In a recent column on CNN online, science writer Annie Murphy Paul discusses her astonishment at finding myriad studies about what babies can learn in the womb.
Once considered a mundane field for the researcher, “[n]ow the nine months of gestation are the focus of intense interest and excitement,” she writes, “pregnancy is not a nine-month wait for the big event of birth, but a crucial period unto itself.”
Researchers are learning that much of what a mother experiences in her daily life is communicated to developing child, from the air she breathes and the food and drink she consumes even to the emotions she feels. Paul likens it to “biological postcards from the world outside.”
“The fetus, we now know, is not an inert blob, but an active and dynamic creature, responding and adapting as it readies itself for life in the particular world it will soon enter.” Amen to that.
The findings won’t shock the pro-lifer, but the fact that they’re gaining attention in the scientific community and are being reported in places like CNN online should cheer the pro-life soul. “The recognition that learning actually begins before birth leads us to a striking new conception of the fetus, the pregnant woman and the relationship between them.”
Some of Paul’s conclusions, though, seem to be a stretch. “By attending to such messages,” she writes, “the fetus learns the answers to questions critical to its survival: Will it be born into a world of abundance, or scarcity? Will it be safe and protected, or will it face constant dangers and threats? Will it live a long, fruitful life, or a short, harried one?” A bit deterministic, if you ask me, but I welcome her acknowledgment of the growing child’s sentience.