chapter  Three
The personality of the foetus
ByLloyd deMause
Pages 11

Donald Winnicott's beginnings as a paediatrician gave him a unique ability to empathize with children and with the childhood experiences of his adult patients. But Winnicott's genius allowed him to take a giant step further: he did not hesitate to acknowledge the reality of foetal experiences in his patients, to help them relive perinatal trauma and resolve some of their deepest anxieties. Neurobiologists used to think that because the foetus had incomplete myelination of neurones, it could not have a memory. By the end of the first trimester, the foetus's nervous system is so well developed that it responds to the stroking of its palm with a light hair by grasping, of its lips by sucking, and of its eyelids by squinting. Perhaps the most impressive observational work on the personality of the foetus has been done by the Italian psychoanalyst, Alessandra Piontelli, who combined thousands of hours of ultrasound observations and clinical psychoanalytic work with young children.