Prenatal Parenting: Bonding with Your Unborn Child
Become the parent you already are before your child is born. Take the time to connect with your baby every day in the womb, both parents together, and mom regularly throughout her day. Prenate’s (from here on I shall call them Little One’s) are conscious, sentient and vulnerable in the womb, and they benefit greatly from gentle, loving connection regularly from their parents. This kind of connecting communicates: “We know you are there”, “We know that you are having your own experience,” and “We know that you are affected by how we feel, and by your ‘environment’, and we are listening to you, including and protecting you.
As the parents you are your Little One’s immediate environment. The most influential part of the Little Ones ‘environment’ is his/her mother. Everything mom feels, her Little One will be feeling too. This is why it is important for mom to feel supported, relaxed and happy during pregnancy as much as possible. However, in the real world, there are stresses, traumatic and even shocking events, emotional upheavals, etc. that happen routinely and that we don’t necessarily have any control over. At these times it is important to connect with
your Little One and tell him/her about what is happening and that “it is nothing to do with them.” This is where having prenatally bonded with your Little One really supports their development in the womb, neurologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Within this bonded connection you have already established you can help your Little One to negotiate his ‘environment’ as he grows.
The next important thing to tell your Little One during a stressful/traumatic event is that they did not cause it, it is not their fault, neither is it about them (if this is true). For example, if mom was having some feelings about herself or about something that had happened to her, she could connect with her Little One and say “Hi, honey, mommy is processing some feelings right now and they are not about you.” Or, of mom and dad were having an argument, they could take a moment to connect with Little One and say to him “we are having an argument and it is not about you, nor is it caused by you, we are needing to work some stuff out together.” Even if you have a very painful emotional upset during pregnancy, keep the channels open to your Little One so you can bond, she cannot bond without you, and this bond will help to offset any emotional upsets and disturbances during pregnancy (Verney). In addition, you are showing your Little One in actions and words that she has parents who take care of their issues, and who care about her experience of them. We all take on our parents issues as Little Ones and children, and often needed to be told that when our parents split up or something catastrophic appeared to be happening in our family, that it was not our fault, nor was it about or because of us. This is also true for prenates.
Mom is the closest person to the Little One since she carries him/her inside her, and dads are extremely important too. Babies need their dad’s. and after birth will respond to dad’s voice with in a way that there is no doubt that they know who he is. Dr. Wirth3 has a way of discovering from a baby if they have been exposed to their dad’s voice in utero, he holds the infant between himself and the dad and they compete for the baby’s attention by calling the child’s name. If the dad has been actively communicating with his baby, it will turn toward him, looking for the source of the sound (see www.fatherstobe.org). Dad’s role in supporting and protecting mom and baby during the pregnancy, and in connecting with his child in the womb, will create a wonderful holding space for the whole family. This bonding will strongly contribute to a wonderful birth for you all.
Prenatal bonding is really about not waiting! Why wait until your precious baby is born in order to bond with him/her, when you can en-joy the fun now. I taught my son and my daughter-in-love how to bond with my granddaughter when she was in the womb. Since I live a long way away from them, I had a really fun time making a tape for them to play to her when she was in the womb. I put songs on, spoke to her, told her stories, and read to her. I also made up a story about her journey into life, and when her 10 year old sister listened to it she was moved to tears. Perhaps it touched her into her own Little One’s journey into life.
My daughter-in-love had not bond prenatally with her first child, and she said that she felt completely different about her second child when she was born. “I loved her before I ever saw her, and after birth simply felt like a continuation of the relationship already established, except that I was very excited to see what she looked like.” With her first child she had not felt this bond until after birth, because she had not thought of her daughter as a person until she was born. Often this prenatal bonding can deeply affect birthing choices.
I have had so many experiences myself, and witnessed others, in both regressions and somatic work which have left me in no doubt as to the profound impact that our prenatal experiences and environment have upon us. Because of these experiences I do not need scientific proof to verify this fact. Some of you may feel more comfortable with more research/scientifically oriented information, and may wish to know that the brain, nervous system and sensory apparatus all begin developing in the 1st month. “By the end of the 2nd month the one inch long fetus is astonishingly well equipped with a beating heart, a circulatory system, a digestive tract, graceful arms and legs, facial features, ears, fingers, toes, and-the crucial center of all fetal nutrition and breathing – a pulsing umbilicus.”
“By the end of the 1st trimester (the first 3 months), the nervous system and sensory apparatus is so well developed that the fetus responds to the stroking of its palm by a light hair by grasping, of its lips by sucking and of its eyelids by squinting. Doctors who perform amniocentesis at this stage can sometimes see the fetus jump and show an increased heart rate if the needle should touch it.” De-Mause1 They will also startle and move away from the incoming needle.
I call the scientific/medical model of viewing the Little One ‘Brainist’ because it is a scientific, neurological and physiological approach to fetal awareness that relies upon whether or not we have a nervous system or a developed enough brain. Another way of approaching our unborn child’s reality is what I call the ‘Prenatal Consciousness’ model, which speaks more to the conscious being that we are when we come in to our life. In this model it does not matter if we have a brain or a nervous system because consciousness does not require a body, nor eyes to see, in order to be affected and to know what is going on. A good example of this kind of consciousness is the many people now documented as having had near death experiences in which they ‘died’, left their body on
the operating table, and then came back in. They ‘saw’ and were aware of everything that was happening both in the operating theater, and to their own body, and accurately recounted these details on their return from death, including what was said. They were able to see without their eyes, and this is the consciousness that we all have right from the beginning.
In working with my own early imprints I have been back as far as my preconception journey, before I even got into my body. I am fascinated by how and where our pre-body experiences come to land in our body once we have one. As energy fuses with matter in conception those energetic experiences imprint upon our physicality. Each cell holds the imprints and as it divides and makes its way to the various areas of the body that it is destined for, it carries those imprints with it. Once we are in a body we store all of our experiences in our cells first, then in our fascia, organs, etc.
MORE WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR LITTLE ONE:
There are many ways you can connect and bond with your Little One in the womb. Patting your stomach, singing, telling or reading stories, telling baby what you are doing or where you are going in your daily life, and dancing. Baby may respond by moving and kicking, and you can come to know what your baby’s different kinds of kicking mean, e.g. are they angry kicks, or excited kicks? “Babies pick up on the emotional charge carried by spoken language as well as unspoken attitudes and affects … the baby senses that she is loved and that makes her feel good.” Verney2. In his book Nurturing The Unborn Child, Verney uses a whole variety of methods for communicating with baby, some of which are journaling, dream work, visualization, tactile stimulation and many more. This book is a good resource for any preparing or already pregnant parents, as it’s never to late to start prenatal bonding.
One of the wonderful activities you can enjoy with your Little One is listening to music together. Studies have shown that they love classical music, particularly Baroque. Again De-Mause tells us there was “..one experiment in which Debussy was played to four fetuses in utero during times when the mother and fetus were tranquil, with the result that after birth these four infants (and not others) responded to Debussy played in the nursery as a tranquilizer or pacifier – only one of may experiments in the literature which clearly demonstrates prenatal memory and in utero learning.”
1 DeMause, Lloyd, Foundations of Psychohistory, published Creative Roots Inc 1982
2 Verney, Thomas, M.D. & Weintraub, Pamela, Nurturing The Unborn Child: A Nine-Month Program for Soothing, Stimulating, and Communicating with Your Baby, published Olmstead Press, Chicago 2000
3 Wirth, Frederick, M.D., Prenatal Parenting, published Harper Collins 2001