Without any question, the prenatal period is the most important, the most formative, the most easily managed period in a person’s entire life. It is during this period of time that all the foundations are laid, the basic habit patterns formed, and the direction the life shall take is determined.
When parents realize the full potential for setting the children on the right course that is afforded them during those vital months between the commencement of a new life and the physical birth, they will determine to make the very most of their opportunity. On the other hand, when those of us who have raised our families realize what a splendid and irrecoverable opportunity which, because of our ignorance, we let slip by without its even being noticed, and when we are able to form some assessment of the loss both we and our precious children have sustained, we can be nothing short of heartbroken.
We are now able to see that there was a work to be done at that specific time that could never be done as satisfactorily or effectively at any other time but then. We deplore the fact, now that we can see things as they really are, that another damaging work was done instead, with the result that our offspring were turned away from God instead of being bonded to Him. With horror and remorse, we now realize that what we thought was a training of our precious juniors for eternal life, was in fact a virtual confirmation to eternal destruction. We now face the heartbreaking prospect, if indeed we do succeed in reaching heaven ourselves, of standing on the walls of the New Jerusalem to watch our children perishing in the flames outside, knowing as we will that it was our ignorance and mismanagement that produced this indescribably terrible outworking.
What then are parents to do during the prenatal period to ensure that when the final assembly of the saints surrounds the throne of God, they will be unbroken families, and the parents will be able to say: “Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.”Isaiah 8:18.
The first step is to realize that every experience through which the mother passes; every emotion she feels; every habit she practices; is felt and responded to by the unborn infant just as the mother herself reacts to these things. Thus, the unborn infant is storing information conveyed to it through the medium of its mother and is forming habit patterns coincidental with those of its maternal parent. How absolutely vital it is then that the mother, with the father’s intelligent and loving support, establishes such habit patterns, pursues such interests, and responds to life’s trials and pleasures in such a way as will convey to the child the best possible character building.
Everyone recognizes the power of heredity by which so much beyond human control is transmitted to the child, but we are talking here about another factor—the influence of environment and the parents’ responses to it. It is an area over which the parents have sufficient control as to ensure that the unborn infant can have the best possible start in life. It is an awesome responsibility which confronts the parents when it is realized that the habits and attitudes of the elders are being reproduced in the child.
These truths are stated in clear, convincing language in the inspired writings:
“The child will be affected for good or for evil by the habits of the mother.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 561.
“Society is composed of families. And heads of families are responsible for the molding of society.” Selected Messages 2:421.
“What an enormous weight of responsibility rests upon parents, when we consider the course pursued by them, before the birth of their children, has very much to do with the development of their character after their birth.” Selected Messages 2:426.
“The father should bear in mind that the treatment of his wife before the birth of his offspring will materially affect the disposition of the mother during that period, and will have very much to do with the character developed by the child after its birth.” Selected Messages 2:428.
“The offspring, before its birth, has transmitted to it disease, and an unhealthy appetite. And the irritability, nervousness, and despondency, manifested by the mother, will mark the character of her child.” Selected Messages 2:431.
“Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of children. The lessons learned, the habits formed, during the years of infancy and childhood, have more to do with the formation of the character and the direction of the life than have all the instruction and training of after years.” The Ministry of Healing, 380.
Tremendous and far reaching is the power of prenatal influence. It definitely shapes the character of the child for good or, more often, for evil. To demonstrate both the power and permanence of this force, I recall the experience of a mother of my acquaintance who was so ill during her fourth pregnancy that she had to spend most of her time in bed. She devoted the long hours to intensive and extensive reading of the Spirit of Prophecy and her Bible. The child born of that sacred influence has a sweetness of disposition and an interest in the truth which supercedes that manifested by any other member of the family.
“The effect of prenatal influences is by many parents looked upon as a matter of little moment; but heaven does not so regard it. The message sent by an angel of God, and twice given in the most solemn manner, [to the prospective parents of Samson], shows it to be deserving of our most careful thought.” The Ministry of Healing, 372.
With these possibilities for good or evil in our minds, we will now glean some of the information contained in The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. For the authors, the research into this question began in a most interesting fashion in the winter of 1975. Dr. Verny was spending a weekend with some friends at their country retreat. His hostess was seven months pregnant, and in the evenings, he would find her sitting alone in front of the fire singing a lullaby to the unborn infant.
This touching scene left a deep impression on his mind. This impression was heightened when she told him later that, after the birth of her son, no matter how hard the baby was crying, it always quieted down when she sang that same lullaby to him. This led him to pose the question to himself as to whether or not her case was unique or is it a general fact of life that a woman’s feelings, thoughts, and actions actually influence the unborn child?
He already knew that at various moments during the pregnancy, many expectant mothers sense that their unborn children are responding to their feelings. Furthermore, he had heard stories and dreams from various individuals which strongly indicated a prenatal influence. However, he had never assembled these scattered items into an organized whole, as he was now led to do.
He found others also engaged in the same research, and remarks that they were able to study the fetus undisturbed by using the medical technology which has become available over the past twenty years. What they discovered constituted a remarkable departure from the commonly held view of the unborn child which saw no consequence in the growth patterns achieved during the months before birth other than merely physical. Here now are the main conclusions drawn as a result of six years of intensive study and observation:
It was found that the little one still in its mother’s womb can see, hear, experience, taste, and actually learn even though on a primitive level.
Very importantly, it was found that these perceptions begin to shape and mold the child’s character and personality well before it is born. How he will eventually regard himself, and consequently act as a happy or sad, aggressive or humble, accepted or rejected individual, depends to a point on the messages it, while still in the womb, receives from its mother about itself and the world around it.
The third point which came through very strongly is that the principal source of these molding influences is the child’s mother. It was found that the unborn child feels every experience through which the mother passes as if it were in fact the adult. This does not mean that every momentary anxiety felt by the mother has a virtually disastrous effect on the fetus. What does become consequential are persistent patterns of feelings which, when communicated to the little one, significantly shape his personality and character. The negative feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, and discontent have an adverse effect on the unborn, while the positive qualities of serenity, cheerfulness, gratitude, confidence, and contentment exert a very favorable influence on the developing life.
Very significantly, it was found that the father is designed to play a much more important role than has been afforded him. How he relates to his wife and expected child has a very decisive influence on the outcome, either for good or ill. This finding is strongly supported in the Spirit of Prophecy where it is written: “The father should study how to make the mother happy. He should not allow himself to come to his home with a clouded brow. If he is perplexed in business, he should not, unless it is actually necessary to counsel with his wife, trouble her with such matters. She has cares and trials of her own to bear, and she should be tenderly spared every needless burden.
“The mother too often meets with cold reserve from the father. If everything does not move off just as pleasantly as he could wish, he blames the wife and mother, and seems indifferent to her cares and daily trials. Men who do this, are working directly against their own interest and happiness. The mother becomes discouraged. Hope and cheerfulness depart from her. She goes about her work mechanically, knowing that it must be done, which soon debilitates physical and mental health. Children are born to them suffering with various diseases, and God holds the parents accountable in a great degree; for it was their wrong habits which fastened disease upon their unborn children, under which they are compelled to suffer all through their lives. Some live but a short period with their load of debility. The mother anxiously watches over the life of her child, and is weighed down with sorrow as she is compelled to close its eyes in death, and she often regards God as the author of all this affliction, when the parents in reality were the murderers of their own child.
“The father should bear in mind that the treatment of his wife before the birth of his offspring will materially affect the disposition of the mother during that period, and will have very much to do with the character developed by the child after its birth.” Selected Messages 2:428
When both the wives and their husbands achieve a loving, supportive relationship toward each other, what a wonderful start in life the children will receive; what control the parents will have over the formation of their children’s personality and character!
This is precisely the conclusion drawn by Dr. Verny who observed that with this knowledge at our service, parents can so significantly and decisively manage the education of the unborn child as to ensure his happiness and success as a fetus, a newly-born, and a person for the rest of his life.
The Christian parent who realizes the marvelous educational potential of the prenatal period will see this, not only as an opportunity, but also as a weighty responsibility which he cannot shirk or lay upon another.
Therefore, when a husband and wife have a true marriage relationship, and the home is filled with happiness and love, the offspring will not only be happy and secure; they will also be healthy, free from debilitating diseases.
The purpose of this missive has been to alert us all to the fact that the prenatal period is of the greatest importance in the salvation and training of the children. It affords opportunities which must be grasped and used to the highest advantage during that vital period. On no account can parents defer or neglect this work except at fearful cost to themselves and especially to their offspring, for what is to be done then can never be achieved later, the opportunity having passed away forever. It must be understood that if the parents fail to ensure the new birth and the right follow-up training, they leave the child exposed to the terrible works of Satan who will preoccupy the life and make it difficult or virtually impossible to rescue that individual from his grasp once he has firmly established his evil nature within him.
Therefore, let the young people who are contemplating parenthood make sure that they are truly prepared to fulfill their vital role during the prenatal period. For those who do their work as God would have them do it, the rewards are beyond imagination. For those who do not, the results are heartbreaking as the experiences of so many have demonstrated.