Today I am officially 90 days out from my due date. That seems like nothing at all. Some days I feel like I’m waddling my way into the third trimester at ludacris speed. Other days I feel like I’ve barely been pregnant at all, and I can’t possibly be that close to my due date, can I?
Not that due dates mean anything, as I’ve said time and time again. Due dates have a 5% accuracy rate. Why anyone bases anything on them is totally beyond me. But the fact remains that here I am, going into the last week of my second trimester, staring down the final chunk of this pregnancy.
I have done nothing to prepare.
Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, I’ve been taking child birth education, and I’ve bought two – count ’em – two baby outfits! I’ve knit a baby hat, and I’ve almost finished crocheting a baby blanket. And I’ve made a selection of reversible receiving blankets, so we’re totally set for blankets and two days worth of clothes. Ha!
Actually, it’s probably less than one days worth of clothes seeing as how the only diapers I have is a sample of 4 disposables that my mother in law picked up at Costco. I’ll bet baby pees or poops on both those outfits and ends up wrapped up in a towel by the end of the first day, if we stay at this preparatory level.
We don’t even have much in the way of names picked out. Naming is so stressful.
But I just can’t bring myself to start doing the baby consumerism jig, so to speak. I mean, how much does a baby really need, really? And there’s going to be a baby shower, right? Although, I’d like it if gifts aren’t the emphasis.
I can’t help but feel a little worried that I’m going to be totally unprepared when this baby comes, but not worried enough to go out shopping for things. What can I say? Maybe the third trimester will bring it out in me.
What I am worried about is epigenetics. Epigenetics is the field of science that researches how gene expression is altered. There is a significant and growing body of research that shows that you can alter how your baby’s genes will be expressed by managing your diet, activities, chemical exposure, and even your thoughts. It was discussed at length at the CMA conference this past weekend, but it was something I had been aware of for some time now.
For example, eating excessive amounts of sugar and unhealthy fat during pregnancy can increase your child’s chances of developing all those diseases that are associated with eating a diet high in sugar and unhealthy fat, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. Seems pretty obvious and logical, right? Well how about this one? If you don’t consume enough calories and gain enough weight during pregnancy, you are predisposing your child to obesity. Thats right. How it works is that when you don’t eat enough, your body, and your baby’s developing bodies, assumes that it is being born into a world in which there is not enough food. So, genes that would normally tell the body to dispose of excess energy or burn it up turn off, and genes that tell the body to store excess energy as fat more efficiently turn on. This would give your baby excellent survival potential in a world where food sources really are scarce, and calorie consumption really will be limited, but if you’re in a developed nation such as the US, your baby will likely never face famine. Your baby will have an abundance of calories (both good and bad) to consume for it’s entire life, and by not gaining enough weight in pregnancy, you’ve programmed the baby to store more calories as fat than a baby born to a mother who gained a more reasonable amount. (See the article 1950’s Women May Have Triggered Obesity Epidemic by by Shari Roan)
Good nutrition has been a focus of this pregnancy, but what I haven’t thought about much is how my thoughts might be altering things. I look at Elijah’s personality now, and I see parallels with how my emotions were when I was pregnant with him. I was heart broken and ashamed. I spent a great deal of time berating myself for what had happened to me, and being angry at anyone who I thought might be passing any kind of judgement. I was lonely, and clung to my loved ones, especially my mother, like cold death, constantly in fear something would happen to her that would cause me to lose her. Irritable a neurotic, I would fly off the handle at anything, and cried myself to sleep many nights. What probably had the worst effect on me was the two months I was forced to spend in Maryland doing advanced Army training, during which I had to share a room with a raging alcoholic and prescription pill addict in the process of getting chaptered out of the Army, and spending my training next to a guy who said the most sexist, offensive things to me all day long. This worsened all the negative emotions flowing through me at the time.
Now I have Elijah. Sweet, emotional, neurotic, Elijah. Who flies off the handle at the littlest thing, never wants to leave home, and with a heightened sense of shame and embarrassment unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Is he an emotional reflection of me when I was pregnant? Often times, yes, I think so. And I noticed this before I even learned about epigenetics. I fully believe that how you feel and behave during your pregnancy effects how your baby’s personality will be formed. And it’s a reasonable belief to have. When you have emotions, after all, you produce hormones, and these hormones pass through the placenta and can have an effect on your developing fetus. Science is only just learning about what kind of an impact these hormones have.
So how will my feelings this time around effect this child? Will my slight apathy to the pregnancy produce an apathetic, less emotional, less loving child? Or will it produce a child desperate to undo the apathy, desperate to earn love, to earn parental pride and approval? Will the fact that I’m in a loving relationship this time around produce a more affectionate child? Or will this child feel more secure in it’s love and not seek it out quite as much? I don’t think we’re in a place to make any predictions, scientifically, and I don’t think epigenetics is the be all and end all of personality formation, so there’s probably too many other variables to predict it all. But I can make an effort to think happy, baby directed thoughts a few times a day at least, and try to be extra loving with those around me, so that the hormonal signals this baby is getting from me is that it’s going to be born into a loving world. I figure you can’t go wrong with that. The rest is just chance, and we’ve all got to do the best we can with what we’ve got. This baby will be no different.