That's how many brain cells a baby grows in order to reach 100 billion neurons during their gestation in utero. That makes up 80% of your baby's brain. It is a feat of brilliant biological engineering, starting from the tip of a 3 millimeter neural tube, it goes on to develop into an intricate network that will govern the health, happiness, and well-being for the rest of your child's life.
Art: Water is Life by Ishka Lha
In India, there is a teaching known as Garbh Sanskar, which means "education in the womb". In this ancient practice, it is understood that every growing baby responds to stimulus in the form of thoughts, feelings, and moods of it's mother. While it might seem strange to our western way of thinking, our oldest human ancestors deeply understood that the mother's womb is the child's very first learning environment.
I was lucky to have met two people who I admire greatly, Julie and Francois Gerland at a business conference in California in 2018. Julie and I were paired together in an exercise and soon discovered that we were both working in the birth community, perhaps the only ones in a room of 150 people. They invited me to India that year to attend their annual birth conference, "Birthing the New Humanity", in which over 30 doctors, doulas, midwives, lactation specialists and neonatal physicians from around the world met to discuss the link between maternal wellness and a global healing paradigm shift. It may seem shocking, but they believe that in just 3 generations of supportive and healthy gestation, birth, and postpartum, we will realize world peace.
It shouldn't be any surprise to learn that the link between positive maternal mental health and optimal birth outcomes is well established. While your baby is in utero, it can already recognize light, sound, and touch from as early as 4 months. By listening to healing music, reading uplifting stories, watching heartwarming content, and speaking or singing positivity to your baby during pregnancy, you are setting your baby up to thrive outside the womb. In short, serotonin and oxytocin (the hormones responsible for happiness and love) have an extremely positive impact on your baby's mental development.
Research also shows the affects of the opposite scenario, a pregnancy that is marked with excessive cortisol and adrenaline (stress and anxiety hormones) negatively impacts baby's brain development in utero, especially in the regions where we see the five most common Early Childhood Disease, from asthma and obesity to ADHD. During specific weeks of pregnancy, extreme spikes in cortisol have also been linked with autism. If this topic interests you, I recommend reading "Kids Pick up On Everything: How Parental Stress is Toxic to Kids" by David Code.
In our modern world, we are constantly surrounded by disturbing news, images, and events on a global scale. To place a bubble around all pregnant mothers is not possible. But what is possible is to create nurturing webs of support. By being listened to, understood, cared for, and held in a way that doesn't seek to change or fix the situation can be like a pressure relief valve. When we know we are not alone, when we know that our feelings are valid and we create space for our experience, we can spiral inwards towards our heart rather than outwards towards anxiety and overwhelm.
Pregnancy and postpartum are special times, vulnerable but also so influential for our future generations. My dream is to help set expecting mothers up for success by creating safe spaces specifically designed to smooth the edges of a rough world so to soften the impact on our developing babies.
If you or someone you know is expecting, comment below with how a support system could be of benefit. Sending you the utmost love, respect, and care for your journey!