The lasting emotional imprints from the womb
Our first impressions of our futures begin in the womb. Ultrasound research on expectant mothers has shown that fetuses can sense and respond to belly rubs, music, light, and voices, and feel all of their mothers’ emotions. “Is mummy happy, sad, agitated, or afraid? Does the world outside feel happy and safe or stressful and foreboding? Can I look forward to being born or feel safer to stay hidden inside?” Such prenatal experiences can have lasting effects on our subsequent emotional and spiritual well-being.
The Bible shows us an example of a fetus’s reaction to the outside world. John the Baptist leaped inside his mother’s womb when he heard Jesus’ mother’s voice. His mother, Elizabeth, was just six months pregnant at the time.
Luke 1:36 ESV And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:39-44 ESV In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
God gives every fetus a spirit that senses and perceives things around itself. Our consciousness and understanding (or misunderstandings) of the world begin inside the womb.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 ESV As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
Zechariah 12:1 ESV … Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:
Job 32:8 ESV But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
God’s designs for us are evident within the first 24 hours
Even before we were born, God knew each one of us intimately. He chose us to be a blessing to our families, appointed our spiritual heritage and began to form us inside our mother’s womb from day one.
Psalm 127:3 ESV Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 ESV … Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Isaiah 44:24 ESV Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,
Within the first 24 hours from conception, our DNA was already completely coded. God determined our appearances, personalities, and days of our lives. Then, within the first month, our tiny brains, spines, limbs, and hearts emerged.
Psalm 139:13-16 ESV For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How we began to interact with our mother’s world
By our second month, our brains would have begun to react to stimuli from our mothers. If she experienced trauma, took drugs, or drank alcohol heavily, our brain development would have been affected adversely.
By the third month, we would have started to also react to toxins in her body, if any. Ultrasound scans have shown fetuses to react when their mothers smoked, for instance. A rise in our mother’s blood pressure would have triggered a similar response in our blood pressure as well.
Hearing is the first sense to develop and by our fifth month, we would have heard our mothers’ voices clearly.
At seven months, we would have perceived languages and come out preferring our mothers’ and families’ native tongues from infancy.
Our brains were fully functional at eight months and entered the early stages of character development not long after.
What we learnt inside the womb
During our first nine months, we would have become bonded to our parents, and particularly to our mothers.
We would have learnt a lot about our mother’s temperament, emotions, and preferences from the inside her body, being positioned so close to her heart. We were so intricately connected to our mothers that if her heart beat faster, so would ours too.
We would also have been affected by our mothers’ stress or “happy” hormones. This is where we begin to perceive if the outside world is dangerous or safe to come out to, depending on her usual emotional state and hormones.
For more, see Prenatal Development: What We Learn Inside the Womb.
The impact of negative prenatal experiences
It is believed that babies inside the womb can perceive love, happiness, sadness, and stress.
If our mothers knew God and leaned on Him, ate well, and were happy and calm during their pregnancies, we would have had happy, healthy environments to develop in.
Persistent stress, unhappiness, or trauma during pregnancy, however, may be too overwhelming for our spirits to cope with. Extreme stress during pregnancy can even lead to miscarriage.
Studies have shown that fetuses that develop inside stressful environments are more predisposed to health and cognitive issues later in life. They are inclined to display respiratory or digestive problems, irritability, or sleep disorders in their first few months. Such babies may have difficulty paying attention or solving problems later in life and continue to display symptoms of hyper-anxiety.
Those left alone in incubators or given minimal attention after birth can also suffer similar stresses, due to the anxiety of being separated from their mothers whom they had bonded with over the past nine months.
Later, we may find that we have difficulty trusting others because of a deep-seated fear of abandonment. Or we may be predisposed to become highly sensitive or over-protective over our feelings or our mothers’ emotions. Alternatively, we may go on to be unknowingly burdened with a spirit of sadness from our mothers if they had been depressed, bereaved, pessimistic, or sorrowful while carrying us in their wombs,
The good news is most negative prenatal predispositions can be countered by patient, kind, and nurturing parents. The symptoms will disappear completely if mothers form strong loving bonds with stressed, anxious or sad babies after birth.
Being born again through Jesus Christ
The Bible makes a startling claim; that God desires our faithfulness to Him even when we were still inside our mothers’ wombs. The Holy Spirit, who gives us life, began quietly nurturing our spirits from the moment we were conceived and speaking to us through our conscience ever since.
Psalm 51:5-6 NIV Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
For some of us, that gentle nudging from God has been overpowered by our circumstances.
We may have been born into homes that were stressful and abusive or suffered emotional neglect while growing up. Such experiences will reinforce our negative prenatal impressions of the world and our place in it. First impressions count.
Thank God that even if some of our parents neglected us, failed to show us compassion, or abandoned us, God will never forget us or neglect us. He will hold us close – if we choose to go to Him for comfort and a fresh start.
Isaiah 49:15-16 ESV “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
Psalm 27:10 NLT Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.
This is what Jesus alluded to when He told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, that we must all be born again through the working of the Holy Spirit. He will renew our spirits, which may have been crushed by fear, sorrow, neglect, or abuse through life’s circumstances – or even from the womb. Also, see The Holy Spirit as our counsellor.
John 3:3-6 ESV Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Proverbs 18:14 ESV A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
Some of us may instinctively know how we would have felt by examining our mother’s emotional and spiritual state when she was carrying us inside her womb:
- Did she receive adequate help and support, or was she neglected, abused, cursed, or abandoned?
- Was she in a secure position or did she face ongoing family, social, or financial issues?
- Was she joyful about conceiving us or did she reject us at first and want to abort us?
- Was she positive about life or did she want to kill herself?
- Was she in loving relationships or was she bitter towards anyone?
- Did she have a healthy lifestyle or did she take drugs, drink lots of alcohol, or smoke?
- Was she filled with hope or was she superstitious and filled with fear?
- Did she pray to Jesus for us or did she pursue idols, chant mantras, follow new age remedies and rituals, practise prenatal yoga, or seek fortune tellers etc.?
If any of these negative experiences describe our situations, we might want to consider asking the Holy Spirit the following questions:
- “What was it like for me in my mother’s womb?
- “What lies did I subconsciously come to believe about my life and myself, that I need to renounce today?”
- “Is there anything I need to forgive my mother or father for?”
- “Did I experience prenatal trauma that I need Your healing of my spirit for? Please show me Your presence and comfort me.”
- “Were there curses spoken over while I was in my mother’s womb that I need to break in Jesus’ name? Who do I need to forgive and bless?”
- “What is Your truth for me? What do You think of me?”
- “What spiritual heritage did You determine for me?”
James 1:17-18 ESV Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
When we humble ourselves before God and desire to be renewed through His perfect love, He will help us. As listed out in 1 Peter 1:3-23, we can be born again to a priceless inheritance, if we repent and turn away from the “empty life” that we once had as a result of imperfect family situations and life in the womb.
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