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Monday, January 19, 2009

Taegyo: Prenatal Education

A topic that I have been wanting to cover on the blog ever since Christmas is Taegyo. Taegyo (태교) is a Korean word that means prenatal education. "Tae" (태) comes from "tae-ah" (태아), which means fetus. "Gyo" (교) means education or teaching (as in "hak-gyo"/학교, which means school). So, literally, education of the fetus.

Here in America we like to think that we practice prenatal education, too, right? We talk to our babies and play them Mozart while they are in the womb. But Taegyo goes quite a bit further than this. In fact, Taegyo is a tradition in Korea dating back to at least 1800, when a book called Taegyosingi was written by a man named Sajudang Lee. There are some very beautiful concepts in Taegyo which I wish all Americans would adopt. Most interesting to me is that the baby is considered a full human for the entire 10 months of gestation. In fact, in Korea babies are considered a year old when they are born - Koreans count the gestation period as the baby's first year of life. Cool, huh?

One of the most important aspects of Taegyo is the mother's attitude. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, my in-laws kept stressing to me the importance of always thinking happy and good thoughts. Bad things, ugly things, distressing or stressful things - these thoughts I should completely banish from my mind. I needed to focus on creating a peaceful and happy environment for my baby. I shouldn't get angry or upset, and I should definitely focus on beautiful things (so that my baby will be beautiful, of course!). Koreans carry this very far. For example, one night we were eating cookies after dinner. I picked up a half cookie, as I was not extremely hungry and didn't feel like eating a full one. But my mother-in-law snatched it from me. "Oh, no, you can't eat that one! It's not beautiful. You have to eat the beautiful ones." When we ate fruit, she and my father-in-law made sure to give me the most beautifully cut fruit. When we were watching movies, they encouraged me not to watch the action movies that JM and my father-in-law were watching - or at least not to watch the battle scenes.

Taegyo also incorporates many ideas that Westerners would find familiar. You should talk to your baby. You should play your baby music, especially classical music and sounds of nature, like water flowing or birds chirping. Taegyo also stresses the mother and father playing instruments or singing to the baby. You should read aloud to your baby. Fairy tales are especially encouraged, and you should read them with a lot of emotion. Finally, yoga is encouraged beginning in the fifth month.

My father-in-law told me that Korean Christians have altered Taegyo slightly to be more Christian in nature. In addition to reading fairy tales, parents are encouraged to read Bible stories to the baby. Particularly, the mother should read a Proverb a day and meditate on it. And in addition to all the other music the baby is listening to, the parents should sing hymns.

So how are we doing with our Taegyo? (This is the question that my in-laws ask each time they call, by the way. ;-)

Well, I do try to listen to classical music every day. This is nothing new for me, though. I love classical music and it really does help me relax. And we are reading her a bedtime story every night. So far we have read a few stories from Winnie-the-Pooh and several Bible stories about women. I must admit, I'm not very good about thinking of only good things. I am a worrier by nature, and so I have had my share of break downs these last few months. I am doing prenatal yoga (thanks to my sister for lending me the dvd), although not as often as I should. But I am laid up in bed with a cold right now, so it will probably be a while before I can get back into it.

It's only been within the past week that we have really started talking to her instead of about her. I think it really helped to finally have a name picked out. Now she really seems real to us. Plus, she is already 20 weeks old, which is so close to viability outside the womb that JM and I are actually starting to believe we might seriously have a baby this time.

Oh, and we are singing her hymns. Especially one hymn in particular, Sing to Me of Heaven, which we picked because that is where her siblings are. I hope that doesn't sound morbid to anyone, because it wasn't meant to be. But it's just good song all around.

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9 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    Fascinating topic. I'll try to focus on sending you happy articles to read ;-)

    I hope you enjoy the lunch that your mother is bringing over!

  • Iris

    Taegyo is a wonderful concept. I esp. like the idea of reading stories to the babies in utero and talking to them.

    And I don't think it's morbid of the reason you sing Sing To Me of Heavento your little one - when I read that I thought it was beautiful, actually.

  • Iris

    P.S. Feel better soon!!

  • Homeschoolin' hot-rodders

    That is beautiful! I also don't think it is morbid for you to sing Sing to me of Heaven...its a special song to you and has wonderful meaning for you :)

  • Ewokgirl

    This is a very sweet post. Interesting about only having beautiful things and thinking nice thoughts.

    Praying for a healthy pregnancy for you.

  • Julie

    I love this concept. I have never heard of it before, but how beautiful.
    I think the hymn you picked and the reason you picked it is lovely.
    I don't think I have said congratulations yet.. so Congratulations!
    ooo.. my word verification is chill.. :)

  • CappuccinoLife

    That is really interesting. And so beautiful. And wow, you have sweet in-laws! :)

    Now I wonder if my brother's birth mother practiced taegyo while she was carrying him.

  • Teresa Howard

    what a sweet way to consider the baby- alive and well and happy- and thriving- wow- this is a great concept- and truly what frederick wirth in the book prenatal parenting discusses- the positiveness of the prebirth environment- and michel odent used to have his moms come together who were due in the same months and sing while he played piano- building their endurance of breath and for the baby!

  • kathymcd

    This comment has been removed by the author.