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After Birth

Monday, August 24, 2009 - 11:55 PM

Pardon the graphic pun, but hey! For this podcast, Jad--a brand new father--wonders what's going on inside the head of his baby Amil.

(And don't worry, you don't need kids to enjoy this podcast.) The questions here are big: what is it like to be so brand new to the world? None of us have memories from this time, so how could we possibly ever know? Is it just chaos? Or, is there something more, some understanding from the very beginning? Jad found a development psychologist named Charles Fernyhough to explore some of his questions.


Further reading from Charles Fernyhough:

A Thousand Days of Wonder
Baby In The Mirror


More in:

Comments [55]

Elinor R. from United States

This really makes you think of what babies are experiencing when they are born, no one knows simply because newborns can't speak or tell you what is happening. I don't know much about the brain or the connection of senses but this opened my eyes to the mystery of newborns perception of life.

Apr. 05 2015 07:34 PM
Mike from toronto, ontario

Graphic or not, one of the few puns I've heard in a while that made me burst out laughing. And I work in broadcasting too, so I hear a lot. Great show!

Feb. 17 2015 10:36 AM
Agatha B. Silverstein from Florida

Our senses as time has gone by have been dulled but since newborns haven't had their senses dulled they can see things with a greater intensity. The intensity for these children cause a sensory overload that the brain can't tell which sense is what. A new born baby's senses are so new and bright they can't tell what is what.

Feb. 02 2015 08:59 PM

I know what you mean about the staring and the light. I have a 10 month baby sister and I am almost 18 so I remember her developing from the minute she was born. At first she was just a little blob that ate and slept but they become little persons with needs and personality sooner than you would think. My baby sister stares at the light totally fascinated then points at it, and says "light." She looks at us sits up and raises her hands because she wants us to pick her up, it's quite fascinating.

Nov. 06 2012 12:21 PM

At what age to babies start to have defined senses? Does this trigger any other changes in development?

Nov. 05 2012 11:14 PM
Aaron HudsonBey from St. Louis, Mo.

Your podcast is like revolations to me and encourages to follow the research of psychology as a possible major. Keep up the positive reinforcement.

Jul. 18 2012 03:28 PM

One of the main things I am studying as a theatrical Lighting Designer is the way that we perceive light, among the vast field of sensory perception. The idea that our brain has to calibrate itself in order to begin to comprehend every day life on Earth, is remarkable. It seems as though the environment has everything to do with how the baby will perceive their life. How they grow up, what they see/hear/feel/taste/smell all goes into this calibration and ultimately allows the child to understand the world around him.

Feb. 17 2012 05:01 PM

cutest. baby. ever.

Nov. 30 2010 07:57 PM
Adam from Ma

Wow, the staring this is kind of depressing I'm not going to lie. The synthesia knot that babies perhaps live in is fascinating to me. I didn't know that babies might hear things in echoes as well. Interesting Podcast!

Nov. 30 2010 05:35 PM
Rania from Canada

Thank you Jad for the beauty you add to the world. This was a wonderful piece especially as a fellow parent. Very touching to hear your disappointment to the realities of your son's gazing, but your take on how important the outcome of the connection you build with each other. Can't wait to listen to more.

Nov. 08 2010 09:59 PM

I was very intrigued by the section on baby vision. I recently had eye surgery for cataracts. They essentially replace the damaged lens with an artificial one (Tetraflex in my case) made from flexible plastic. They only do one eye at a time and I was amazed how bright and blue everything was in the eye they'd fixed. The other eye was much yellower and dimmer... I had no idea what I'd been missing. You also may be interested to know the ability to put plastic in the eye dates back to the second world war when pilots got canopy fragments in their eyes and it was noticed it was hypoallergenic.

Nov. 02 2010 05:32 PM
glennie feinsmith, LCSW

Babies are more conscious than you might believe. Memories from the inutero experience are not only possible but it is work I guide my clients through every day.Issues/Problems in our life almost always begin inutero, with what we experienced and what we made it mean about ourselves and our lives. There is much data and research coming out of The Santa Barbara Institute of Graduate Studies of Peri and PreNatal Psychology and Health as well as Europe and Russia.

Jul. 06 2010 02:48 PM

maybe the corelation between the silent pix and that spark in the brain for sound is activated bc the brain is conditioned to think that a sound will be made when new pix is popping up in someones face. in this case its the baby.

Jun. 10 2010 05:14 PM
Janet Hammond

I'm just now catching up on shows I've missed since my own son was born June 5, 2009 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Congratulations! Well done! I mean the short (and the show in general) and the beautiful baby boy. I enjoyed the short and I bet you're thoroughly enjoying Amil.

Jan. 29 2010 02:44 PM

Sorry if I'm being redundant. I don't have time to read everyone's comments, but what struck me was the idea that babies might hear images and it reminded me of a documentary I saw on National Geographic (I think) about a woman who "sees sound". Might make for an interesting follow-up/correlating story.

Jan. 13 2010 12:16 PM

Check steven Johnson Mind wide open reason for children looking at parents (peoples) eyes only. Its about mind reading and learning partly...

Oct. 29 2009 02:19 PM
Sandy Vannasse

they need to make the web page and links IPhone capable,I can play mp3 but no flash!

Oct. 20 2009 02:14 PM

Fascinating!!! You made me remember back to when my son was in his mom's womb. I used to sing to him when he was fussy (which drove my wife nuts), and he would quiet down. On the day he was born, I was in the operating room for the C-section, and got to take him out to meet his grandmother. When he started to cry -- by the way, your program has totally shattered my concept that it was only the cold that made him cry -- he opened his eyes and stared at me, as if to say, "I know you! You sing to me."

When my son was finally old enough that I could ask him if that song triggered any emotions or memory, he said "no". I was disappointed, but I figured all of his brain synapses and neurons had been reconfigured during the ensuing 3 years.

Amile IS a cute baby, and you guys are the best thing on radio and tv for people with really curious minds. KEEP IT GOING!!!

Oct. 18 2009 12:07 PM

MAYBE A FUTURE SHOW IDEA? I wonder if what a baby hears & see's over the first few months/ first year, and the things they begin to at some point think about or reflect upon, ever effect adults? Or if there are any ailments, diseases or disabilities out there which all of a sudden gosh forbid, put an adult from a highly functioning place to a place where they seem to be experiencing & noticing life, light, people, objects, and the sort, for the first time ever? Hmm, scary, but interesting.

Oct. 06 2009 11:20 AM
Daniel NP

Yep, the insight you were given by the psychologist about Amil's staring, was like finding out Santa Claus does not exist ... but, it does not mean you stop having fun with the concept. BTW, everyone congratulates you Jad on the baby, not me, Bro: Congrats, to Amil's Mommy!

Oct. 04 2009 06:10 PM

Amil is so cute it's nauseating. I almost reached out at the screen to pinch his cute little cheeks.

Love the show. It's so well done, informative, and entertaining. There isn't a lot of media out there that leaves you with a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world and the universe.

Why every single person in America doesn't listen to your show is a mystery to me!

congrats on being a dad. : )

Sep. 22 2009 10:54 AM
Michel D Connelly

Wow! Jad-- Sweet, sweet baby. I've raised four sons, and had these questions, thought these thoughts.
I've been thinking that my corneas weren't what they once were... [:~)
All best!
Mike Connelly

Sep. 17 2009 11:33 AM

So interesting! But it brings up the frustrating problem that we can never know what other being is experiencing - the best we can do is try and filter their experience into the terms of our own senses...

I mention this episode and this problem on my blog,

Thanks for the great programs!

Sep. 10 2009 02:32 PM

I often experience that uncontrollable baby stare...and I don't have kids.

I'm black. When I'm in a mostly white environment (and this happens a lot for me) and when there is a baby around, as soon as I catch their eye, they are immediately mesmerized; they can't stop staring.

I understand the subcortical vs. cortical explanation, but maybe there's some other mechanism at work as well....color or contrast recognition or something else.

Just a thought...

Sep. 08 2009 08:13 PM

Very cool short. Although I actually found that last bit the most interesting. I find it comforting that there is an 'older' part of the brain that wins out sometimes. Perhaps it knows this is a human, that those are eyes and that there is something to achieve by staring endlessly even when the 'newer' part of the brain doesn't doesn't yet. Perhaps it is even because of this 'older' subcortical system that the newer more evolved cortical system ever even learns what to look for in someone else's eyes.

Sep. 06 2009 10:26 PM
Barbara O

I listened. I thought about it. Tried to believe it. But I can't completely believe the part about "gaze" = sub-cortical vs. cortical battle ( I have no idea which words they were). That baby is not having the same 10 minute staring contest with your shoe, or with a doorknob, or toothbrush. that baby's gaze is entangled with your gaze (vs. stuck to). and then what about our uncontrollable desire to stare at that baby. Well, thank you very very much for this and all your shows! My 10 yr old daughter listen to a bit almost every day! --I keep reminding her about the marshmallow-delay factor.

Sep. 06 2009 06:27 PM

Jad, two words: "audio flipbook"! I KNOW you must be considering it. :-)

It was mentioned in the podcast on "Time" (gosh, I think it was Time). The audio track is called "Nancy Grows Up." It's from "Tony Schwartz Records the Sounds of Children."

I LOVE hearing little Nancy go from infant to pre-teen. I actually have the track on my mp3 player.

Sep. 03 2009 09:47 PM

I listened to this while staring at my 2.5 week-old daughter. I don't think she "gets" podcasting at the moment, but I sure loved it.

Sep. 02 2009 05:56 PM

I can't help but say: that is a really cute baby.

Aug. 31 2009 06:24 PM

Loved this. The last 2 shorts, plus the video were awesome. Can't wait for the new season! I don't mind baby stuff in the least -- keep it coming! :) And congratulations.

Aug. 30 2009 08:33 PM

Developmental psychologist Hokenbury says that babies are myopic for the first seven months of their lives. If babies are being blinded, I think they would squeeze their eyes shut 99% of the time. Hokenbury describes fuzzy colors and a strong reliance on smelling the mother.

Aug. 30 2009 02:53 PM

I got to introduce the podcast to my Child Psychology class! Thanks for sharing your Most Lovely. An absolute delight and inspiration.

Aug. 29 2009 01:25 AM

great show! great kid!

Aug. 28 2009 05:52 PM

I, too, was wondering if having a baby changed your mind about the Morality show question. Like Tyler, I agreed with you. I have no children.

Would love to know your answer after this new development!

And congrats! Beautiful baby!

Aug. 27 2009 01:43 PM

Jad- First of all, congratulations on becoming a father. He is adorable. Second, I have to say that I also wonder if your new perspective has changed your mind about the Morality show question. Because I have always agreed with you, but I currently have no children. Just really curious (maybe a podcast response?)...

Aug. 27 2009 11:33 AM

Ok, everyone out of the gene pool. This whole "breeding" fad has got to stop. Think of all the trips you could go on with the time and money you're going to be funneling into a smaller you, who will ultimately become more alien than any martian could ever be, with their music, and their ways.

Off of my lawn!

Aug. 27 2009 11:14 AM

OT: Neat to hear Australia's The Night Air special on Radiolab on their podcast this week.

Aug. 26 2009 01:01 PM

Haha wow, that is one cute baby!

My bf and I were wondering why our fish named Jad Abumrad had died a few days ago, he was so healthy and he was the alpha fish! But I guess it was just an indication that Amil was born. :) Which makes the passing of our fishie much less sad.

Aug. 26 2009 12:40 PM

death=life, etc. etc.
Congrats! your child is BEAUTIFUL, he's a very lucky soul...long life to you all!

Aug. 26 2009 11:55 AM

OK, is your baby staring randomly about the room, or spending more time staring at you. I think if your baby is spending more time staring at you than at the couch, for example, that does indicate selection, even if it's just to map your very important face. It doesn't have to be ONLY a "brain struggle" just because science can't get the baby to talk to us and tell.

Aug. 26 2009 11:10 AM
Mark Cohen

Mazaltov! Congratulations! And now we know what it takes to get you off the macabre thread thats woven through recent shows. Look into your baby's eyes and enjoy life!

Aug. 26 2009 09:26 AM

thank you for bringing me knew ways of thinking about the world every week. i appreciate your show and shorts immensely and probably encounter something in my life everyday that reminds me of an episode. thank you, thank you! jad, amil is perfectly adorable, congrats!

Aug. 26 2009 01:44 AM

This makes me want to have a baby

Aug. 25 2009 10:32 PM

that baby is the ugliest baby i've ever seen. just kiddin

Aug. 25 2009 03:04 PM

BreakerBaker, I thought about that exact same thing! I wondered if he had changed his mind :) Either way, that little child is so adorable! You guys rock! Keep up the awesome work! :)

Aug. 25 2009 02:57 PM

This brings up a though....
We read to our son constantly, and often the same book over, and over, and over. When he turned 10 he found one of these books in the bookcase, one we had read hundreds of times, and asked, "This is great, how come you never showed it to me before!?" Once we recovered from the shock, we had to ask ourselves, "What's going on here!?" Does he really not remember *ever* seeing this book? What were the other benefits of reading to him?

Aug. 25 2009 11:49 AM

Thoroughly entertaining, coming from a person with no baby. Great job as usual.

Aug. 25 2009 11:36 AM
Lulu Bee

Great tiny show. Speaks volumes of things we don't know.
We truly don't know how the mind works...
how to make the most of our senses and that there is so much more to understand about the Mind.

Bravo on making me use my brain so early in the morning!

Aug. 25 2009 10:24 AM

Congratulations Jad. Is it too soon to ask if you've come to your senses about the final episode of MASH?

Aug. 25 2009 10:18 AM

I love the look in Amil's eyes. It's like he's thinking, "My dad Jad, is pretty cool." *smile*

Aug. 25 2009 09:46 AM

Ha, as soon as Jad said Charles told him something depressive, and realizing he's talking about his baby, or at least, curiosity was piqued by the recent interactions with his baby, i just KNEW the words "ignorance is bliss" were coming.

Is it really? Many of us can just ignore the knowledge we have... or take a leap of faith. x)

Very awesome short. Not unlike the awesomeness of your other shows. You guys rock.

Aug. 25 2009 05:49 AM

Hi Jad! Beautiful kid! All the best for whole family from Poland!

Aug. 25 2009 03:57 AM
Eddie Lin

Jad, that is one cute kid. Must. Squeeze. Chubby cheeks.

Aug. 25 2009 03:28 AM

This really blew me away. Thank you.

Congrats Jad! Your son is adorable.

Aug. 25 2009 01:32 AM

Jad. Your baby is adorable.

Aug. 25 2009 01:22 AM

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