Life Before Birth

About a dozen years ago, I stumbled across a mystery. I was working on a book about the postpartum bonding time, gathering parents' personal stories, when I was struck by an unexpected fact. Quite a few parents emphasized that their connection with their baby had begun long before the actual birth. They told of sensing contact and communication during pregnancy--and in some of the most spine-tingling accounts, even before conception itself.


Can our unborn children communicate with us--even before conception? A surprising number of people have experiences that suggest this possibility. Their stories raise intriguing questions. Do children come to us from a spiritual dimension? Do they come randomly, or to a specific family? Do they have any choice in the circumstances of their birth? The answers to these questions may be found in the personal stories of parents who have experienced what they believe to be prebirth communication with their children.

Some experiences are dramatic; some are subtle and fleeting. And some, like the story of Steven and Miriam, are life-changing. Long before she met her husband, Miriam realized she had a strong aversion to motherhood. She was so determined to avoid pregnancy that at the age of twenty-three she underwent tubal ligation. Later, when she and Steven married, they agreed that children were not an option.

"For the first three years of our marriage," Steven says, "we didn't give it another thought--it just felt right to be a couple. We worked with a series of counselors over the years, to improve our communication and understanding of ourselves. Then we met Dr. Helen Bonny, the creator of Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, and her sister-in-law Rosalie Lindquist." As Miriam and Steven explored this type of therapy in a series of individual sessions, their experiences were profound--and very different.

Miriam recalls: "My sessions centered on what seemed to me to be past-life experiences, many horrible events surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, continual loss through dismal and/or violent means! After each session, the people acting as our guides had us draw a mandala or some other representation of the experience. My drawings were uniformly depressing.

"My final session was much different from all the others. A guide, obviously myself in fairy godmother garb, appeared to me and took me back to several of the key figures I had identified with in my past-life experiences. She mediated for me and asked the people from the past to help me out by keeping their fears and sharing with me only their talents and positive aspects. It was incredibly healing, and it prepared me for my husband relating his experience."

Steven picks up the story: "During one session, I saw a beautiful toddler with blond hair and blue eyes who held out a box which contained a lotus flower and was illuminated. I drew a picture of this child afterward. When I arrived home I showed Miriam the picture and told her that I had seen our baby. She was a bit taken aback, and suggested that a baby might be a metaphor for some new aspect in our lives. Besides, there hadn't been anyone with blue eyes in my family for three generations. I told her that I thought it was the image of a real baby.

"From then on, we both had numerous dreams and images of this child, and eventually decided to be open to him joining us. We spent a year doing pre-conception preparation--our health, environment, and relationship were reworked." This period of preparation included surgery to reverse Miriam's tubal ligation. She adds, "I also made a commitment before our rabbi, family, and friends to raise our child(ren) as Jews. Interestingly, this was June 10th, and our son Langston was conceived on June 11th."

Says Steven, "We didn't 'hear' much from him during the time between his conception and his birth. I guess he didn't have much to say. As you might have guessed, he looked just like the picture I drew, blue eyes and all. Langston just had his bar mitzvah earlier this month and has always been highly motivated about participating in this religious path. He's been an exceptional person since pre-conception and we cherish our relationship with him."

The possibility that we can connect with a child before conception may seem almost incredible. It's easier, perhaps, to believe in experiences that occur in pregnancy, when there's a tangible "somebody" who might be communicating. Yet some parents claim to have sensed contact with a baby-to-be as easily before conception as during the pregnancy itself. Martell's experiences provided a continuous connection from long before conception right through babyhood. She recalls: "My son was born five months ago. The first contact that I remember happened three years ago when my husband and I met and fell in love. It was during our first month together that I entered into my journal a dream where I saw our son Austin playing with his dad. The dream was very vivid and the image of him as clear as a photograph. I wrote a physical description of him and knew what a beautifully special little soul he is. I fell so in love with this child that for two years all I could think about was getting pregnant and being able to hold him in my arms.  

"After two years and finally a commitment to be married, I became pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy I dreamed of him, and he always looked the same. Same golden-red hair and beautiful blue eyes. (This description wouldn't be considered a 'genetic given,' considering that my husband and I both have dark hair and eyes.) And in our dreams, we'd fly together. We'd meet at the mouth of a river where it meets the ocean, and we'd fly the stretch of the beach together playfully.

"Now that he's here, I get physical, tangible evidence of what I felt about him all along. He sparkles magically like the sun on the ocean on a clear day. His spirit is as free as a happy gull flying along the beach. His hair is like spun gold, each strand holding rays of sunshine. And his violet-blue eyes shine with the hope and purity of intent of all humanity. I still have dreams where we fly together--only not as birds, just as we are."

Is it really possible that we can bond and play with our children in our dreams long before they are born? Many prebirth connections reported by parents are playful and fun like Martell's experience. Others seem to have different purposes. Some bring news of the pregnancy to an unsuspecting mother- or father-to-be. Some come in stressful times, and help to reassure a worried parent.

Mary's experience was the "announcing" kind, and it happened while she was wide awake and talking with her college professor. Suddenly she heard a different, inner voice that was almost like a buzzing sound. The voice said: "The reason you have felt physically burdened and emotionally burdened is because you have invited me into your life. I am here with you. I am here." Mary says that she felt very warm after receiving this message. "My heart felt warm, as if I had been hugged by an old friend," she recalls. "I found out the next day that I was two weeks pregnant."

Another woman felt an inner response when she needed reassurance during pregnancy. Vivien writes: "There was a period, about five weeks before my due date, when I was feeling really badly. I think it was because I had my third cold since getting pregnant, and just couldn't eat the amounts and types of food that I 'should,' and I couldn't control my negative thoughts, and I felt even more guilt because of these [thoughts]. I was apologizing to the unborn baby, in a state of deep shame, and all of a sudden I felt like I was being hugged by a field of light, and an unheard message appeared in my consciousness, which told me, 'Don't worry--I'm fine!'"

The experience of prebirth communication takes many forms, and dreams are perhaps the most typical. Both mothers and fathers experience dreams in which they feel they truly connect with their unborn child. One touching story comes from Linda, who found herself unexpectedly pregnant before marriage. She scheduled an abortion, but before it could take place she had a powerful dream.

"One night my son came to me in my dream in the form of a boy four or five years old, begging me to keep him. His exact words were, 'Mommy, I'll be a good boy, please keep me. I won't cause you any trouble.'" Oddly enough, the dream-child was dressed like a little boy of Victorian days. Linda canceled the abortion. Although she didn't share this dream with the child's father, a week later he reported dreaming of a little boy with the identical appearance, right down to the unusual clothing, who simply said, "My mommy." This story has a happy ending, for the couple soon married and their son is now in grade school!

Another "channel" of prebirth communication is in the drowsy state between sleep and waking. Claire did not know she was already pregnant when she had an unforgettable visionary meeting. "One afternoon I lay down for a nap," she recalls. "I tossed, despite my fatigue, until I was in a strange state of consciousness that is neither awake nor asleep, but which bears the earmarks of both.

"Then I saw her. She was at the foot of the bed--patient, not trying to catch my attention. She was perhaps three years old, simply dressed, with long, dark hair and a quiet look on her face. She climbed gracefully on the footboard, as though the move was choreographed. She began to crawl toward me, one hand, then the other. Perhaps she grew smaller, or became translucent, I do not know. She reached my legs and kept moving until she faded to become part of my own body. She was inside me."  

Claire went on to have a little girl, who grew to have long dark hair and the body of a dancer. Says Claire, "I knew her the moment she popped out. We both just smiled."

Experiences of communication and contact often come in times of deep relaxation and meditation. They take many forms,, such as an inner voice, a vision, or a powerful sense of presence. Stacy's first child was born by cesarean after a long and difficult labor. Now in the final trimester of her second pregnancy, Stacy wrestled with decisions regarding home versus hospital birth. At weekly sessions with her childbirth instructor, Nancy, she experienced guided relaxations and visualization. One session provided the answer Stacy needed--from the baby-to-be.

"Nancy told us to go to a place where we were happy and safe and relaxed. I chose an idyllic place, a river with a covered bridge, huge boulders, and a small waterfall that made a lovely natural whirlpool bath. I went there in my mind. Nancy told us to see a book there in front of us. I saw on the boulder, lying in the warm sun, a very old, thick book. Nancy told us that inside the book we would find something we needed to know, and to go ahead and open it when we felt ready. I took a few deep breaths, stepped up to the book on the rock, and opened it.

"At once I was in the embrace of a child. It was a shock--I gasped. The sensation was very sudden, very detailed. It was a child about two years old. The arms were around my neck in a very cozy, loving hug. While this whole thing was completely nonverbal, the message came through quite clearly. It was this: 'It's okay, Mom. Do what's best for you. Everything will turn out fine. I trust you. I love you. You're my mom.' It's hard to explain how I could get that all nonverbally, but I really did. I needed to hear it, and I could only hear it from my child."

We can sense contact and communication even while wide awake in our normal state of consciousness. From a quiet inner knowing to a startlingly "loud" inner voice, from a hazy impression to a full-fledged vision--these wide-awake experiences may be the most compelling of all.

Isabelle was in early pregnancy, pondering whether her child would be a boy or girl, when she "heard/felt a voice within me say, 'My name is Abraham, I'm a little male child, it takes nine months to make a body, then we'll meet.'" Her first reaction, says Isabelle, was "to look skyward and think, 'Oh my God, I've gone crazy.'" Then she realized that this wasn't the case; "that this was communication with my child and that it was good." She adds, "The voice inside was such a powerful voice, it was a little frightening."

After reading some of these stories of prebirth communication on my Web site,, a physician recently wrote to me to ask, "I wonder if you're familiar with the teaching that the fetus does NOT have a nervous system suitable for either long-term complex memory or any type of communications beyond the most basic protective reflexes. So I wonder how much of 'prebirth communications' is wishful thinking?"

Luckily, one doesn't have to go in a single dizzying leap from this view of the fetus to the possibility of prebirth communication. We can go step by step, back through research uncovering evidence of mind and memory at an ever younger stage, until we arrive at the frontier of conception. And here we find cases of people who appear to remember events from before they were conceived. At this mind-stretching point, the capabilities of the fetal nervous system are no longer an issue. For example, one of my correspondents, a Brazilian gentleman, experienced an apparent pre-conception memory in his late sixties, while undergoing therapy with psychologist Renate Jost de Moraes. He describes it almost poetically.

"I saw myself floating in space, seeing my mother and father in their living room, quarreling on a subject of little importance. I could hear and understand all they said. As if they were influenced by me and by an ineffable light coming from above that illuminated us, their quarreling attitude changed and a look of love and tenderness appeared between them. Then I saw them walking side by side toward the bedroom, while I, taking the appearance of a transparent star of five points, like a bright jelly floating in space, gently conducted them to the bedroom, embracing their shoulders. Asked by the therapist why I did such a thing, I heard myself saying "to make what I do not have yet, my body!"  

In an article on "The Expanding Boundaries of Memory" (1990), Dr. David Chamberlain presents examples from among his own clients. Ingrid, for instance, remembered her mother and father making love on a couch, before they were married. "The doorbell rang to announce that Grandmother and Aunt had come back from shopping when they weren't supposed to." The encounter sent shock waves through all present. Ingrid says, "Mother was beside herself. She knew she got pregnant. She was ashamed. She didn't want to do it in the first place....She blamed me for her trouble."

Such early memories, says Dr. Chamberlain, "present us with two interesting problems: (1) We run completely out of any physical material which might somehow be considered a basis for memory, and (2) We run into the very same quality of self-awareness, thoughtfulness, even virtue, that we have seen in all other memories regardless of age."

These memories have their counterpart in stories that suggest preconception communication, for there are parents who have sensed the presence of a mysterious "other" before the time when they conceived a child. "It was as if there was another person in the room," one woman recalls. The presence can be quite impersonal, or it may impress the experiencer with definite qualities of feeling and personality.

A mother writes: "I remember startling at the feeling that there was someone in the room with my husband and me. I clearly felt the impression of an adult male figure standing at our feet. I jerked up, almost expecting to see someone there. As I felt surrounded by great love, I almost felt it would be like Jesus standing there. Though I'm not religious in the traditional sense, still those figures and images from my Catholic upbringing carry much symbolism for me. To me, this feeling of Jesus was of the love of someone for us as we conceived our son."

One couple were surprised by their simultaneous awareness of a presence. Jill describes the experience: "My fiancé and I were lying in bed a few months ago and were simply relaxing. We began kissing and were both inspired to move on to bigger and better activities. All of a sudden, I had the most beautiful, warm, and tingly feeling. I knew that I had felt a child, our child, in the room with us. I immediately stopped my fiancé and said, 'If we make love right now, we are going to have a baby.' I was surprised when he said, 'I know.' Jill adds that although it was amazing, "it wasn't a foreign feeling at all. In fact, we both agreed that the feeling was familiar and totally unique at the same time. It was literally like a wash of a loving, powerful, and familiar presence over us. From what we can determine in words, we felt very similar things, and at the same time. At that moment, we chose to wait. Since then, we have talked about that spirit who visited us. We both agreed that it was a girl..."

For some potential parents, the presence conveys a sense of urgency, as if encouraging them to hurry up and conceive! Kim's experience is especially interesting because she has a cardiac condition that makes pregnancy hazardous, and after two difficult (but ultimately successful) pregnancies, she did not intend to have any more children. One night, however, she was awakened by a very strong presence in the bedroom. Kim recalls: "I described it as 'light, joy, and female.' I woke my husband up and told him we needed to make love, as this soul was there and wanted to be in our family. He told me to go back to sleep and reminded me that we couldn't go through another pregnancy. We talked for about five minutes, me quite urgently, as I had no doubt that this needed to happen. I told Gordy that if I didn't get pregnant that night (which was not the usual time in my cycle to conceive), I would never think about having more children and I would understand this whole situation as an illusion. So we made love and we did conceive our third child that night! A daughter was born the following October, quite full of light and joy."  

My own prebirth experience was the subtle kind. It happened over and over during the months before I conceived my daughter. Just at the edge of sleep, I would suddenly feel as though I had caught sight of the dearest person in the world to me. It was like a little fountain of joy springing up in my heart. But who was this person I loved so much? The feeling of it didn't seem to match anyone I already knew.

I like to think it was my soon-to-be daughter, coming close enough for me to catch a glimpse of her essence. I can't be sure--but I do know that we can be unusually sensitive during the time that we're opening up our hearts and lives to a child, whether by birth or by adoption. It's a good time to be aware of subtle hints as well as dramatic encounters.

What do these experiences mean? Is it possible that our future children come visiting, to laugh and play with us, to hug and encourage us before they take up their baby roles? As people shared their stories with me, they often added comments like "I've never told this to anyone before...I didn't want people to think I was crazy."

It's possible, of course, to dismiss each story as the product of wishful thinking, and I have no doubt that wishful thinking and creative imagination do play some part in our experiences. But what if a pre-conception memory is really what it seems to be? What if the presence in the bedroom is, in fact, a future child coming to take part in its own conception? It's time to bring the phenomenon of prebirth communication out of the closet and consider the amazing implications of these experiences. While they may challenge our familiar ideas, they offer exciting new possibilities of understanding ourselves, our children, and what it may mean to be a parent.


Elisabeth Hallett is an independent writer-researcher with a background in psychology and nursing. She is the mother of two children, and author of two books: In the Newborn Year: Our Changing Awareness After Childbirth (1992) and Soul Trek: Meeting Our Children On the Way to Birth (1995). She continues to research the mysteries of prebirth communication and is working on another book.

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