One of the most awe-inspiring things I learned at university was that a foetus can hear its mother’s voice: the foetus’s developing auditory pathways sense the sounds and vibrations of its mother.
Decades later, when I taught prenatal yoga, I devised this holistic, non-invasive way of turning breech babies round so that its head enters the birth canal first: record the mother’s voice and then put the cassette player on the pubic bone, and play the voice to the foetus. The foetus, soothed by its mother’s voice, will gravitate towards the voice – maybe, but who knows? No scientific research had ever been carried out on the efficacy of this little method of mine, but one thing we do know for sure: children respond to their parents’ voices, the words used and the energy conveyed by the speech. I still go to someplace better in my head whenever I hear the word “No star”, which is goodnight in Welsh; I go back to a time when I was young and life was good in a sunny house in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England and my mother bidding me goodnight. The level of my cortisol, the stress hormone, drops and my level of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, rises at the recall of my mother’s words.
Daniel Abrams, a neurobiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine and his team of researchers have been doing a lot of research on studying this relationship functional MRI (fMRI), a neuroimaging technique that measures brain activity by detecting metabolic changes in blood flow. I believe other researchers have also produced strong results indicating the importance of a mother’s voice to the emotional wellbeing of an adult.
I am loud and feisty. “Mum, tone down!” My kids would say in exasperation. I get extra loud when I am happy and slightly tipsy.
My youngest daughter is also loud and feisty.
“Pair of chavs, both of you,” the older children would comment. “Our neighbours can hear you from two floors up.”
“Well, it’s SUMMMMMER!” I replied cheerily, loudly.
Then I had a huge row with my daughter about green smoothie. “Goodness!” Her father exclaimed. “All the neighbours must have heard you two!”
In between my yellings about green smoothies, chemistry and church, I made sure I say lots of “I love you, Mine”, “hi, Mine” as soon as she walks through the door after a long day at school, and “goodnight, Mine”. Why “Mine”? Her name is Georgina, or G, as most people call her. But Mine is my special pet name for her, because she is MINE. There is much closeness to us – to the horror of many, she would lick the skin on my arm or my face as she did when she was a baby!
Your words, your voice and your energy that you put into what you say as well as your intention are all so very important. Because that all become your adult child’s inner voice. It has freaked me as I have heard, on several occasions, the voices and words of the mothers coming out of their grown children’s mouths. It knocked me for six. “But what do you expect?” My psychologist asked me. “Why would you expect any differently?”
True. We learn how to speak from our parents after all.
I half-jokingly (note, only half!) advised my children to spend as much time as possible with their boyfriends / girlfriends’ parents before committing for life – because the parents’ speech will be the voice and words that your spouse will say to you in the years to come.
Speak Love always to your children (even when you are cross), because it is easier to build a whole person than it is to mend a broken adult ❤
Related post: How we speak to children – my mother’s way