Birthing Ayurveda: Week 16—Your Baby's Developing Emotions
Welcome to Birthing Ayurveda, where we follow one woman's pregnancy experience week by week—from a positive home pregnancy test all the way to delivery.
During the fourth, fifth, and sixth months of the pregnancy, critical parts of the baby’s brain and mind develop. The fourth month is dominated by the development of the heart center, which involves emotions and the ability to sympathize and empathize, as well as desires and tendencies of the personality.
Normally, we do not necessarily associate emotions and passion with either the heart or the brain alone. But the heart center, specifically the fourth chakra, is the center from where we connect with the outside world—which is why our hands will come first to our heart area when something moves us before they move to the head.
Ayurveda has beautifully spoken about the mind in terms of a different set of doshas. Like vata, pitta, and kapha, all three have important functions in the mind in a healthy and balanced state. (For a more detailed description click on the word for a link to the glossary.)
- Sattva. I like to think of this quality as that which brings and seeks harmony. It is equilibrium and compassion with wisdom.
- Rajas. Rajas is like the ego’s drive to do and accomplish. Think of this quality as that which brings about divisiveness (separation between yourself and the other) when out of balance.
- Tamas. This is the quality of inertia and heaviness. Out of balance, this quality can bring about a destructive (even self-destructive) action.
There are a number of studies that have started to look at the connection between the mother’s emotional and mental state during pregnancy, and that of the child. It’s a rapidly growing field, incorporated into a larger field that studies the impact of health during pregnancy on the developing fetus as it grows into an adult, called fetal origins.1, 2, 3 For the science folks out there, take a look at this fascinating, growing field!
As I entered this week, I thought about how this center is developing in my child. Certainly this child has come with its own package of tendencies of how it will interact and relate with the world, but this week makes me keenly aware of how my emotions, my tendencies, my outlook, attitudes, and beliefs about the world, will also help shape Charlie’s.
To develop the heart center these are things that I tried, and things to consider placing more time and energy towards, during this month in particular.
- Read books or watch things that you find very moving and inspiring. Again, we can be moved in a number of ways (like towards anger and rajas or depression and tamas). The idea here is to be moved in the direction of sattva. I find the words of Sri Aurobindo, poems by Rumi and Kahlil Gibran, and movies where someone overcomes all obstacles very moving. Growing up, I loved reading and hearing about India’s freedom fighters and stories of similar people in other countries (which I plan to revisit). Oh, and music—I love music. What moves you and lifts your heart and being?
- Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Luckily, this week I am still in satsang with my spiritual teacher—someone who I feel embodies humility and compassion with such wisdom (truly sattvic). On the contrary, keeping company of people who embody the imbalanced aspects of rajas and tamas can pull your mind and emotions in that direction. I remember at one point I got into an argument with my mother, and she wisely and selflessly told me I should walk away from people or situations that irritate me while I am pregnant.
- Be happy! I found the muscles in my cheeks a bit more tense when I was writing an email for work or concentrating on something. I played with changing it into even a slight smile and I felt a sense of lightness come over me despite working on the same task. Take time to remember to smile! Let go of the things that are just not worth it (remember, your baby is picking up on everything). If it is something worth addressing, find simplicity in the situation (don’t let the mind and your emotions dramatize it more than needed). Seek to understand the other person’s perspective (remember: sattva = harmony!), find a solution, and move on.
- Look out for cravings! As this center is developing, so are the child’s desires. You may start to notice cravings that do not quite seem to make sense or seem like your own. Listen to them and satisfy them (in a healthy manner, of course)!