In utero

FI-Joe-PisaniIn my unending pursuit of scientific knowledge, I recently came upon a piece of research with major implications for parents everywhere. It was a study by the University of Helsinki in Finland that showed that unborn babies not only hear what you say, but also remember it after they’re born.

Uh oh.

So, finally, I have an answer to something that’s puzzled me for decades. When my first daughter popped out in the delivery room, instead of “Waaaaa waaaaa waaaaa,” from her we heard “*@#**&$%#$&!!”

No more swearing for me.

Never underestimate the power of a bad example. Pre-parents — I just invented that term — should be careful what they say because it will come back to haunt them. Those unborn babies are taking notes.

I can still remember the nights I’d listen to my wife talking gently to our daughters while they were frolicking and kicking in the womb as we lay in bed. Inevitably, I’d roll over and say, “Could you two break it up so I can get some sleep? I have to catch the early train.”

But they didn’t listen. My wife would be telling them how Dow Jones performed that day, and whichever daughter was in there would be offering back advice on how to invest her college fund. One kick for stocks, two kicks for bonds.

If I had known about the importance of pre-natal discussion back then, things would have been different today. I would have invested heavily in Rosetta Stone language CDs for Spanish and Chinese, along with Martha Stewart tapes on grilling and pre-pre-med instructional videos. I always wanted a doctor in the family who could grill a good piece of salmon.

The Helsinki study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that fetuses remember what their mothers said. Researchers tested 33 pregnant women who listened to CDs with different made-up words. After birth, the babies recognized what they’d heard in utero.

Eino Partanen, author of the report, said, “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy.” But fetuses do more than merely hear words, she found. They can also “detect subtle changes and process complex information.”

Another study concluded that unborn babies developed attachments to the melodies of soap operas their mothers were watching and later responded when they heard the tunes.

Here’s some free advice for moms-to-be: Turn off the heavy metal music and don’t watch Real Housewives of New Jersey. And at all costs, avoid Miley Cyrus or the baby could come out twerking and wagging its tongue like a rabid Chihuahua.

Give your kids a head-start on a normal life because there will be plenty of trash to pollute their minds later on.

If I could do it all over again, I would develop an in-utero parenting program. I would encourage my kids-to-be to pursue noble causes and practice volunteerism by, say, helping with yard work. You see, it’s a lonely life cutting the lawn and raking leaves by myself.

Our discussion would go something like this:

“Hello, how are you today? I’m your father.”

No response. No “goo-goo,” no “ga-ga.” Not even a kick.

“Are you a boy or girl?”

No response.

“I can’t wait until you’re born. I’m very excited because I need someone to help with the yard work. I’m willing to pay you an allowance.”

My wife feels a little kick, or maybe it’s just gas. Then again, it could be a reaction to my offer to pay an allowance. She must be a girl.

Later, I try to broaden my presumed daughter’s horizons with a Spanish lesson:

“Hola, me llama Jose, tu padre. Me gusta escuchar musica, pero no me gusta trabajo de la yarda.”

Still no response. At least when my wife coos, there’s a kick or two. So I tell her, “Ask if I should buy Apple stock.”

“Should Daddy buy Apple stock? Kick once for ‘yes’ or twice for ‘no.’”

A vigorous kick. Forget the yard work. This kid is headed for Wall Street.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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