When I was pregnant, I often wondered what my baby was thinking about as he or she danced in my womb. I like to think they were happy thoughts, and that their little minds were whirring away. But, does a baby have thoughts in utero? Preferences? Can they learn?
I can just imagine how my babies were in my uterus. All happy and tucked away, cozy. They were probably thinking things like, "I'm so glad my mom is 6 feet tall, I have so much space for activities." Or, "dang, but does this woman eat a lot of Shake Shack." My son was a particularly active little beast when I was pregnant with him. My guess is that he was probably choreographing his very first Cha-Cha, and thus, needed to jump on my bladder. My daughter was probably already plotting an evil overthrow or hostile takeover of something — she's my little Slytherin.
I remember reading the bible of the knocked-up,What to Expect When You're Expecting, like every mom when they're pregnant. One part noted that around seven months into my pregnancy, my baby would be able to pick out my voice in a room full of voices. According to Science, it's not just your voice that your baby recognizes, they also have the capacity to learn language. They learn to recognize the cadence, consonant, and vowel sounds of the parent's native tongue. I may have thought more about my trucker's mouth had I known this before. My children learned colorful language very early, apparently.
Other than learning, though, are they thinking anything, really? Does a baby have thoughts while in utero? According to Scientific American, babies absolutely have the capacity for thought by the third trimester, but as you know, the ability to think does not a thinker make. Just look at my senior pictures, and the proof is in the puce hair shaped like the Rachel gone wrong. (A full 10 years after that hairstyle lost popularity. So bad.)
Babies have all the necessary neural pathways and connections to have complex thought patterns, but they don't have the experience or input to drive the car down those paths. I would say "light's on, but no one's home," but the womb is, you know, dark. Also, the article noted that babies are in an oxygen-deprived, dark, hormonally charged environment, that apparently means that when babies aren't in a deep, REM sleep, they're in a sleep-like state. Yes, they're moving and active, and even do things like swallow, urinate, try to grab you by the throat by climbing up your ribcage while you sleep, but it's like sleepwalking to them. Also, they have no input of stimuli or memories that would give them reasons to think or dream, so they're working with zero point of reference for even what a thought could be.
The article admitted that it's never going to be completely settled, because researchers just can't know for sure, but what they do know is that something startling happens to the brain at birth. It's a hormone surge that is absolutely unique in one's life, and jolts the body into a state of awareness — the article hypothesized that this is when the baby really starts thinking thoughts. Chiefly, "What in the heck was that?" and "No, I don't like this, please put me back."
Regardless of what baby's thinking, you're thinking a lot about your baby, obviously, and I like to think they're thinking of you, too. (And when you're going to stop eating so many hot wings.)