It’s nearing Christmas 2010. I am thinking back to near Christmas 1994. I had a Christmas baby then. He was born a few weeks before Christmas. I was so fortunate to have stopped work a few months earlier. I was enjoying my pregnancy. He was moving around in my womb, he felt like a fish swimming around in a big bowl. His little body parts were poking out, making lumps on my pregnant belly, in a funny and surreal away. My husband & I played games with him, poking at his foot when one stuck out. He would pause for a long time, as if he was wondering, what is this? Then slowly the foot would retreat, and another body part would stick out on the other side! We would laugh and say to him, we are waiting for you! We are waiting to meet you! Can’t wait to see your little face! In this way, we got used to idea that there was a third person coming to live with us. We became absorbed with the idea of being parents. We nested like mad.
I think he had a good beginning, feeling safe and swaddled inside my uterus. His growing brain, his body & mind, was already interacting with us. He had already absorbed the familiar sounds of our voices, the sounds of our house, the dog barking, the music we played. He had already reacted to light and dark shining through my layers of skin. We had played a careful game of flashlight with him, pausing and moving, reacting to the differing levels of light. I remember experiencing the treat of a prenatal massage. The massage therapist played with me and with him. He moved around a lot during the massage as she gently caressed my pregnancy belly. He seemed to like this. We both smiled and laughed. It was a joyful pregnancy. Yes, my husband and I did bond with and love our son before the birth. So did our relatives and close friends. It seemed that strangers also felt a natural emotional urge to bond with the unborn baby, like, in the supermarket. People commented and smiled about my pregnancy. I could tell they wanted to touch, but didn’t.
Today’s research has confirmed what moms and dads seem to instinctively know, that babies are capable of emotionality and bonding before birth. The lower brain centers, concerned with survival reflexes, such as breathing and eating, are developed before birth, while the limbic system (the emotional brain) and the cerebral cortex (the intellectual brain) develop slowly after birth, and show plasticity throughout a person’s lifetime, responsive to new learning. There is evidence that the emotional brain, with its preverbal, emotional memories, even though it is not fully developed prenatally, is beginning to form at a cellular level (Chamberlain, 2010). So, unborn babies are capable of retaining imprinted memories that are preverbal, emotional-based, and stored in the body at a cellular level.
Bonding with your unborn baby can help you come to terms with your new identity as a mother and also let your baby absorb and retain preverbal, comforting, emotional memories of the cascade of your love and relaxed attention coming towards him or her!
Have a Merry Christmas and remember to slow down, enjoy your child, your baby, whether in the womb or not, during this busy holiday!
Chamberlain, D. (2010). When Does Parenting Begin? Retrieved December, 2010 from www.birthpsychology.com/lifebefore/early.html