Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.
Ancient Chinese medicine has a deep understanding of prenatal education. Prior to the mother’s pregnancy, both parents begin preparation by turning up their bodies and minds. After conception, the mother pays particular attention to her lifestyle, and tries to maintain peaceful and happy emotion and thoughts. This is to ensure that the growing foetus has the best possible environment.
The West has a saying: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” A person’s health and emotional habits are formed in the womb and during childhood and are influenced by his/her parents’ physical and mental health as well as their attitude and feelings towards the baby. Some of the feelings and attitudes that we have since young can be traced to the pregnancy experiences of our mothers. Some of our talents and rhythm of speech can also be traced to our mothers. Modern science has also found that our sleep patterns are associated with that of our mothers during pregnancy.
A rapidly developing field in psychology is prenatal and Neonatal psychology.
When conductor Boris Brott was asked about the source of his interest in music, he replied: “Before I was born.” He found that while practicing being a conductor in his youth, there were music scores that he knew without having learned them, particularly those related to the cello section. On one occasion, he discussed this observation with his mother, who was very surprised. Upon learning what these pieces were, she realized that these were the ones that she had practiced during her pregnancy. She was a professional cellist.
A primary school teacher’s child had an ability to sketch human faces with very accurate positioning of the eyes, nose and mouth. The mother could not understand this initially, but upon reflection, she realized that during her pregnancy, she had frequently instructed her students on how to draw human faces.
The feelings between parents and children are established in the womb. There is the case of an American woman who bore her first child during a period when her husband was very busy with his studies. He was not home day and night and was not with the baby at birth. The father and son had a distant relationship. When this woman was pregnant with her second child, her husband was home every night. He also made it a point every night to talk to the foetus in the womb about all matters that happened during the day, including the food they had for dinner. He would conclude the conversation by saying: “We love you and look forward to your arrival.” When the child was born, the father was around. When he carried the baby, he naturally spoke to the baby, who opened his eyes to gaze at the father intently, then smiled. Clearly, the baby recognised his father, and they had a close relationship.
When the pregnancy was not welcome by the parents, it may have a profound long-term impact on the parent-child relationship and the child’s mental and physical well-being. A mother of four children asked me why her second child does things that make her angry every day. I asked her how she felt when she was pregnant with this child. She said she did not want to get pregnant during that year because her Chinese horoscope conflicted with that of a child born in that year. Her rejection, along with her desire not to bear the child, led to her child doing things against her wishes. This illustrates the power of a mother’s thoughts.
In his book “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child”,Dr Verny mentioned that the case of a new born baby who turned her head away every time her mother tried to feed her. On the other hand, this baby accepted milk bottles or breast milk from others. Dr Verny asked this mother on her feelings during this pregnancy. She replied that she did not want the child; it was her husband who wanted the child. The foetus therefore received her mother’s feelings, and the mother-child relationship did not get to a good start.
In 1979, Andrew Feldman, a Canadian psychologist, reported the results of his research on four youths who had unsuccessfully attempted suicide five times. He found that these suicidal tendencies occurred at the same time every year and coincided with the time that their mothers had attempted abortions as well as the abortion techniques used (e.g., by tools or by drugs). These youths overcame their suicidal tendencies once they realized that their tendencies came from their memories while in their mothers’ wombs. I once met a mother who had unsuccessfully attempted abortion. Her son is now over twenty years old, and also has suicidal tendencies. Currently, there are many cases of attempted suicides by youths. Whether this is related to unsuccessful abortion attempts by their mothers is worth further investigation.
In 1988, a seminal piece of research did a comparative study of three countries – Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and North Finland – and investigated the development of children whose mothers had abortion requests rejected. The results showed that in Sweden, the children of such women tended to have more psychological problems and poorer learning abilities; they also had more congenital physical problems. The research also studied 12,000 mothers in North Finland. It found that about 12% of them felt that they should not have been pregnant. The children of these mothers had lower heights and weights within the first twenty-eight days of birth compared to other children. The incidence of premature birth was also higher, and so was the incidence of infant deaths as well as ailments such as cerebal palsy and mental retardation. Among these children aged eight, fourteen, sixteen, the incidence of learning difficulties, language deficiencies, and mental retardation was also twice that of other children.
A similar twenty-year longitudinal study was conducted in Prague (capital of Czechoslovakia). It found that among children of women who had two unsuccessful abortion requests, the proportion of such children suffering from acute and chronic ailments was higher than normal. Their mothers felt that their children were obstinate, naughty, and ill tempered. Their teachers considered these children to have poorer academic performance, and other students did not like to befriend them. At age fourteen, these children’s academic performance had deteriorated, and many chose to leave school. Their teachers felt that the children were hyperactive, and less sociable. The children themselves felt rejected by their mothers, and their relationship with their parents also deteriorated over time. At age 23, these children had more social and criminal problems – the incidence of them committing serious crimes was about three times that of others. They were dissatisfied with life and were generally worried and unhappy. They easily met with obstacles in their love lives, and they a tendency to drink more coffee, smoke more, and drink more beer than others. These children also received more psychiatric treatment and adapted more poorly to stress than others. When these children grew up and married, they tended to have more grievances and unhappy marriages than others. They also had a higher incidence of unplanned pregnancies, and, like their parents, they had difficulty establishing close relationship with their children. These reports tell us that the emotional blueprints are transferred from one generation to the other. They also tell us that the emotional environment of the foetus has an impact on the child’s character.
While the foetus is developing in the mother’s womb, any kind of contamination (chemicals or emotions) can interfere with the growth of its delicate nervous system and organs. The foetus can experience what its mother eats, drink, breathes, thinks, or feels. When the mother smokes, the foetus will feel unrest and uneasy as nicotine makes it uncomfortable; the foetus will also feel anxiety as it does not know when this uncomfortable feeling will recur. Dr Michael Liberman found that when the thought of smoking arises in the minds of pregnant women, the foetuses inside them react immediately by having faster heartbeats. Foetuses can also hear music. Music by Vivaldi makes the foetus relaxed, while those by Beethoven and pop musicians lead to the foetus inside the womb to move and kick. While recording the music of a rock group, a pregnant lady had her ribs broken by the foetus kicking in her womb.
To help parents understand how to create the best environment for the foetus in the womb, Dr Verny has written a pregnancy guide titled “Nurturing the Unborn” that integrates psychology and medicine. According to Dr Verny, in the first month of pregnancy, the mother must be emotionally stable, be free of unwholesome habits, and be confident. Both father and mother can participate in the preparations during the nine months of pregnancy and develop a warm relationship with the foetus. Parents can engage in music therapy, light exercises, massage, and thought communication to enable the foetus to have a good mental and physical environment. Prenatal education establishes the foundation for life-long holistic health. Parents hold the greatest power in the world.