From the Womb to the World: Ready for Birth

8 month fetusYou looked something like this drawing while you were in your mother’s womb, waiting to be born into the world – though you had unique and wonderful differences.  You took this time of waiting to practice blinking and breathing, preparing your still not quite refined lungs to breathe air.  In the last 11 weeks of your life in utero, your weight doubled!  The extra layer of fat you developed protected you from the change of temperature in the transition from the womb to the world.  If all went well, you initiated your own birth.  In the last phase of life in utero, you dropped lower in the womb in a head-down position and then triggered labor to begin.

At any moment in the last two months of your mother’s pregnancy, you could have been born.  Perhaps, you were premature.  Today’s advances in medicine allow very premature babies’ lungs to get what they need.  Many babies born a whole month early need very little extra help at all.  The only change for babies after birth, whether premature or not, is a change in external life support – then, mothers provided through the womb; now, survival is helped outside of the womb.

Nothing magical happened to you when you were born that made you human.  You were always human from the moment of your conception!  You didn’t change after you were born, except in the way in which you received oxygen and nourishment.  You were always growing, developing, and striving to survive and to thrive – and you continued this growth, development, and quest for survival while being born, as well as after your exit from the womb.  You are still developing, surviving, and hopefully thriving, today!

Parents can experience something wonderful in the moment when they first see their baby’s eyes, and, so, it’s natural for them to feel the most awe after birth.  Newborns themselves, however, cannot see very well.  But they can hear, and were listening – and even learning – for months before birth, as fetuses.

As a newborn, you yourself readily recognized the voice of the woman who carried you for the first nine months of life and preferred that voice to all others.  Stories read to you and lullabies sung to you in utero were still recognized by you after you were born into the world.  You had been hearing them, learning their particular rhythms and cadences, and growing familiar with them.  So, it’s only natural that you preferred them to any new story or lullaby introduced to you after birth.  Scientific research proves this.  And, yet, you may still be amazed by the facts.  Why?  Do you not know that you were you, unique and wonderful you, at the instant that you were conceived?

Before God formed you in the womb, He knew you.  Our Creator knit you uniquely together.  By Him, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Created in His Own Image, you are His beloved creature of flesh and spirit.  Your body is amazing and beautiful, but mortal.  Your soul is even more amazing and beautiful – and immortal.  Body and soul, you are one beautifully amazing human being!  You were lovingly created by God to know, love, and serve God in this complex and amazing life – and to be happy with God forever in the next.  You were created for a reason, for you have a divine mission that only you can fulfill.  May you always remember that your life here on earth has divine purpose – and that eternal bliss waits for you.  Rejoice and be glad!

What was true on your very first day of life in utero is still true today, no matter how old you are or in what kind of physical circumstances you live: it is good, it is very good, that you are here.  And God blesses you as you strive to be the person of love, truth, and goodness that you were created to be.

Every life is sacred.

© 2016 Christina Chase


Sources:

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/third-trimester-old

The Endowment for Human Development:

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit18.php

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit19.php

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, Respect Life: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

Psychology Today: Fetal Psychology

Genesis 1:27

Jeremiah 1:5

Psalms 139

Baltimore Catechism part 1

Dream a Little Dream: 6 Month Fetus

By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs.  What was your first playlist?  Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two.  Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.

Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.

You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.

6 month fetusWhen you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes.  All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.…  Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”[1]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

from an original post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

[1] Job 33:15

A Time to Sing: 5 Month Fetus

When you were this age, you, too, looked a lot like this picture![1] Baby at five months in the womb

With your eyebrows nearly complete on your little face, the hair on your scalp was beginning to grow. All of your skin layers and hair follicles were present, ready to sprout. You also had all of your glands by this age and your skin began to be covered in a creamy white substance, called vernix, to protect its new stage from the amniotic fluid until just before birth. Your mother’s body was beginning to grow and show her pregnancy, midway through, as she felt you move about more often.

After just five months in the womb, you had developed a pattern of movement, heart rate, and breathing activity that followed daily cycles. Called circadian rhythms, these cycles continue to be part of your biological life. Small, hidden, and utterly dependent as you were, you followed the laws of life… a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to exercise and a time to rest, a time to listen and a time to speak… For, as we know, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….”[2]

A time to listen and a time to speak?  Yes!

Sound became part of your life experience. Your cochlea, in your inner ear, was fully developed and you were already responding to a variety of noises. You were continually surrounded by the sound of your mother’s heartbeat, as well as her digestive system, and the swishing noises of fluid in the womb. Loud noises beyond the womb startled you. But even gentle, sweet, and melodic sounds coming from the world outside could be detected by you, as little as you were, and change your heart rate and movements. Repeated sounds that you heard in the womb started to become familiar to you – like your mother’s voice, lullabies, and the cadence of a particular story – and continued to sooth you after birth… as they can still comfort you even now.

Also, at this age, amazingly, you began efforts to make your own verbal sounds! Ultrasound imaging shows movement within the voice box of an 18-week-old fetus that are distinctly similar to those required for speaking. Think of it… when you were no bigger than a cantaloupe, your Creator began to draw sound from out of your mouth, there in the watery world of your first forming. “He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God”![3]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources for the science – see:

The Endowment for Human Development, https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit14.php

Web M.D., http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-17-20


[1] http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

[3] Psalms 40:3 (NKJV)

Quickening: Human In Utero

four month human fetusWhen you looked like this picture, your mother was beginning her second trimester of
pregnancy.

Your gender was determined in the instant that your life began, but it took a couple of months for your gender to “show”.  An ultrasound could have revealed your sex to your parents as early as 12 weeks.  Interestingly, gender dependent developmental differences begin to show at 14 weeks in utero – with girls moving their jaws more frequently than boys.  No kidding!

Diapers in the womb?  No, but… although your umbilical cord carried away most of the waste products from your developing body, you also had your first bowel movements at this age!  From about 12 to 18 weeks, the material expelled from your body was the same as what was expelled from your body as a newborn – meconium, a mixture of digestive enzymes, proteins, and dead cells.  Life is beautiful – and messy, too!

Still maturing in your external appearances, your tiny little face was gaining fat deposits at this stage, starting to give you those adorable, chubby baby cheeks.  And you were making facial expressions similar to your parents’ – at just eight inches tall!  With your bronchial tree and cerebellum formed, you began to gain more and more weight, producing tooth enamel, many hormones, and stem cells in your bone marrow.  Except for the top of your head and your back, your whole body was sensitive to even light touch.

You had been moving since you were only six weeks old – flipping, kicking, dancing – but, because of the thickness of the uterine wall, your mother hadn’t felt you.  By the end of the fourth month of your life, however, you were finally able to kick hard enough to cause your mother to feel something.  This first sensation of movement has often been called “quickening.”  It was a time at which some ancients believed that the being within the womb became human – obviously, they didn’t have the scientific technology and tools that we have today!  With increased knowledge comes the understanding that we are human beings from the beginning of our unique lives – that we are human beings from conception, no matter what.

Sensitive and responsive to stimulus from a very young age, at 16 weeks you reacted to stimuli, like needles and painful procedures, with the stress hormone that adults have.  Yes, little and hidden as you were at this age, you intensely felt and strongly reacted to pain.  “But here I am miserable and in pain; let your saving help protect me, God…”.  (Psalm 69:30)

© 2016 Christina Chase

from a post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/

Image from: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

Your First Heartbeat: Human In Utero

You were once smaller than a grain of rice.

And, yes, you looked a little weird at this stage of your development.  But, make no mistake about it – you were you, human in every way, growing and thriving, intimately connected to your mother, your own heart beating with the drive for life.

Finding Shelter

After conception, your cells multiplied and divided quickly, changing you from a zygote to a blastocyst.  As you drifted freely in your mother’s womb, you grew more complex and caught onto the lining of your mother’s uterus, attaching yourself and burrowing in to this place of refuge.  The very touch of your presence caused a space to open for you so that you could nestle in for safety and continued life.  Your mother’s blood vessels, little capillaries, reached out toward you to begin giving you nourishment.  The placenta and umbilical cord began to form, creating that vital connection between you and your mother, without which you could not have grown, without which you could not have survived.

Although she probably didn’t even know of your existence yet, your mother was already mothering you, naturally, with the great biological gifts given to her as a woman.  It was her blood supply that gave you nutrients and through which your wastes were taken away.  She instinctively made room for you and for the continuation of your life.

Heart-To-Heart

In this same first month of your life, when you formed your first connection with a human being, your very own heart began to beat.  Think about it… This was truly the beginning of your life as a human being in relationship with others: another person began to give to you what you needed and take from you what you couldn’t handle on your own.  It is divinely poetic that it was at this moment in your life that you had your first heartbeat.  We say that we relate to one another through the heart.  Think of your mother’s blood vessels, which gave you your first nourishment, as her heart strings.  Your pull upon her heart strings made room for your life – for your own heart to begin to beat, too. Continue reading

Here I Am

God speaks to us through beauty. The more fragile or hidden the beautiful thing, the stronger the call to love.

nilsson_rm_photo_of_20_week_fetus

If we fail to discern or respond, then we fail in our humanity. We humans were made for this: to receive and give the love of God. In so doing, we, ourselves, are rendered beautiful – for God speaks through us.

mother-teresa

 

Related posts:
Grieving the Death of a Loved One: Beauty Speaks
Pregnant
Mercy Is Joy or It Is Nothing

2014 Christina Chase