I use the term belly talk to refer to speech and communications directed to an expected child in utero by expectant parties,
such as parents and/or others interested in establishing relationships with or relating to the expected child. These parties
also might include other children as siblings or other adults as relatives or neighbors of the expected child. In addition
to talking and reading aloud, belly talk also includes playing music for and touching the pregnant womans belly and by extension,
the expected child in utero. Equally important, the belly can talk back as expectant parents might interpret fetal kicks
and other movements as communications from inside the womb.
So, are you bonding with the baby?
I try. Its funny because sometimes I dont forget that he or she is there, but its just, like, I dont feel it. So, I
try to make a distinct effort to talk to him or her everyday. I heard I read somewhere that by 16 weeks, their hearing is
[developing] As a mother, tell him or her stories or just talk to them because they can bond with your voice. Im, like,
how do they know that? But I also figure it cant hurt
Here, Bridget, who was 18 weeks pregnant at the time, regards belly talk as a way for the baby to bond to her. However,
I suggest that belly talk also bonds Bridget to the baby by identifying, defining, and thus creating a partner in the communication
situation. If Bridget is a mother telling a story or just talking, then to whom does she speak? She refers to it, he or
she, and them the collective he and she. Through her belly talk, she enacts a relationship between parent and child.
At 19 weeks pregnant, Dana tells me, Its still not like a baby to me yet. She further elaborates:
Its a little thing inside, thats all. When I first got pregnant, it was, I think, a little pea, and then a bean, and
then a peanut [because] my brother would ask me, Well, how big is it? So, I would say, Its about the size of a pea, its the
size of a bean, the size of a peanut. Then from peanut to now then I kind of didnt think about it a lot when I was waiting
for the amnio and all that. I dont think of it as human.
Although Dana minimizes the realness of the baby through her choice of metaphors (pea, bean, peanut), she tells me that
she also refers to the little thing inside by a name that she has given it. She tells me, I call it Thumper, actually, because
it feels like a rabbit, a small rabbit thumping. Again, this might be an attempt to minimize the babys realness for her,
but the image of a small rabbit thumping is an evocative and sentimental one that also naturalizes the little thing inside.
In fact, comparing the baby to the adorable and anthropomorphized cartoon character Thumper the best friend of Bambi
in the classic Disney movie seems to indicate attachment to the baby because I also know that Dana feels strong emotional
bonds to animals, as demonstrated in her relationship with her cats. During my first visit to her home, it seemed as if the
carpet-covered play structure for the cats dominated the living room. She talks to them and expressed her concern to me about
how they will adjust to the presence of the new baby when she arrives.
Dana tells me also that she talks to Thumper in fact, she became teary-eyed while recalling to me what she says, which
includes comments on Thumpers activities. Thus, I see her belly talk as an act of care in that, at the very least, establishes
a relationship of care between Dana and Thumper.