Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 10/08/2016
Many of us who have given birth have a feeling that baby knows us, knows the sound of our voice, before birth. As a corollary, we find that we can discern the difference in our baby’s cry from a crowd of babies. If we are paying attention – and what solicitous mother is not? – we can tell whether baby is crying for food, for comfort, for discomfort from a wet diaper.
Now that science has taken an enthusiastic jump into neurons and how the brain works, we look for experts to add to our intuition with hard results.
According to Kate Fehlhaber, editor-in- chief of Knowing Neurons, a mother’s voice is recognized by infants even in a sea of mothering people. She claims as well that a mother’s voice shapes her baby’s developing brain (aeon.com). What is surprising is that the impact is shown, not in the “thinking/analytical” part of the brain, but in the emotional centers. Neurobiologist David Abrams claims this emotional connection may be seen as a neural “fingerprint”, where a mother’s voice triggers specific activity in her child’s brain.
This ability to recognize one’s mother is there in middle school years, and we will see I’m sure whether that voice remains into adulthood. It’s fascinating stuff. I am always happy when science catches up to intuition, showing the science and the “spiritual” aspects are not in conflict. https://aeon.co/ideas/how-a-mother-s-voice-shapes-her-baby-s-developing-brain
This leads me to wonder how my communication with my kids, grandkids and with others in my “corner of the world” impacts the state of the world. This is my responsibility, because I have a choice about whether to be a voice for compassion and hospitality, or judgment and anger. Good vibrations, positive energy, or whatever you call the atmosphere of the time are dependent on that ability which can be recognized by babes in the womb.
There’s also the opposite end of the situation. When mothers and other caregivers are angry, sad, detached from the daily ups and downs of life, does the babe insider feel that? After birth, it’s also pretty clear – assuming that we pay more attention to the baby’s needs than our own frustrations – that our sons and daughters absorb our moods. Without making the mistake of blaming every problem on the mother, it needs to be said that those who give care to babies, children, and others cannot hide their inner reactions. So as the larger world is arguing about politics, religion, education, and other concerns, we might remember that our “neural fingerprint” is powerful enough to manifest peace or war, compassion or neglect.
One kind act today has the potential to change everything. We are that powerful.