
What do you think?