Surely you have asked yourself why you can remember your infancy, your adolescence… but you can never remember your birth. Why not? We will explain.
1. The neuronal neurogenesis in the first years of life
Birth never ceases to be a traumatic event. You come into this world with the help of strange hands that remove you from the placid and cozy home that is the womb. There will surely never be a more secure location where you can be so loved.
However you come into a world full of light, shadows, and sounds without knowing how or why. Surely you feel pain. That is the moment when you cry for the first time. In addition to pain, what else do you feel in that moment? Fear? Excitement? Curiosity? We can’t know since they are questions and answers that nobody – or almost nobody – can remember.
This happens because of something called neuronal neurogenesis. This is a complicated word to describe something truly fascinating. Before being born and days later is when a process called neuronal growth occurs. Neurons superimpose on others in an intense and energy-filled process. This may surprise you because… How could you forget that? Isn’t memory and cognitive competence usually associated with neurons? Isn’t more neurons a synonym for more memory?
This is not the case with new-born babies, nor in the first few months of life. Memories aren’t maintained because neuronal neurogenesis is an intense process; some structures superimpose over others and memories don’t last because new neurons appear. Memory isn’t stable in the first few moments of life as a result of this constant growth. This stabilizes in five to six months. New neurons continues to appear, but the process is not nearly as intense.
Memory can now stabilize and endure. After 6 or 7 years, the process then inverts and some neurons begin to disappear. From that point, the most intense growth period for a child is between the age of 1 and 5. They are “sponges” that soak up knowledge, and they are capable of learning several languages at the same time. However, they will be incapable of remembering those first few days of life.
2. The importance of language and memory
According to psychologists and doctors, we can only remember that which we can express with words. You can do a small test to prove it by trying to think of your first memory. It is possible that it is a feeling, a smell, or even a scene: you in the arms of your mother, a walk through the park…
Surely, at this point you will already have begun to speak. Many experiments have been conducted that focused on this, essentially demonstrating that it is easier to remember things you can explain with words. The brain organizes and stores things better in the hippocampus; this structure is associated with memory. It is a significant memory that can evoke words since the linguistic region is closely related to memory.
Therefore, it is very complicated to remember intense moments such as birth when you still don’t have words to express it. However, there have been isolated cases where people remember small fragments of their births, small feelings… Are you one of those? Let us know.