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'Postcards' Encourages Mothers To Bond With Their Baby 'Bumps'

Pregnant women are often advised on what to eat and how to take care of their health to nurture their developing babies. But they are rarely encouraged to get to know their unborn baby's personality. But now comes Postcards from the Bump, a guide for expectant mothers who want to bond with their babies long before they're born.

Long-time friends Ame Mahler Beanland and Emily Miles Terry have a total of five kids between them. Through their experiences, they say, they developed a new perspective on pregnancy.

"We recognized that once our children were born that we knew a lot more about them from just being pregnant than we actually thought," Terry says.

"It just got us talking about how much you really can have insights into those little personalities," adds Beanland.

For example, Terry says, her third child, Miles, was comfortable in the arms of his family members from his first day. Yet, when a stranger held him, he'd scream. She says it seemed as if he was born already knowing a lot about his world.

"We have a dog who barks loudly. My mother remarked, 'Isn't it nice that Miles doesn't wake up when Willie barks?'" she recalls. "Without thinking I said, 'Well, he has heard it before.' After those words popped out of my mouth, it made me stop and think about all the things that he had done and all my previous pregnancies and how different they were from each other, and, yet, I'm the same mother. I think that pregnancies' symptoms, experiences are driven by the baby and the baby's different physical and characteristics."

Encouraging expecting moms

Since Terry and Beanland are writers and they knew pregnant women often like to read books on pregnancy, they decided to co-author a pregnancy guidebook, Postcards from the Bump.

"So many books out there focus on the process of pregnancy: what you should or shouldn't be doing. And there is a kind of cautionary or anxious tone to a lot of pregnancy books," she says. "We really wanted to write something that really delivers comfort and connection."

They collected dozens of stories by women who had paid attention to their babies' movements in the womb and linked that to their personalities.

"There is a story from a woman whose baby was incredibly calm and didn't move very much," Beanland says. "She jokes about how there were just enough kicks and flutters to keep her from panicking. The child today is incredibly calm and sort of likes to sit on a couch and read a book. She said, 'I knew without a doubt that I was having a couch-potato.'"

"One of the first responses that came in was the story of the football kicker," Teryy adds. "This one is about a baby, when the mother was pregnant with the baby, he would kick her so hard in one particular spot. She would even have bruises. Now, I think he is in college. He was the kicker for his college football team."

Scientific support for the mother-baby connection

The authors include scientific research that supports those anecdotal stories. Some of the findings were surprising, Terry says.

"By the 28th week in your pregnancy, the baby can taste, hear and see. They can make faces," she says. "They can cry. [They can do] so much of what they do outside of the womb after they are born. They are practicing. I think these days, we're given so much wonderful medical information about your baby, but it's also important to just sort of relax into the experience and make your own observation."

Further evidence of a prenatal mother-child connection comes from The Cat in the Hat study. Beanland explains that research shows infants recognize their mother's voice shortly after birth and that their preference for their mother's voice is based on prenatal memory.

"Basically, what the study did was have a pregnant woman read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss to their bump for six weeks," she says. "In the last six weeks of the pregnancy, they read it twice a day. Then, very soon after birth, they had sort of a test where Cat in the Hat would be read maybe by a stranger and maybe their mother voice reading a different book. Then it would be like their mothers' voice reading the Cat in the Hat. All those audio recordings were connected to a pacifier-like contraption. What they realized is that babies could find the one that corresponded to their mom's voice reading."

Double the joy

The authors say pregnancy is not a burden or a phase where women wait, counting down to the big birthday. Rather, it's an exciting experience, and they offer expectant mothers some tips for relaxing, enjoying and connecting with their babies.

"You've got double the reason to be happy and take care of yourself because if Mommy is happy, baby is happy," Beanland says."[We suggest] going on date with your bump [baby] and kind of checking out the playground or exploring the places you're going to take your baby to once he or she gets here."

"Take a little time to appreciate this process," Terry adds.

Beanland and Terry encourage mothers to take notes and write about their pregnancy experience. That, they say, can help them pick up clues about who their babies are and how they feel. After all, they say, pregnancy is a journey, during which an expectant mother can enjoy the company of her baby before anyone else can.