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Talking to Babies: Psychoanalysis on a Maternity Ward

Overview

Myriam Szejer talks to newborns. For over a decade she has worked in the maternity ward of a hospital outside Paris. Called in by hospital staff when a baby or its parents are suffering, Szejer uses the psychoanalytic techniques of careful listening and talking to reach failure-to-thrive and other suffering newborns and reverse their conditions. Talking to Babies is the story of her important work.

Having psychologists or psychiatrists available to new mothers on maternity wards...

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Overview

Myriam Szejer talks to newborns. For over a decade she has worked in the maternity ward of a hospital outside Paris. Called in by hospital staff when a baby or its parents are suffering, Szejer uses the psychoanalytic techniques of careful listening and talking to reach failure-to-thrive and other suffering newborns and reverse their conditions. Talking to Babies is the story of her important work.

Having psychologists or psychiatrists available to new mothers on maternity wards is not unusual. But having a psychoanalyst available who also talks to newborns is completely revolutionary. Szejer has pioneered her unique approach to treating struggling infants through years of study and apprenticeship. And in Talking to Babies she describes in thoughtful and convincing detail the theory of her practice and how her interventions work, illustrating with the moving stories of the numerous infants she has helped.

In the very first days of a baby's life, the newborn, still struggling between birth and its entry into our world, already needs words. By "needing words," Szejer means that infants need to be talked to about the specific situations into which they are born. They need to hear about their mothers, fathers, siblings, and caretakers, but they also need to hear about problematic aspects of their histories, such as the death of a twin sibling or the death of a baby before them. These words must be spoken to the baby in the presence of his or her mother and father if at all possible. Such speech helps everyone-newborn and parents-to find their places in the altered world created by the birth. When such words are not present, physical symptoms and illness may emerge.

Talking to Babies is the first book to show how the "talking cure" can help infants and their parents. Post-partum depression in mothers, failure-to-thrive in babies-these problems might be approached quite differently if maternity wards incorporated some of Szejer's practices. High-tech interventions are all too common in American maternity wards; Talking to Babies offers a more humane route for restoring health.

Preface:

"Sometimes, as I am leaving the hospital late at night, I stop to look in on a patient who has recently given birth. And often, as I open the door, I catch a special moment: the new mother leaning over the crib, or more often face to face with the newborn on her lap, looking intently at him and murmuring motherly words . . . In a maternity ward, however, everything is not always so rosy. Birth is sometimes accompanied by suffering, a suffering too rarely perceived in our Western societies . . . When I met Myriam Szejer, an unknown field opened to me: the reality of the newborn's preverbal behavior. Szejer dares psychoanalyze newborns, dares talk to them, dares intervene before the symptom has taken root, particularly in dangerous situations . . . Her approach ought to become known to all who make perinatal medicine their career. Her approach is innovative. What woman has not been shaken to her very being by becoming a mother; what man has not trembled at becoming a father? Babies feel that profound apprehensiveness. They need to be listened to, which is a form of respect." --from the Preface by René Frydman, M.D.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Psychoanalysis may be a flawed theory, but as practiced by child psychiatrist Szejer in Paris, it can have remarkable effects on a newborn. Just as she would with an adult client, Szejer heals suffering newborns by talking with them and listening to them. Some of her interpretations require suspension of disbelief: she claims that babies respond not just to the sound of the right voice but to the words and that messages are recorded and responded to bodily in preverbal infants. Even if critics are correct in asserting that reading the telephone book aloud would have the same effect, Szejer's interventions over the past 11 years have humanized the birthing environment. Szejer combines passion with cool confidence and respect for nascent families to achieve astonishing results in failure-to-thrive infants. She supports her thesis with findings from neurology and linguistics, creating a developmental theory of body-mind integration that cannot be easily dismissed, despite some overconfident psychoanalytic formulations and attribution of meaning to events in utero. These are not controlled experiments, and Szejer influences the parenting process perhaps more than she does the babies, but she presents a challenging and important thesis. Relevant to readers in psychology, neonatology, adoption services, family therapy, linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy, this book could stir demand among lay readers, too. Recommended for diverse special and larger general collections.-E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807021149
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 7/15/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Myriam Szejer, M.D. is a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and also president of the organization La Cause des Bébés (In the Interests of the Baby). She lives in Paris, France.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction : "we hereby announce ..." 1
1 The interests of the baby 16
2 A child is born at least twice 45
3 Speech, language, and memory in the newborn 81
4 Doing psychoanalysis on a maternity ward 119
5 From birth of life's limbo : a closer look at the baby blues 139
6 Confidential childbirth : the child given up at birth 183
Epilogue : the choice to live 229
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