There is an incredible industry out there, peddling “stuff” to new mums. Stuff you didn’t even know you needed. Never have I read anything scarier than the Mothercare catalogue – so much choice, so much potential expense.
Take, for example, the sound system that fits snugly around your bump. Apparently, the Ritmo (RRP £139) is hot in the USA due to the Mozart Effect ™: the belief that exposure to the works of the Austrian wunderkind while in the womb will elevate your baby to super-brain status.
In 1993, psychologists found that listening to Mozart increased spatial-temporal reasoning. I did look up exactly what this meant, but was none the wiser after ingesting the science speak. In any case, some people have dismissed these claims as justification for marketing yet more expensive, branded “stuff” in my direction.
I forwarded images of said sonic contraption to friends. “No, no, no, no, no, NO!” said one mum-of-two, adding: “You’ll be sectioned if anyone catches you wearing that in public.” Another replied: “I want one, and I’m not even pregnant.”
I’m not sure I’d sport such a gizmo, but I do hope our unborn child loves music as much as we do. Not that our tastes are limited to Mozart; she is just as likely to depart my womb like a bat out of hell, singing along to Meat Loaf. Or jolly young Mika, at whose Eden Session I’ll be celebrating the start of my maternity leave. I must remember not to bounce around too much to “Big Girl, You Are Beautiful”, lest Daughter make an unplanned appearance a month early.
It’s clear that sound in utero is important. We are often reminded at ante-natal classes that our babies can already hear our voices, and will recognize them the minute they pop out. Dads are encouraged to talk to the bump; OH looks rather perplexed by this suggestion, and has so far mustered up “Hello, bump.” I, on the other hand, have spent many years talking to myself (motto: “It’s the only way to guarantee a sensible answer”), and will happily have lengthy conversations with my current extension.
I’ve also been encouraged to sing to the bump. This is relatively easy, as I sing a lot. Current choirs include Resonet, a classical ensemble performing early religious music in Latin; and at the other end of the spectrum, a Ministry of Song project focusing on dance music from the early 1990s. Hence my child’s first words will be either “Kyrie eleison” or “Wooh! Yeah!”
At pregnancy yoga, we often give our babies a “sonic massage” with a humming breath. I think of this on the occasions I slip down to bolster male vocal parts, skimming bass notes and wondering whether my testicles are about to drop. Does baby wonder: “I thought babies came out of mummies, not daddies”?
I was once asked to conjure a happy image of family life, and came up with car journeys to a soundtrack of compilation CDs compiled by yours truly to stimulate and amuse our jolly brood. Never would the words “Are we nearly there yet?” be uttered on such a trip.
Such vital skills will be put into practice very soon as we choose our favourite child-friendly music. Our baby will drift off to sleep to the lullaby softeness of Vashti Bunyan, or the peaceful rhythms of Gregorian chant. Should we need a wakeful presence, it will be back to Mika, or perhaps some jaunty folk-rock Steeleye Span. But not the ones about dear, sweet children being murdered and flung down wells by wicked step-parents; and not the ones purportedly about birds in the bush or bonny black hares, both double entendres of indescribable filth. Actually, once you take those out, that doesn’t leave much.
In the meantime, I have a policy of waiting until, post-baby, I identify a specific need before actually parting with any cash. As for the sound system – I think I’ll just turn the stereo up to 11.
* The Ministry of Song Project debuts at the Eden Project Arts Café on Friday, June 4. www.edenproject.com
* Resonet performs at Blisland Church on Sunday, June 13.
* Mika plays the Eden Sessions on Sunday, June 27. www.edenproject.com
* To buy the Ritmo, visit www.nuvo-group.co.uk