Mother and Child are Linked at the Cellular Level
The Mother and Child Connection
As we approach this Mother’s Day, I wish to honor all mothers and show an understanding of the healing relationship we have shared with our mothers and our children, and how they have reciprocated this connectivity to us.
In celebration, I invite you to consider these words from “Beauty, the Invisible Embrace,” by John O’Donohue: “There is no other way into the world except through the body of the woman.” In his moving passage, O’Donohue voices a profound expression of motherhood, declaring, “Woman is the portal to the universe. She is also the womb of Being.”
Finally, he portrays the deep interconnectivity between a mother and her child in the womb, writing, “In human encounter, there is nothing nearer than this; no two humans can ever come closer than when one is forming inside the other’s depth.” It’s truly a beautiful passage, worth reading in its entirety.
I can distinctly remember the precious feeling of carrying my children inside my womb; the stirring of new life, the awe of being a mother. I knew they were forming as they absorbed nutrients and nurturance from me. It was a very special time, indeed.
What I didn’t realize was that as they were forming, they were sharing parts of themselves with me! The following piece, by Laura Grace Weldon, reveals the profound give-and-take that occurs between mother and child.
—Jeanne Ohm, D.C.
Mother and Child Are Linked at the Cellular Level
Sometimes science is filled with transcendent meaning more beautiful than any poem. To me, this new research shows the poetry packed in the people all around us.
It’s now known that cells from a developing fetus cross the placenta, allowing the baby’s DNA to become part of the mother’s body. These fetal cells persist in a woman’s body into her old age. (If she has been pregnant with a male child, it’s likely she’ll have some Y chromosomes drifting around for a few decades, too). This is true even if the baby she carried didn’t live to be born. The cells of that child stay with her, resonating in ways that mothers have known intuitively throughout time.
Fetal cells you contributed to your own mother may be found in her blood, bone marrow, skin, kidney and liver. These fetal cells appear to “treat” her when she is ill or injured. Researchers have noticed the presence of these cells in women diagnosed with illnesses such as thyroid disease and hepatitis C. In one case, a woman stopped treatment against medical advice. A liver biopsy showed “thousands of male cells” determined to be from a pregnancy terminated nearly 20 years earlier. These cells helped her body recover, just as fetal cells you gave your mother rush to help repair her from within when she’s unwell.
Fetal cells may influence a woman’s autoimmunity, although it’s not yet known if they are always beneficial. According to fascinating accounts in Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy, the more fetal cells there are in a woman’s body, the less likely she is to have conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. That’s not always the case. It’s thought that a mother’s body may battle those cells, thus promoting her own autoimmune disorders. (Apparently family dynamics are complicated even at the cellular level.)
There’s evidence that fetal cells provide some protection against certain cancers. For example, they’re much more prevalent in the breast tissue of healthy women than in those with breast cancer. And fetal cells can contribute stem cells, generate new neurons in the mother’s brain, even help to heal her heart. Her heart!
Look around at your family. Any woman who has ever been pregnant, even if she miscarried so early she never knew she was with child, is likely to be a microchimera (a person who carries the cells of another person). Fetal cells have the imprint of her child’s father and his ancestry. Fetal cells can be shared from one pregnancy to another, meaning the cells of older siblings may float within younger siblings. These cells are another reminder of the ways we are connected in a holographic universe.
I’d like to think that my fetal cells helped my mother battle the congestive heart failure that eventually took her life. I like to imagine that I carry within me my older sister’s fierce intelligence and that my talented younger brother benefits in some way from the cells of both his sisters. Knowing that I carry the cells of my four living children as well as babies I lost makes my heart ever more full on this special day.
We heal our mothers and our children heal us. Again, poetry takes a back seat to nature’s awesome secrets.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #41.
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