Gillian, Leia and I have been welcoming our new baby Zelda into this world. As such I have been thinking a lot about what I call the “blank vinyl record” of our nervous system. I know, how sweet and fatherly ? ?, bare with me.
Vinyl record technology is based on capturing the actual vibrations of sound and etching them into vinyl. When the vinyl is placed on the record player, the needle glides along the etchings and reproduces the original sound by transmitting the vibrations to the speaker. When music companies mass produced records they used the word “press” to describe the imprinting onto the “unpressed” vinyl discs.
What Does This Have to Do with Our Nervous System?
From conception forward, a developing human baby’s nervous system is like an unpressed vinyl record. It has a supremely keen sensor recording all the stimulus in its environment. That environment of course is the mothers womb and by extension her entire experience. Whatever is going on for the mother, be it a death metal concert or gregorian chanting, those vibrations will be the first songs etched onto the record of that child’s nervous system.
This is where the music analogy ends though, because the brain and nervous system are recording far more than sound. Baby’s nervous system is recording everything. This includes whether mom is stressed out or relaxed, worried or content. They record if mom is surrounded by love or emotionally bereft, active or sedentary and a million other things. All of these stimuli contribute immensely to the foundational model of the baby’s brain and nervous system. Then, by extension, it dictates who they are and how they interpret the world.
It is only much later in postnatal development that babies themselves start to author inputs into their own nervous systems. But in the beginning, it is completely under the influence of their primary attachments (parents) and their home (environment).
How Does This Affect My Kids?
If the “music” of their lives from conception to birth and onwards through the first few years is one of love, warmth, attention, safety and connection, that will become the foundational theme of the album of their mind and body. If, however, it is one of fear, coldness, neglect, and unpredictability that will become the theme of the album.
The human experience from conception to 5 years old is the most significant indicator of physical, mental and emotional wellness. I have 15 years of clinical practice and personal exploration (plus a Mt. Everest sized pile of scientific evidence to support it). If that experience was an album of beauty, that person will most likely be healthy and generally balanced. If that experience was an album of tragedy, that person will have a host of conditions and be very dysregulated.
As a father I know all of this, and I know that I am one of the primary instruments contributing to the album of my daughter’s nervous system. I therefore do everything in my power to ensure that the music I am playing is love, warmth, attention, safety and connection. There is literally nothing more important I could do.
For a little more on connecting with the music that you are playing, check out this blog.
If you feel like your stress might be affecting your child, check out my Youtube channel. It’s full of strategies to help you manage and get rid of stress.