Today I learned that certain types of fetal cells cross the placenta during development and enter maternal circulation. Is this astoundingly awesome to anyone other than me? How did I never know this before? Is it an oversight that no one ever mentioned this to me, either as a pregnant woman, or as a student of biology? Apparently in the mother's body, these cells continue to survive and replicate for decades. Maybe forever? They were discovered when researchers found Y chromosome-carrying cells in the blood of mothers who had given birth to boys (Thomas et al., 1994, Lancet 343:413-414).
This makes me so happy because it means that there are little bits of Levi that will always be inside me. Of course it's kind of silly to be so sentimental about cells. Haven't my years and years of training as a cold, objective scientist deadened my inclination toward such romanticism? In fact these fetal cells turn out to be associated with autoimmune disease in the mother and so they aren't actually that great.
My enthusiasm for the Levi-cells in my own blood is a personal, irrational indulgence, but it's one that I'm not going to appologize for because it makes it a litle easier for me to accept how quickly he is growing and changing. In a previous post, I marveled at the fact that his little body was literally made of me. Even after he grew inside my womb, I conintued feeding him breastmilk, and until recently, he never had anything besides breastmilk. I could therefore say that every molecule inside my son's body had first passed through mine. I don't really think that the mutual origin of our tissues explains why I felt like an amputee when I first had to leave Levi at day care, and I don't think that mothers who don't breast feed are any less connected to their babies. But still: Every molecule of Levi came from my body! Can't we just appreciate how amazing that is?
But I've been really slowing down on the breast feeding recently, and mine and Levi's biological mutuality is getting smaller. My body is finally being returned to me to use for my own purposes, and Levi's body is assimilating ever increasing bits of sweet potatos, pears, bananas and peas that were never eaten by me.
He is almost 7 months now, and it is disturbing how fast the time is spinning by. He's got two bottom teeth now, he wants to sleep on his tummy, and you can tell that he knows the difference between mommydaddy and everyoneelse. He will crawl soon, and a few days ago he climbed out of this little baby chair that we sit him in for meals. When I look at pictures of him as a newborn or think back to the sunny afternoon when Shayne and I drove home from the birth center with our new baby in the back seat, I just can't believe it. There is a part of me that is really grieving the passage of all this time. Things are happening too fast and the day-to-day challenges are too great for me to be able to thoroughly appreciate the specialness of these moments. I'm only able to look back nostalgically at moments that have passed, whole stages of development that are over. My mind generously filters out the difficulty, and I'm left kind of pining for things like how his kicks felt inside my pregnant belly and what his hair smelled like when I snuggled him to my cheek when we were together that first night after he was born. So even if it is perhaps a little silly, I find myself surprisingly comforted by this new knowledge that there are a few cells circulating in my body that contain the blueprint for my perfect little boy.