At some point you may have a sense someone is listening. Like when you feel eyes on you while driving – you look over and discover it’s true. There’s that presence – the presence of another – growing in you. And that forming person is listening. Listening to sound, rhythm, cadence, and tone. Your voice – the guiding vibration that will be there now and on the other side of birth. It’s the beginning of language and communication, and so the beginning of story.
Story is so deep in us, in our bones, our blood, our lineage. It’s vital for us and we long for it. So the stories we tell to our little “presences” in our bellies, is noticed and needed. The familiar rhythms of a story, in the same way children and adults like to hear a beloved tale or song over and over again, weave a feeling of safety and relationship between you and your baby.
Any stories are good belly stories: you can simply narrate your day, what you are seeing or thinking as you drive. You can talk about the food you are making, the things you are cleaning, the people you will be seeing.
You can begin to relate to your belly, that’s housing your treasure, as a friend, sharing stories remembered from childhood, even about your family from generations ago.
Or you can wander through some folk tale books from the library and find one you like, and you can practice remembering it and telling to your very accepting audience. As you do this, you are opening a skill you will want to share with your baby and child all through development. You can practice memorizing the story by seeing it in pictures like a storyboard, learning the order of events , finding words the author repeats. You can practice giving characters voices, so the little ears hear variety and patterns.
You can also choose a book that you loved as a child to read, your voice can travel up and down, finding the repetitive sounds, the quiet moments and the big moments as if you are creating a play, letting yourself enjoy it too.
You may feel odd reading to your belly, but just know, someone is listening, and later, when you see that face, and when you see the delight in a familiar story, you’ll know why it was a good thing to do.
It’s comforting to you too, to talk to your belly, to feel the words land somewhere, to begin to have a place to put all your growing love and energy. Put it in your voice, and let the music wash over both of you. A song is good too, either singing or playing on an instrument if you know how.
Your partner too can read and tell stories to your belly. Then there will be even more familiar voices to welcome her or him when it’s time for the story that begins with the first breath.
As a professional storyteller, I know my babies got their share of stories in their womb theaters. I tell many tales from the Celtic tradition and one of my favorites is the story of Finn MacCool, the strongest giant in all of Ireland. I get to do Irish and Scottish dialects, make the sound of giant feet crossing the bridge, and the small sound of knitting needles clicking. Patterns and plot that are still part of our family years later. I remember when I was about a month away from delivery, I was telling that story at a summer camp. I was dressed up fairy like in front of about 200 boys. Maybe the story was just too inviting, or maybe he wanted to rewrite the ending, because the next day my own little boy came. A surprise always makes a good story.
It’s an act of faith, telling belly stories, and an act of connection. It makes everything more earthly and real. It’s the quiet work you can only do at the beginning of something, and the fruit comes later.