No Infantile Amnesia
"I remember stuff from when I was an infant, now! I know we got a 'C' in Psychology, but it's not normal to remember stuff vividly from before the age of four, is it?"Characters in fiction have improbable memory spans; specifically, they can recall events that occurred before the age of three with detail, and their "memories" are true, real, and accurate — not just memories of the event as it was told to them later, and not twisted by suggestion. Remembering one's own birth is particularly common. This trope is quite far from Truth in Television: not only do people not really remember their infancy, most people don't remember their childhood as well as they think they do and can be easily tricked into "remembering" stuff that never happened (as demonstrated by, among others, Elizabeth Loftus). Often associated with characters with an unusually, or even supernaturally, good memory or high intelligence.
— Ellen, El Goonish Shive
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Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball Z: The first Broly movie. The titular villain has a deep, sadistic, personal hatred for Goku, because Goku's crying bothered him when they were newborns. For about one day maximum. Possibly justified in that this is an alien we're talking about, here. The only other time a Saiyan's infant memories are mentioned in the Anime/Manga is when Raditz asks if Goku received any head injuries when he was young. The way he talked, you'd almost expect that a Saiyan can recall their entire lives.
- Dennou Coil: Yasako and Isako, the main characters, have gaps in their memory from a specific incident when they were around seven years old. There is some implied memory manipulation or repression involved, but the characters generally react as if they're simply remembering something that they had forgotten.
- 20th Century Boys: Kanna can remember being held as a baby. She had ESP.
- At age three, Tim Drake went to Haly's Circus and met the Flying Graysons. Six years later he remembered it well enough to identify Dick Grayson on sight when he saw Robin on television.
- Blade remembers his own birth and the subsequent death of his own mother (occurring only shortly afterwards). Whether this is the result of the whole vampire thing is never addressed.
- Dr. Doom, in a Blade comic, went significantly beyond this, actually remembering what his mother was doing while he was in the womb. (Then again, mother and son are both potent mages, so...)
- The Silver Age Superman had total recall as one of his many, many super-powers; he remembered Krypton quite well, even though he was about three when he left.
- The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius plays it straight. The titular boy genius was conscious and self-aware in the womb. He hypothesizes he has at most ten years from his current age (7? 10?) before his hyperintelligence drives him irreparably crazy, so he wants to live life to the fullest now.
- In ElfQuest, it's probably caused by Our Elves Are Better.
- Skywise remembers "a sight burned into his infant brain when [he] was just hours old", including his mother's face.
- After the memories are triggered by a scent, Teir remembers his mother. One of the panels of that short flashback is drawn from the perspective of an infant being breastfed.
- The elven infants stay in the womb for two years or more. They are also become capable of telepathy while in the womb, at least with the mother, and possibly with the father. (For comparison, in humans brain waves of the 'dreaming' type are detectable at at least five weeks.) It is entirely possible an elven child's brain is at a different level of development at birth.
- Captain America: The Cap's enemy the Red Skull once claimed he could remember being in his mother's womb.
- In Camelot 3000, Morgan le Fay causes Mordred's reincarnation to remember his previous incarnation's having almost been drowned by King Arthur as an infant.
- In Gensokyo 20XX, we have two examples of this. In Yukari's case, this is played straight, in that she can recall things from when she was two, then again, she is a youkai, so this could be explainable, if not justified. In the case with Maribel and Renko, this is a tad downplayed in that they can remember bits and pieces from the past surrounding the time a little before and while meeting Yukari. Of course, they can only describe the very little they know. In Reimu's scenario, this is possibly averted in that she probably doesn't remember much a before and during imprisonment.
- This is averted in Kill la Kill AU with Ryuuko, who cannot remember anything before three-years old. This is noted in Part 2/part 4 of comic 25, where she is currently eight and doesn't remember what happened to Ragyo six years prior but she does feel her absence, describing it as "the warmth that had been gone from her life for some time". Satsuki, however, can remember things from when she was two, stating that is when her memories first began, along with that being the age she learned how to change diapers. Of course, Nui lampshades it by saying, "There is no fucking way you remember that."
- In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, all the main character really remembers was his biological father Papa Smurf leaving him in Psychelia when he was an infant — before he felt the searing pain that was the Psyche Master's Mind Rapey mental probe that erased everything before that moment.
- Downplayed in Better Off Not Knowing: The protagonist's neonatal memory seems to be limited to the "bone-crushing cold" of her biological mother's Tailor-Made Prison at the North Pole.
- Forrest Gump: Averted: Forrest Gump explicitly states that he has absolutely no recollection of his birth.
- Return of the Jedi: Princess Leia remembers her "real mother", giving her a description of "very beautiful, kind, but sad." Padmé fell to Death by Childbirth in Revenge of the Sith, making it this trope retroactively. Her brother doesn't remember her. That, or Leia had a succession of three mothers, including Padmé. The novelization to that movie, written long before the prequels with the full approval of George Lucas, expands on those memories, mentioning one of being hidden in a trunk and a traumatic parting - 'flesh torn from flesh'. There is no Word of God on the issue, but common Fanon holds that the 'real mother' Leia remembers is Bail Organa's wife at the time, Breha, who died a few years after Leia became an Organa, while a competing explanation is that Leia used the force to look into the past without realizing it.
- Briefly mentioned near the beginning of Ladyhawke, where "the Mouse", in an aside, compares his escape from The Alcatraz to leaving his mother's womb—"God, what a memory!"
- In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Sybok conjures Spock's most distressing, self-torturing memory, which turns out to be his father dissing him seconds after his own birth.
Sarek: So human.
- Interestingly, a deleted scene in the rebooted Star Trek also shows a similar birth scene, except Sarek expresses nothing but pride for his son. Possibly, this was done because few people like the fifth film.
- The main character in Powder has at least one pre-birth memory: how he killed his own mother by summoning a lightning strike on her while still in the womb. The people he tells the story are as freaked by it as because of his ability to remember that.
- Defied in Donnie Darko, when Donnie says during a class presentation that anyone who claims to remember anything from before the age of three is lying.
- In Flash Gordon, when Zarkov is reprogrammed by Ming's secret police, they rewind his memories all the way back to his birth, and even to the womb.
- Disney's Tangled includes a scene in which Rapunzel has an epiphany and remembers being the king's and queen's baby. The flashback is pretty blurry, though. The opening narration implies she was one day old at the time. She had a lot of hair and was very... movey for a day old infant, so it could be the magic of the flower or something.
- She also claims to have remembered the floating lights for eighteen years. She could have walked to the window at one, perhaps, but it's unlike she would have remembered doing so for several years.
- Blade: A flashback shows his dying mother bleeding from the neck reaching out to him after he was born. It moves Blade to help the doctor who is in a similar plight.
- Averted in Baby Geniuses, where it is revealed that babies before the age of 2 are ridiculously smart (thanks to the experiences of their past life). Around the age of 2, they "cross over" and forget everything that happened before, becoming normal children. The main characters' adopted father actually manages to teach himself to understand infants' "speech".
- This may be a Shout-Out to the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers in which it's revealed that all infants have memories of their lives just before birth and can even communicate with animals—until they reach the age of two or so. Then they become regular children. Only Mary Poppins herself seems to have retained her infantile memories and ability to communicate with animals.
- In the sequel, one of the characters is a baby whose aging was halted before age two thanks to his father's invention. He'll always be a genius, but he'll also never be able to grow up.
- In Lucy, the title character, becoming superintelligent after accidental exposure to a powerful new drug, tells her mother she can remember the taste of her milk in her mouth and petting a cat that died before she was one.
- In Hook, when Peter's memories of being Peter Pan return, he recollects events all the way back to being a baby in his pram.
- In Meet the Robinsons, Lewis specifically tries to recollect his baby memories with his invention to meet his Missing Mom. He never does so, so it's unclear if the machine would have let him.
- Harry Potter: In the first book, Harry vaguely remembers a blinding flash of green light. He later finds out that the light was the Avada Kedavra curse which killed his parents when he was one year old. After Hagrid tells him this, he suddenly remembers it with an Evil Laugh accompanying the light. In the third book, the memories become a lot clearer thanks to the Dementors' power to dredge up a person's most traumatic memories. This may be justifiable by the fact that more traumatic memories are easier to recall even if you were young at the time. Especially as we later learn that part of Voldemort' soul was transferred to Harry during this event.
- Dune: Alia mentions being able to remember when she was in the womb. Justified in that her mother Jessica OD'd on spice while (unknowingly at the time) pregnant, resulting in Alia's genetic memories awakening when she was still in utero, and when the Fremen who had her take the spice realize she was pregnant they're horrified since if they'd known they wouldn't have made her do it. All of the novels toy with this trope. In the sequels more characters are introduced who, like Alia, are infants but already have adult-level intelligence and memories from past lives.
- In Ender's Shadow, we learn that Bean is able to remember a fair amount of his own infancy, and was lucid enough to hide just before the "clean room" where he has been cared for is raided. This is justified by his eidetic memory. And his genetically-enhanced, ultra-powerful intellect; he was not just remembering it, he was fully conscious, although almost totally non-socialised.
- Small Gods: Brutha, the hero, has an eidetic memory. He reports that his first memory was a bright light, and then someone slapped him.
- The Icarii (Magical birdmen) of The Wayfarer Redemption can remember everything from the time they're born due to their magical nature. The Acharites (Humans) and Avar aren't so lucky however.
- In The Belgariad's 'autobiography' of Polgara, she starts the story off describing her time in the womb. Her earliest memory is apparently when she and her twin sister split from one embryo to two. Needless to say, she also recalls her babyhood. Polgara is weird: the daughter of an immortal sorcerer and his shapeshifting wife.
- It's specifically mentioned that Polgara's mother did this deliberately, with the assistance of the god Aldur, to better prepare her daughters for their future. That power was also used to alter Polgara in the womb, explaining why she is a Brainy Brunette (her sister had Hair of Gold) and seems stronger physically than average.
- Justified in the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel EarthWorld. A device is used to read Fitz's mind, causing him to remember his entire life in reverse:
"Aaaaargh!" Fitz yelled... "I was being born! Oh my god, I was being born!"
- Oskar Matzerath, the protagonist of The Tin Drum, remembers being a fetus.
- Alias from the Forgotten Realms novel Azure Bonds has vivid memories of the day she was born. Except the memories are fake, she's a construct created just a few days before the novel began. This means that her creator succumbed to an in-character use of this trope, when he gave her those memories.
- Conan the Barbarian: In Robert E. Howard's story "A Witch Shall Be Born", the witch remembers being exposed.
But the life in me was stronger than the life in common folk, for it partakes of the essence of the forces that seethe in the black gulfs beyond mortal ken. The hours passed, and the sun slashed down like the molten flames of hell, but I did not die—aye, something of that torment I remember, faintly and far away, as one remembers a dim, formless dream.
- Ray Bradbury's "The Small Assassin". Like Barry Ween, he remembers being in the womb. And he's not too happy to have been expelled from it...
- In The Demonata, Bec is stated to have a memory so uncannily accurate, she not only remembers being born, but being in the womb itself.
- It was clearly hyperbole but, according to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there are chemical interrogation techniques so effective that the test subject will remember things that his/her mother forgot while the subject was in utero.
- Although Sir Apropos of Nothing relays the story of his mother's conception of him via rape and his birth, he very explicitly states that the stories were told to him by his mother and the owner of the inn where he worked.
- In the Temeraire series, dragons can remember the later parts of gestation. Temeraire himself comments that dragons hatch because being in the egg is not very interesting.
- Narrator Greg Heffley claims this applies to him at the beginning of the seventh Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Turns out that even his gestation had its annoyances, thanks to Mom's prenatal speakers...
- In Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams, protagonist Codi has a recurring nightmare of a "shattering pop" and a blinding flash. Turns out that it's from the flashbulb on her father's camera when he took a picture of her as a newborn.
- In The Red Tent, Zilpah claims to have memories of her time as a fetus in utero.
- A kid in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle recalled being born. Despite Malcolm's insistence that such a thing was impossible and that no one could remember their own birth, the episode played it up as truth.
- Monk: In "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man" Monk remembers being born. Then again, this is played as just another way in which Monk's mind doesn't work like everyone else's.
- Star Trek: Voyager
- Harry Kim claims to remember being in the womb. However, this is never confirmed to be a true memory and Paris thinks it's absurd.
- In the episode "Q2", Q's son voices how annoyed he was when Janeway cooed over him as a baby. She's surprised he can remember that, but of course, the Q are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
- On Lost, Ben and Locke both have flashback episodes that include their own births. ("The Man Behind the Curtain" and "Cabin Fever", respectively.)
- Lampshaded and justified in Birds of Prey; the character who says he remembers something from the age of 2 has superpowered memory.
- Played straight and averted in Titus; Dave once got so high, he remembered being born.
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon Cooper insists he hasn't forgotten one thing since his mother stopped breastfeeding him. (Note that it doesn't say how old he was.)
Sheldon: It was a drizzly Tuesday...
- Family Matters: Played for laughs when Steve Urkel is hypnotized in order to access a semi-repressed memory of overhearing Carl insulting him. When the hypnotist asks him to "go back" and state what he remembers. He goes too far and answers with:
"I'm being born. There's my dad. Oooooh, I'm being pushed back in!"
- Sister Sister implies that Tia and Tamera actually remember being in the womb, as when Tamara tries to beg Tia to do something with her, she says "Remember the womb?", with Tia going "Oh no... not the womb." before consenting to Tamera's request.
- House: Dr. House has a rather interesting variation in one episode of Season 3. Although the patient, a child, doesn't actually remember anything in the womb, he does think he was kidnapped by aliens. Eventually, House deduces (by mockingly trying to talk to Cuddy's stomach as if she were pregnant) that the patient's Kidnapped by Aliens beliefs were actually the byproduct of portions of his twin being absorbed into his brain during fetal development.
- In Doctor Who, River Song remembers the Doctor's cot, despite only having been in it for a few moments as a baby. (Then again, the fact that she's part Time Lord could explain her having such an excellent memory).
- Played for Laughs in a throwaway comment on Boy Meets World: Eric's one memory of his birth was "that cute nurse who slapped me on the tushie."
- Olive in A.N.T. Farm claims to be able to remember, not just her birthday, but her actual birth day.
Olive: The doctor was so cute... and of course I was a mess.
- A Mr. Show sketch features both Bob and David flashing back to their Hilariously Abusive Childhoods. Bob's is from when he's a little boy (about 8-10) but David's of his parents arguing when he was a baby (and his father stepping on him).
- In an episode of Are You Being Served?, Mrs. Slocombe revealed that her earliest memory was an uncle with a bushy beard putting his face over her cot while she was still a baby. Weirdly, this was part of a ploy by the other characters to determine exactly how old she was (they believed it was her 50th birthday), which seemed to assume not only that her earliest memory would be from the year she was born, but that she would remember something newsworthy enough that it was recorded in history.
- In a Dilbert comic, Dilbert gave his life story, starting with "so there I am in my mom's fallopian tube."
- Averted in Calvin and Hobbes. Six-year old Calvin gives up writing his autobiography because he can't remember the whole first half of his life.
- In a later comic where Calvin struggles to remember his past, even wondering if someone had erased to keep secrets hidden, Hobbes comments that he remembers Calvin spending a lot of time burping up. If you take the view that Hobbes is a creation of Calvin's mind, then it's possible that Calvin still has his earliest memories but can't consciously access them. If you consider Hobbes a separate entity, however, it's a subtle retcon of how the two met as it implies he was always around from the start of Calvin's life in one way or another.
- In FoxTrot, Jason implies that he could remember some bits before Age 5, as well as making advanced calculations. Likewise, in another comic strip, he once claimed that he wanted StarCraft since he was in the womb, with even Roger vouching for him, causing a squicked Andy Fox to cancel the Dentist's appointment.
- Another Code: Ashley Mizuki Robbins is able to recall events from a little before and up to the day of her third birthday with decent clarity, as she's implied to have some kind of super memory. It's not perfect, as she mostly remembers her third birthday as a Flashback Nightmare and the events before it were only restored once she got back to the areas where they happened.
- This is actually discussed - a scientist working with her father is a specialist in memory and specifically states that the brain doesn't develop to remember long-term memories in children younger than the age of 3 so he is actually skeptical about some of the things she claims to remember and is also a bit nervous, since some of the events she is recalling link to the time her mother was forced by her boss into a partial Mind Wipe when she quit in disgust at the direction their project was taking as well as possibly linking him as the Big Bad of the series.
- In Psychonauts, Sasha's first memory vault sequence takes place when he was a baby.
- This is commented on in Galatea, where the title character says she remembers how she was constructed, while others don't remember how they were born.
- Averted in Mass Effect 2, the Drell have eidetic memory but they don't perfectly remember their very early childhood. Thane Krios dryly speculates that if they remembered the birthing trauma, they would never recover from it.
- In Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai, when Broly and Frieza encounter each other before fighting each other, it is implied that Broly also remembers when Planet Vegeta was destroyed and how he barely escaped with his father before they were killed by the explosion, in addition to Goku crying next to him. The same scene also implies that this incident in his life also contributed to his Ax-Crazy nature.
- In the Assassin's Creed games, genetic memory is apparently detailed enough that one can relive the birth of an ancestor through the Animus. When Altair impregnates Maria Thorpe, we find out that genetic memory even lets one remember being sperm!
- Notably averted in Jak II: Renegade, when Samos comments at the end that "It's funny, the boy won't remember any of this." To which older Jak replies that he does remember the light.
- Dragon Quest V starts with the main character dreaming about his own birth.
- Remakes of Dragon Quest III add the Recall/Remember/Recollect skill, which lets the Hero remember anything they've memorized. Learning and casting the stronger spells allows the Hero to recall things from further and further back in time. Including the last time they heard their father's voice, back when they were very young.
- It is implied in the original Japanese script and the script for the remake of Metal Gear Solid, as well as stated in the Director's Commentary for the same game, that Psycho Mantis subconsciously remembers his own mother giving up her own life to give birth to him.
- Similarly, its implied that Raiden has some memories of his birth in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, as he mentions that he was "born on a rainy day." As his parents were murdered by Solidus while he was still very young, it's unlikely that they would have told him.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Eoleo comments on Kraden having not aged a day since they encountered in Golden Sun: The Lost Age, at which time Eoleo was a toddler. It's immediately commented on, with the excuse that he was a very precocious toddler.
- Pointedly averted in the first two games, where it's a plot point that Ivan doesn't remember his birth family.
- Played with in Kingdom Hearts. Sora, Riku, and Kairi all have major events in their early childhoods that they typically can't remember, seemingly averting the trope. But upon being reminded that these things did happen, they suddenly remember them with crystal-clear accuracy, unclouded by suggestion or holes of any kind.
- El Goonish Shive: Lampshaded when the implanting of the memories of an alternate-universe self gives Ellen near perfect recall of infancy. Ellen and Elliot discuss the fact that No Infantile Amnesia is not normal.
- In Dragon Tails, Goldy's oldest memories are from within his own egg! Bluey's comments suggest he remembers that event, too.
- In Doki's Chronicles, Doki recalls bits and pieces of when she born, although she did state that she doesn't remember much aside from what she's described.
- From Killerbunnies, Snow is two and can remember almost anything as if it were yesterday, which would probably makes this a subversion, if anything, as she is already a toddler and what she remembers are probably her earliest memories.
- In one episode the babies discussed their earliest memories. Tommy's was being born or, rather, being in an incubator. Of course, Tommy is only a year old and the entire point of the show is babies with more cognitive skills than probable.
- In another episode, Chuckie describes a recurring nightmare which the viewer will realize is his birth.
- The Mothers' Day episode also had Phil and Lil reminisce on when their mother used to breastfeed them.
- Stewie from Family Guy also remembers being a homunculus within a sperm cell, as does his half-brother, Bertram. Then again, they're mutant supergeniuses. Or something. Stewie is an odd case, since he not only remembers being born; he is depicted as having been fully functioning and able to speak, write, and draw a map of Europe prior to his birth. (In one rather disgusting off-hand comment, he tells Brian that he carved "Brooks was here" in the wall of the birth canal.)
- The same thing happens to Beavis in Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. However, it was most likely a hallucination brought on by dehydration.
- Megamind can remember the last thing his parents said to him before he was sent away as an infant. Granted, he's a supergenius alien and seemed to find living with his parents at eight days old to be 'embarrassing', so his mind probably works differently.
- Fridge Brilliance: Megamind had a very unconventional upbringing; for all he knew, getting 'kicked out' at the late age of 8 days probably was embarrassing. Oh god, now I've made myself sad.
- An odd case from Futurama. Amy expresses surprise that Bender remembers his own birth. Bender replies, "Sure, it was only four years ago."
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Groundkeeper Willie recalls how his father never said anything kind to him and just chewed him out. Cue the Flashback to Willie's father doing just this. The camera zooms back, and it is revealed that this happened just moments after Willie's birth. Back in the present, Willie claims that these were the last words his father ever said to him.
- Another episode opened with Homer dreaming of being a baby happily swimming in the womb, only to start screaming when the water broke.
- Phineas and Ferb: Invoked with Dr. Doofenschmirtz, who claims that his parents somehow missed witnessing his birth date, even though logically his mom should've been present.
- Played for Laughs in Super Secret Secret Squirrel when Morocco Mole asks his Evil Twin Scirocco why he hates him so much. This segues into flashbacks within flashbacks, from when they were children, when they were infants, when they were embryos... Secret stops this lunacy before Embryo!Scirroco can explain how the circumstances of their parents meeting led to his hatred of Morocco.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom-Boom Mountain", Finn vividly recalls being abandoned in the woods as an infant and being taken in by Jake's parents. For some reasons, he does not remember how and why he was abandonned in the first place.
- Dawn Prince-Hughes Ph. D's biography "Songs of the Gorilla Nation" describes a memory of her own birth, recalling a nurse with horn-rimmed glasses.
- Ray Bradbury claimed he can remember being born.
- In Finding Ben by Barbara LaSalle, she states that her high-functioning autistic son Benjamin Levinson remembers the color of the walls of his first bedroom, which he moved out of at 11 months of age.
- The dubious practice of "rebirthing" as a pseudoscientific therapy for attachment disorder is rooted in this trope.
- Different cultures tend to remember earlier or later memories. This has something to do with how important recollection is to that culture. And children of age 3 can have clear memories from when they are one year old. While common, infantile amnesia does not seem to be a universal phenomenon with a predictable trigger.
- One theory accounting for the images associated with alleged Alien Abduction experiences is that they're actually a foggy memory of the abductee's own birth, with "Grey aliens" being masked, white-coated doctors as perceived through a newborn's as-yet-unfamiliar vision. Fully justified, since newborns have an eyesight of about 20/400, according to The Other Wiki.
- Leo Tolstoy wrote about this trope (rarely happening in Real Life): "It's just a step from a five-year-old child to me, but there's a deep chasm between being five years old and birth." (Paraphrased)
- It's more common than people believe. Children have suddenly expressed memories of people who died before they turned two, or remembered a situation, believing it must have happened later in life, only to be told that the only time that could have happened was when they were a baby.