The all-hearing ear

Throughout my partner’s pregnancy, our pregnancy, there have been several ‘change-of-gear’ moments.

  • The positive test result (AKA Shit, we’re having a baby… significantly earlier than I had expected).
  • The scan (AKA Shit, look at that. That’s an actual, tiny, baby).
  • The appearance of the bump (AKA Shit, that wasn’t there last night. It’s all getting very real).

Now, we have reached another threshold. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The baby can now hear us (AKA Shit, I’d better stop swearing at the start of every sentence).

All at once, our lives and routines have changed a little.

Each night, before we go to sleep, I now spend anything between 30 seconds and 10 minutes delivering monologues to the bump. In my imagination, these are valuable deposits of wisdom which I’m making in the subconscious of my unborn child; in reality, they tend to be glib summaries of whatever I’ve been up to on the day, with a healthy amount of material thrown in purely to wind up the other half of the audience (into whose belly button I’m wittering).

Of course, the idea isn’t really to educate. It’s to expose bambino to my voice, so the little one will recognise me and hopefully find my presence reassuring when they finally emerge. Plus, if I’m particularly lucky, charming or bassy in tone, the process will become a dialogue: bump makes all its points via the medium of violence, but I find a flurry of kicks and punches an uncharacteristically rewarding experience at this stage in the journey.

It should be noted that I don’t monopolise the airtime with our growing progeny. My partner has taken to whistling for bump in the bath, a tradition which has also begun to produce vigorous reaction. The tuneful, splashy serenades have uncovered another fascinating detail: the bump has its own tastes in music (and certainly doesn’t pay any respect to its father’s sacred cows).

In light of how warmly Mum’s whistling has been received, I’ve started to experiment by playing various pieces of music to bump. The reaction has, to date, been very specific, as you’ll be able to see from this register of results:

Absolutely no reaction

  • Higher and Higher – Jackie Wilson
  • You know you’re right – Nirvana
  • Jackie Wilson said – Van Morrison
  • Married with Children – Oasis
  • Farewell and Goodnight – Smashing Pumpkins

Spontaneous Kung-Fu

  • Hail Hail – Pearl Jam
  • Whistling – Mum

We can observe a number of things from this evidence, not least that Jackie Wilson is involved one way or another in lots of great tunes. Tellingly, we can pick up the fact that bump’s listening schedule has been dictated by my desire for it to respond to pet songs and favourite bands… and that this frankly optimistic strategy has largely failed. But, silver-lining-wise, we can also note my fatherly pride at his or her reaction to Pearl Jam (get in!).

I’m now looking to diversify bump’s listening experience. Poetry is a good place to go, I reckon – rhythm and rhyme are crucial to developing a child’s language skills, so we might as well get a head-start. Learned child-rearing authors also inform us that reading stories to our kids in utero is a great idea, because they will recognise the sound-structure of those stories after they’re born. This is seemingly a comforting experience, which will help them to settle down and stop shrieking (anything that comes with this type of recommendation is guaranteed to catch my attention). And in order not to lose sight of everything music can offer, I will be blaring examples of every conceivable genre onto my partner’s waiting abdomen, so we can get a better idea of what grooves the bump is digging.

I’m really enjoying this phase – and I hope I can build up a rapport with our baby this way, before the big day arrives. With luck, that’ll soften the blow when our little listener finally opens its eyes and realises that Dad has the archetypal ‘face for radio’.

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