According to Ayurveda the spark of consciousness is present in every living cell. As the new baby begins to take physical form, sparks of consciousness in the individual cells unite – igniting self-awareness within the unborn child. In Ayurveda this flame of awareness is known as agni, which becomes brighter as the level of biological sophistication rises. Agni is fanned by the essential vital force known as prana, and the essence of biological integrity or ojas organises the developing cells into a cohesive unified system. At the spiritual level these three primordial forces – agni, prana and ojas (or fire, breath and earth) – are the essential building blocks of life. These elementary energies fuel one’s brilliance, vitality and love. The passion for life which is inherent in the baby begins to be expressed at the moment of conception, or perhaps even before.
Why does life happen? According to the sages universal intelligence gives rise to life for the simple reason that it may evolve into complex expressions capable of pondering and appreciating the mysteries of the universe. From this perspective life is a cosmic masquerade in which the goal is to uncover what is concealed. At the beginning the disguise is quite apparent to the conscious mother who recognises the deep spiritual connection uniting her baby with her. Her most important role from the moment of conception is to nurture her child so that it can rediscover its essential spiritual nature.
We can only marvel at the intelligence that guides the development of a complex human being from a cluster of apparently identical cells. Where are the laws that govern this dance of life? They are written in the millions of years of evolution. We can describe what happens; we can replicate the conditions as in in-vitro fertilization or cloning, but we cannot fully understand how each cell knows which genes to awaken and which ones to leave dormant. We cannot explain how the flawless mirror images of eyes, ears, arms, and legs are formed in perfect symmetry. We cannot explain how different parts of the nervous system ‘know’ how to communicate across vast cellular distances to transmit critical information. The orchestration of life occurs in a deeper domain of existence which is mysterious. As early as the fifth week after conception the basic components of the nervous system – a primitive brain, a spinal cord, and the sensory material for hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling – are established. The anatomy required to perceive and interpret the world forms rapidly once a new life comes into being.
The auditory system that enables the baby to hear develops as the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear begins as little buds that gradually fuse to create the baby’s sound-collecting dish. The middle ear is formed by linking three tiny bones that transmit vibrations received by the outer ear to the inner ear. The inner ear is a remarkable apparatus that translates the pitch and intensity of sound waves into specific electrical impulses which are conveyed to the hearing region of the brain. The equipment for the unborn baby to eavesdrop on the world is well developed by the time the mother enters the second trimester of her pregnancy. Every living being has a truly magical beginning.
A number of modern studies have confirmed that by the eighteenth or twentieth week of foetal life, the unborn child hears and responds to sounds in his environment. Although you might expect the womb to be a quiet place, it is actually quite full of sounds and sensations. Tiny microphones placed in a pregnant uterus reveal that a multitude of audible vibrations enter the unborn baby’s sanctum. The mother’s heartbeat and digestive tract offer a steady background noise along with the pulsing rush of blood flowing through her veins.
The rhythm and pitch of human voices are clearly perceptible in the womb. An adult listening to conversations recorded through a miniature microphone placed in a womb can understand over half of the words spoken by a man and over a third of the words spoken by a woman standing in front of the pregnant woman. To the unborn baby it is the mother’s voice that is most easily recognised. Unlike outside sounds which are muffled to some degree, the voice of the mother is actually slightly amplified. If the mother is singing, the sound in the womb can reach 80 decibels or more, which is as loud as a telephone ring or the whirr of a vacuum cleaner. The foetus perceives the mother’s voice as sound as well as vibrations that move directly through her organs, tissues, and bones. An unborn child becomes familiar with his mother’s voice long before it emerges from the safety of the womb.
The emotional state of the mother is communicated to the foetus through the hormones she secretes. If the mother is engaged in a loving and nurturing conversation or listening to pleasing music, her brain triggers the release of chemicals that reflect her calm and comfortable condition. These chemical messengers travel from the mother to the foetus through the umbilical cord connecting the unborn child’s feelings with those of the mother. On the other hand if the mother is involved in a heated argument, her body is flooded with stress chemicals that can trigger discomfort in the foetus. It is easy to imagine the distress caused to an unborn child who is regularly exposed to harsh and unpleasant sounds. The mother’s heart beats fast and her adrenal glands produce stress hormones. The unborn child activates its own fight-or-flight response but unfortunately can neither run from nor wrestle with the source of its discomfort. The seeds of anxiety, apprehension and hostility are sown in the womb. The baby-to-be learns to associate sounds with sensations.
A pregnant mother should avoid repeated exposure to distressing sounds as noise pollution has a negative effect on both mother and child. Scientists report that mothers living along the flight path of a busy urban airport produce lower levels of growth promoting hormones and are more likely to have smaller babies than those living at the same distance from the airport but not directly in the flight path. Similar findings have been reported in women who work in factories where there is a constant high noise level. To the extent possible, a pregnant woman should make a conscious effort to limit her exposure and therefore of her unborn baby to vibrations that are distressing.
On the other hand it is not realistic to expect a woman to completely avoid unpleasant sounds throughout her pregnancy. I suggest that you do not worry about causing harm to your unborn baby every time you are upset, have a disagreement or while you are listening to loud rock and roll music. Life does have such moments, but they should be avoided. I simply wish to say that you should be aware that the being inside you is eavesdropping on your life. Whenever possible, expose yourself to nourishing rather than distressing sounds as whatever you experience is also experienced by your unborn child.
Once I was in a pathology clinic that had the latest four-dimensional ultra sound machine. The doctors there had recorded images of foetuses at different ages which they showed me. A foetus which was five months old was smiling, another was moving as though dancing in the womb. There was one clip where twins were sitting one behind the other as if waiting to come out. The most fantastic clip was of a baby who would raise its right hand and point its finger upwards. I said, “Doctor, this baby is saying ‘don’t you dare tell my sex to my parents’”!
A BBC documentary shows that the baby smiles when the mother listens to soft music. In one documentary a baby was reacting with anger when its mother was listening to hard rock. It has been proved that whatever the mother thinks and feels is passed onto the baby. A child prodigy is the best example of the fact that the growth of a baby’s mind begins right in the womb itself. A ten-year old child surprised music connoisseurs by playing difficult compositions from Mozart on the piano. His mother said that when pregnant she listened to classical music; she was an accomplished musician herself. Extensive scientific studies show that the period in the womb and the first three years after birth are the most important for learning. So it can be conclusively said that ‘geniuses aren’t born – geniuses are nurtured!’
Know it well that life doesn’t begin when you come out of the womb but right there within the womb. And the mystery of this life is marvellous…