I never noticed my wife’s really sensitive hearing until our son was born. She was not an anxious mother, because she had been around so many babies as a child. She had nephews almost as old as she, and observed and helped take care of them on their frequent visits. As a mom, she believed in knowing where her baby was and what he was doing. She kept an eye on him during the day, and an ear on him at night. And what an ear.
We did not need a baby monitor while he was in the room with us, even if they had been available in 1970. We did not even need a baby monitor when he moved into his own little bedroom next door to us. I don’t think we would have needed one if we had lived in the Biltmore House and he was half a mile away. Mom’s ears were enough.
I was not so blessed. So I never knew the answer to the midnight call, “Did you hear that?” I truly did not. And was amazed to learn, the next day, that he had needed to be patted back to sleep, to be fed or burped.
I puzzled over the matter for a long time. Then I read that some scientists found women more sensitive to high-pitched sounds than men. Next I read that a market research company, called Mindlab, had tried to awaken women and men with recordings of various sounds. Women were most likely to be awakened by a baby’s cry. But a baby’s cry had no effect whatever on the men — the sound of a car alarm was the number one wake-up call for them. A Mindlab psychologist said evolutionary differences made women more sensitive to sounds that indicate a threat to their children, while men are more sensitive to sounds representing a threat to the entire family.
What are we to make of this study? I think the psychologist was partially right. God makes potential mothers able to hear the slightest sound from potential babies. He also lets mothers carry their young in utero for three quarters of a year, so that they can get a jump on knowing one another. That’s the reason the newborn’s first word is likely to be “mama.”
In the getting-to-know you process, the baby’s temporary, liquid home gives it an advantage. Amniotic fluid —like water — makes sounds louder. If you don’t believe me, here’s a way to find out for yourself. Go down to Lanes creek and pick up two rocks. Take them in the water with you. Submerge yourself, then click your rocks together. Note the volume of the underwater click. Now try clicking the rocks outside the water. You will see the water makes a big difference.
This is how the unborn baby can hear the sound of its mommie’s heart, her breathing, and her voice so well. It hears her sing “Go to sleepy, little baby” when it’s time to go to sleep, and “Now I lay me down to sleep….I pray Thee Lord my soul to keep,” before she puts it down at night. Because her unborn baby hears every sound she makes, it knows her voice when it gets here.
When our children were born, we did not have the option of finding out before-hand what they would be. We were delighted at both surprises — a little blonde-haired boy first, and a little auburn-haired girl four years later. But I think there are distinct advantages of seeing your unborn baby in an ultrasound, especially its little hands and feet. You might even see it say hello.
That’s what happened to an expectant mother who did not think she could go through with the birth. Facing the event alone, she did not want to see the baby, and shut her eyes tight when the nurse began the ultrasound. But when the nurse said, “Look, its moving,” she peeked through her fingers at the image. At that precise moment, the baby moved its little hand. She caught up her breath, as she realized it was not the baby, it was HER baby. And her baby was speaking to her.
When our son was born, we had lived in our new town for 30 days. Patsy had a new doctor, and would give birth in a new hospital. I was not allowed in the delivery room, so I missed seeing him come into the world. When they finally let me into the room, the new mother and new baby acted like old friends.
Two years later, we all moved to a familiar town, where Lamaze was available to us. When we needed it, I went with my wife to all twelve Lamaze classes, while an older friend and nurturing mother-figure named Mimi kept Mark. We learned the pursed-mouth breathing and the coaching tips, such as “Breathe” and “Push.” We thought we were ready for whatever might happen. She was. But when the birth actually came, I got the surprise of my life.
I had missed the wonder of bringing a baby before. So as the actual birth began, I found myself awestruck, seeing what was going on, but not really believing it. I was viewing something real, yet unreal, physical, yet absolutely fraught with holiness. I could only say, “Thank you, Jesus,” with tears in my eyes as Dr. Sprague laid Tara on her mommie’s chest.
I have come to believe that the mind and the spirit of motherhood are gifts from God. Those who have them bear, raise, nurture and love their children. There are others, although they do not bear them, raise, nurture, and love other folks’ children as their own: the grandmother, the aunt, the friend who steps in because it’s the right thing to do.
So, it’s hard for me to understand why motherhood is out of favor in our country: from the employer who disparages the “mommie track,” to the ingrate in the grocery store who responds, “Shut up, b——,” to the one who loves him most.
This callousness is not appropriate. There is no higher calling than nurturing the baby in the womb, the child in the crib, the teen in the school, even the ingrate in the grocery store. We must honor the mothers who raise us, who stand by, and for, us when no one else will, who give up their own dreams so we can have ours, who bow their knees in prayer for us in time of trouble, and who long to hear from us.
By the time this article comes out, we will still have a few days left before Mother’s Day. Let’s think about the ones who have mothered us until we are grateful enough to do something about it, and then find our own personal way to let them know.
They’ll hear us coming a long way off.
Leon Smith, a resident of Wingate who grew up in Polkton, believes the truth in stories and that his native Anson County is very near the center of the universe.