Chris Maricle is such a gift! She has blessed my life again and again through so many seasons. My husband and I took her childbirth class during my first pregnancy. Once Hayden was born, she came to my house every month until Hayden was three years old, to teach me how be the best mom for Hayden during ‘that stage’ of her development. Chris was my doula during my second delivery. She is a wealth of information on so many topics! I love her and am thrilled to hear her perspective any chance I get. Here are her thoughts on ‘Getting to Know your (unborn) Baby’………….
Bless you, Kristen Ross
“He’s kicking me all day long!” “She gets the hiccups every afternoon!” “He loves the worship music at church because he’s already dancing.”
As a birth educator, I’ve taught thousands of expectant parents and I love to hear them tell me what they’ve noticed about their unborn baby in every birth class. They often try to guess what kind of personality is going to emerge when their precious little one is born.
We used to think that babies were a “blank slate” at birth; that is, everything about a baby was determined by what happened after birth. Now we know that babies come into the world with parts of their temperament “pre-wired” by their genetic make-up, although the experiences their parents provide do determine a lot about the way those genes will express themselves in a child’s personality. Research into the development of the brain has shown us that the fastest development of a child’s brain happens in the first three years of a child’s life!
As an expectant parent, you can start now to help your baby’s brain develop. First of all, we know that stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which reduces the brain’s ability to learn. When a pregnant woman experiences prolonged stress, cortisol can reach the baby’s brain and potentially impair the brain’s future function. So it’s in yours and your baby’s best interest to decrease your stress level. Okay, maybe you can’t rid yourself of all stress (after all, there are jobs, traffic jams, money issues, and difficult family members, just to name a few), but you can be good to yourself with relaxation techniques, prayer or meditation, conversation with a good friend, or even a pedicure or massage!
Speaking of massages, did you ever think of giving your unborn baby a massage? You can do it by rubbing your tummy with little circles of your fingertips and hands, maybe using some great-smelling massage oil. In birth class, we call it effleurage, and it’s a good way to deal with cramping or discomfort in early labor, but it can also convey your love to your precious little one. Plus, massage helps the infant brain organize neural connections, so you might even be influencing a few IQ points.
You can also play a little “Baby Tag” game when your baby is awake and moving. Just push back gently and then wait for the baby to make the next move. Then you’re “it” and you make a little push. Some babies will play “Tag” for several turns.
Some moms and dads like to play “Light Tag” by holding a bright flashlight against Mom’s tummy when the baby is awake. Since we know babies can see light and dark before birth, babies often will respond to the light source.
We know that unborn babies can hear, so it’s not too early to start talking and singing to your baby. Of course he or she hears your voice every day, but taking a few minutes every day to read, talk, or sing just to your baby will pay off for both of you. Even if you can’t carry a tune, your little one will love to hear your voice—and research shows that unborn babies can recognize a short song if they hear it daily before birth. Wouldn’t it be great if your baby came into the world ready to respond to your special little lullaby?
Don’t hesitate to let your baby hear other kinds of music too. Just be sure it’s not too loud or harsh—you don’t want to harm little ears.
Dads-to-be and other family members can get into the act too. One of my favorite memories of prenatal bonding was a dad sitting next to his wife as she relaxed by stroking her tummy and taking slow, deep breaths. Dad began singing “Jesus Loves Me” as he accompanied himself on the guitar. I get teary-eyed every time I think of how that little one must have known she was loved so early in life!
You are getting excited to meet your baby in person, to touch those little fingers and toes, to smile into that precious little face. The process of learning about each other will probably continue for both of you for all your lifetimes. But isn’t it thrilling that you can start that process now?
Chris Maricle, Childbirth Educator
The PregoFIT Health & Wellness Team