Pregnant with Possibilities
We do live in an amazing time, don’t we? Whatever we might be interested in can be researched and investigated immediately. This allows our knowledge base to grow steadily with exploration. It is surprising to think about the number of times I find myself headed to the computer so I can “Google” something, The only danger I see in utilizing media is if we fail to strike a good balance in our daily lives. We do need to see it as a tool and not let it become the center of our universe! What we should do is take advantage of The BS Years and media to get our little ones set up to make the most of when their “formal” education begins. That is really my reason for writing this book- I know we can make a difference.
Now, back in the olden days when I was a child, we had a unique way of learning something about a particular topic. We would place a phone call to the Librarian at the Los Angeles Examiner Newspaper. This was a position that I would imagine many papers had then so reporters could have the facts of their stories verified. Most kids probably did not have this opportunity, but my grandfather worked at the LA Examiner and we took advantage of it many times. I guess you could say that this was an early version of the Internet!
Looking back to when I was pregnant, I really wish I had had the benefit of the Internet and been able to learn more about what was happening to me and my babies. In my family we talked all the time about movies, books, world events…whatever. But, personal stuff was pretty much left to the imagination or whoever your latest girlfriend was who might be more worldly. When my first period happened I thought I was dying! Yes, these things were covered in school, but apparently, I did not pay a whole lot of attention.
When I got married my mother did not talk to me about sex or birth control or pregnancy so most of it was a big mystery. Another good reason to love life today…we are not so inhibited about educating our children about the natural forces in life- and trust me- my kids knew what was happening with their bodies early on.
I am absolutely not criticizing my parents- this is just how it was then for lots of families. My best girlfriend of 60 years and I laugh ourselves silly at times over some of the “profound” conversations we had trying to figure out what in the world was happening to us.
So here is pretty much how it was for me when I got pregnant. I had to miss two periods before I went to the doctor. Then, as soon as that poor little
girl rabbit died the doctor pronounced that I was indeed expecting a baby.
Up until the last month I had monthly visits to see the doctor and I learned that I was not to gain more than twenty pounds, had a pelvic examination- a complete and total shock- and was asked if I needed more prenatal vitamins. That was about it- oh, I was also told not to take a bath. Then there was the time my mother-in-law almost fainted when she found me reaching over my head for something off a top shelf because everybody knew if you raised your arms over your head while pregnant the cord would get wrapped around the baby’s neck and strangle it. Not once was I told not to drink alcohol, coffee or smoke. Just watch that weight- big sticklers about that.
Weekly visits were scheduled for the ninth month and details about the birth were discussed. I was to make a choice about the kind of anesthesia I wanted for the actual delivery as natural childbirth was not an option. I could expect to be in the hospital for 3-4 days. My mom told me that in her day women could plan on being there for 8-10 days.
Thank goodness things have changed since then. We have so much more knowledge now. In fact, I found out just how much more information is available to us when my great niece was pregnant. She sent her mom and I weekly E-Mail updates on what was happening to her and the baby. I was amazed at how much I learned.
There are many online pregnancy programs available. One is called The bump.com and another one is The baby center.com. Programs like these provide pregnancy informations, baby advice and parenting tips. If conceiving is an issue there are suggestions for investigating what might need to be done. The events of each trimester are described for what is happening to both you and your baby. All the huge range of symptoms are explained and since knowledge is power, things are not as scary for moms, grandmas and great aunties! I was fascinated by what I learned and am sure I would have enjoyed my pregnancies more had I fully understood exactly what was going on.
Since my pregnancies occurred in 1961 and 1964, I obviously did not have the technology of today available to me. What I did have was a deep belief that I could influence my babies in utero. I just knew that if I could enrich and future them it would make a difference. It was kind of an uphill battle in those days because many doctors did not believe that way. In fact, many assumed babies were born without any knowledge about the outside world. I believed then that I could influence my babies and I more strongly believe it today. It is all about expectations and believing we can make a difference. I can remember some of my relatives thinking I had gone round the bend when they would see me reading, singing, and having full blown conversations with my tummy. But, I persevered in my convictions!
I can also remember asking my little ones what they thought about different things while I was pregnant and I continued asking for their opinions the minute they were born. This is crucial, people! Children need to know that, first of all they do have opinion. Later on in my classroom I would ask my students what they thought about something or what was their opinion.From their responses I could tell they did not know they could have an opinion about anything! So, let’s change that!
In researching in utero learning for this book, I came upon some fascinating articles. One mom who had recently given birth described how she played an acoustic guitar while she was pregnant. The first time her baby heard the guitar not long after his birth , he turned to her and smiled. Recently, on wimp.com (aren’t I just the little techie?) I watched a video of a baby -in utero- clapping his hands to the beat of If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands while mom, dad and the doctor sang the song!
Now that is flat amazing and just shows what we can do when we believe learning occurs during pregnancy. There are many articles that describe how sounds presented in utero are recognized when offered again after birth. In fact, another article described how it is not quiet in the uterus for the baby- they hear Mom’s heartbeat, hiccups, burps, stomach growling so why not add the sound of your voice reading or singing to them. Let’s get them on the path to learning.
We must face facts…our schools are not doing well in educating our children and statistics bear that out. In 11 Facts About Education in America from do something.org we learn that 30 years ago, America was the leader in quantity and quality of high school diplomas. Today, our nation is ranked 36th in the world in that category. I don’t know about you, but that sure is not okay by me. So, if we use the time a woman is pregnant we can set the stage for school success and hopefully change our ranking.
We need to be smart and strategic about it and learn as much as possible about what happens in each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. Each one has different emotional and physical events making them unique. We’ve learned from research that babies react to stimulations during pregnancy so lets begin our plan to create a positive, nurturing learning environment. I believe parents today are open to new ways to make learning a priority from the very beginning.
In the first trimester we find that this period sets the stage for a healthy baby. It goes from a single, fertilized egg to an embryo that attaches itself to the uterus. Limbs start to grow, organs take shape, and around the eighth week, the baby starts to move-but is generally not felt yet. Hair follicles, nail beds and muscles form. White blood cells and vocal cords develop.
Meanwhile, Mom will experience breast changes that can be uncomfortable. She might have flatulence, heartburn, constipation, and the ever popular morning sickness which can occur at any time of the day to name a few. Other fun filled things that may happen are a metallic taste, food aversions and/or cravings plus headaches. Now, not all women will experience all of these symptoms, and at the risk of alienating my readers, I had none of the above problems. I did sleep a lot, but really did not experience any of the more uncomfortable problems with either child.
If you think about all these developments that you and your baby experience I levied you will agree that pregnancy is amazing. While awesome is a very over- used word, I think it applies here. So, it is time to think about what can be done in Trimester One to establish that positive learning environment. Here are some things for you to consider and that it is time for the BS training to begin.
Activities for Trimester One:
1. Everyone involved with the baby should start talking to him in a casual, conversational voice-NO BABY TALK. Why do I emphasize that? The baby needs to hear talking the way it really is. And, yes, I know that he can’t hear you yet, but when the time comes it will be a familiar sound. So much of pre reading skills are based on sounds and we need to…set them up for school success in the BS Years!
2. Mom, start a daily journal of how you are feeling, the things you notice about your body, and soon the things you notice the baby doing. It can be in the form of a journal or it can be a calendar and you fill in the grids. A fun title could be,”While We’ve Been Waiting”. By the way, this makes a fun gift to give grandparents or to the child when she is grown and expecting her own child.
3. Dad, start your own journal and use it to communicate with your child. Describe the things you want to share with this little person- the sports you like, the television programs you watch, what your job is like, how you met his mother and why she is your best friend, the careers your child might think about. To keep this simple, you could dictate your story. Be sure to date each entry- again a fun gift for later on. Dad involvement whenever possible was one of the biggest recommendations I would give parents when I was teaching. After all, it takes two to make a baby and it makes sense for two to be involved from Day One in Setting the Stage for School Success.
4. If you have other children be sure to include them in the chat time and have big brother tell what they would like to teach their baby and what they thing she needs to know- you can gain some pretty interesting insight from their responses. Explain to the older child that they will be having these discussions frequently because it takes time to grow a baby. Describe how baby probably looks- connect with one of those online baby development sites or find books to show what is happening. Have your older child keep his own journal so he can draw pictures of he thinks his baby is looking like.
5. If there are older children have conversations about the things they notice changing in Mom. This is such a perfect and natural time for big sister to build her language skills as well. It is always so important to include them in events happening such as a new nursery- ask their opinions on many matters- again, it is so vital to help children know their opinions matter. That will ease their fears that the world as they know it is over! Yes, things will change, but for the better, especially if they have been part of the planning process.
6. Music…play all kinds of music and talk about why you like it. Playing music was one of my favorite things to do while I was expecting- especially as I was further along. I loved Rock and Roll- the Real Rock of the sixties I might add! I would notice as I sang along that the baby would be more active. It was amazing how they responded. After both births, I always had music playing right by their crib. Even if it was on the jivey side it did not disturb them since it had been part of their lives all along.
7. Books-my favorite thing- Hopefully, you will start reading to the baby the minute you are pregnant and will never stop. It should be a regular part of every day from early pregnancy on. When I was a Reading Specialist parents would always ask what they could do to help their child do better in reading. It seemed like they were expecting some highly technical suggestion and seemed surprised when my answer was…read WITH them – not just TO them. Plus, I would add to parents, have them share in the reading- it should be an interactive experience. Be very sure that it is not just mom that does the reading- everyone around can do it. And, it doesn’t matter what you read because you mainly want them to hear your voices and when the pregnancy is further along they will. You have nine months plus birth to five to make a difference for your child, so make the most of those BS years. I know that these behaviors will have an impact as I experienced it over my thirty years of teaching.
Let’s take a look at how things are progressing for mom and baby in Trimester Two. All the basics for life are developed in the first three months and refinement of these basics takes place in the second trimester.
At this stage your baby has functioning organs, muscles and nerves. You will be able to hear the heartbeat at prenatal appointments. The sex is apparent with girls developing ovarian follicles and the prostate appears for boys. The skeleton is developing bones. Eyes are ears are refining. Sucking motions can be apparent. Baby’s movements are becoming coordinated and felt by mom. In the second trimester babies begin to hear (time to kick up the music and read the newspaper to your tummy). For girl babies the uterus and vagina appear about week 19. The baby is getting more active and is gaining weight. He is now able to swallow.
Toward the last of the second trimester fingerprints and footprints form, testes are descending from the abdomen for boys, and for girls the uterus and ovaries are in place. Another very exciting development at this time is that the baby can respond to your voice with movement. Fingernails have developed, lungs and nervous systems are counting to mature.
Fortunately, the first three month symptoms have generally eased up for most moms by this time and her physical changes are becoming more apparent from head to toe. Breasts will grow in preparation for producing milk, her uterus becomes heavier and expands which, in turn, causes the abdomen to grow. Weight gains in both mother and baby are occurring. Later in this period some women will experience Braxton Hicks contractions which are a sort of practice in preparation for actual delivery- most are not dangerous, but can be very scary.
There are name other- temporary- events that some women may experience. Skin changes, stretch marks, nasal and gum problems, dizziness, leg cramps, vaginal discharge, plus bladder and kidney infections to name some. Now, I had two pregnancies and only experienced stretch marks, leg cramps, peed every five minutes, and oh, I never saw my feet after the seventh month with my son since he weighed 10 and 1/2 pounds and was 22 inches long.
The best advice I can suggest for the whole experience is to learn what you need and focus on making healthy lifestyle choices that will give you baby the best start. Parents today have so many opportunities to gain knowledge about making those smart choices.
Activities for Trimester Two
The second three month activities for setting the stage for school success are to continue those suggestions from Trimester One- especially those that involve talking to the baby since research tells how much they respond to voices now.
1. Conversations with baby should include asking lots of questions and, no, I am not nuts. As I mentioned before one of the biggest things I noticed in Kindergarteners and First Graders was that many of them did not understand what I meant when I asked them for their opinion or what they thought about a topic. Teaching is all about expectations- and, since the baby can hear now, why not assume that what you do during this stage will have an impact on them. We want our children to believe from the very beginning that they know lots of important things and their knowledge is valued by others.
Conversations with question asking should become a daily practice since we are Setting the Stage for School Success in the BS Years. We know they can and do often react to Mom’s voice. We are getting them ready to be receptive to language when they come join us. Language
development is like a tree that starts out as a small thing and grows into a rich, full blown tree when it is nurtured and watered. Same with our children and, since parents are their first, best teachers, we need to surround them with all the language we can.
2. Most parents at this stage realize just how important it is to be as physically fit as possible since this will make delivery easier. So, incorporate your physical activities into conversations with the baby. Tell him what the activity is and describe what parts of the body you are using. If you are outside describe the day and why your activity is being done there. See if you notice more activity from the baby with one particular sport over another. If you do , write it in your journal and share with family members.
3. Work on a photo album and take all sorts of pictures. Journal along with each picture and tell how you are feeling and what you notice. If you do this for each pregnancy it will be fun to share with the children so they can see how much you valued them right from the start.
4. If you have older children get them a journal and have them draw pictures of you each month. Their perceptions will be amazing and it is another positive way of keeping them in the loop.
5. Please continue to read, read, read. Also, sing, play music , take walks and include the whole family in making a smart kid. Don’t forget the grandparents. aunts, uncles, cousins…it takes a village!
Well, it is coming down to the wire now and you will be experiencing heightened feelings and anxieties as the due date gets closer. It won’t seem possible that your stomach could get any bigger-but it does! The baby can go from about two and a half pounds and sixteen inches long to between six and nine pounds and nineteen to twenty-two inches long.
This is a really good time to take up meditation if you haven’t already. Seriously, since everyone you have ever known has something to contribute about their delivery and most of it, while well-intentioned, generally just adds to your anxiety. Take some time out everyday to sit quietly and concentrate on whatever adds calmness to your life. Babies bring change and the more serenity you can have now will benefit you and the baby.
I’m sure you have taken all the classes you need to be prepared for the delivery, have the bag packed-are you even there long enough to need a bag? This is a good time to introduce all the important family members because all five senses are developed and send signals to the baby so get acquainted. Your baby can perceive light and dark, they can taste what you eat and mom’s voice is clearly recognized. That being the case…read…sing…chat…in short, let baby know you are ready for him to join you.
Trimester Three Activities
1. Most activities I discussed in the first two trimesters should be pretty much in place and near completion. Remember to date all your entries. Reread this material later on to your child and they will feel so valued and important.
2. The photo-journaling can range from simple photo albums to elaborate scrapbooking. There are services online to help you with this if you are interested. Whichever style you use will be a gift of love to be enjoyed by everyone in the family. This is such a special time.The goal for this whole period of time is to help establish a love of learning that will seem so natural to your child. She will just know that she can learn anything you put in front of her.
3. The last thing I want to suggest to you is to write a love letter to your baby which expresses all your hopes and dreams. The entire family can contribute their own letters that do the same thing. Can you imagine the joy those letters will bring to your child when they are adults and read these expressions of love? There is a sample for you at the end of the book which of course would be adapted to your family.
Well, the adventure is about to begin. You’ve done so much to get ready for the Before School Years and in so doing, your child will be far ahead of the game. I can honestly say that I could always tell which of my students came from homes where there was enrichment going on- it does make a difference.
Next up, for you consideration, characteristics of children from birth to five years and then what you can do with your child in each of those years to make the most of the Before School Years.! Have fun!