Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Beautiful Mess Our Children Leave Behind

Every mother knows how kids just leave their stuff lying around. My kids are guilty of it, too. Right now, I'm looking at several pairs of abandoned shoes, a half-consumed water bottle, two school notebooks, an open college information packet, and a discarded jacket tossed over the arm of the couch. All of that and I didn't even have to get up from my chair. There is probably a bread crumb trail of their stuff leading up the stairs, through the hall, and into their rooms, too. They are mercilessly leaving their crap EVERYWHERE!

So it's no surprise that they left stuff lying around during their nine-month stay at the Uterine Hotel and Spa. Since they didn't have any random socks, school books, or Legos to forget, they just neglected to put away all of their cells prior to check-out. That's right, moms... your kids can't even remember their own cells.

Science has discovered what we mothers have known for generations. Sure we know that our kids just don't clean up after themselves. But we also know that our children change us, that there is a deep and lasting connection between us, that we always carry them in our hearts and minds. It's the stuff of which sappy Mother's Day blog posts are made. But this isn't Mother's Day, and this concept is actually backed by science.

More than a hundred years ago, Georg Schmorl (I bet with a name like that , he got teased a lot on the playground) discovered that babies were leaving behind cells (like so many carelessly abandoned pairs of shoes) in their mother's bodies. It's only recently that we've learned what our children's cells are actually doing years later. After the child's cells cross the placenta they take up residence in the mother's body. The child's DNA stays there well into his mother's old age. Not like some freeloading, basement-dwelling, video-gaming, life-wasting failure. Nope. Those cells are actually doing something. There is evidence that her children's discarded cells help protect her against cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, and even heal her heart. And while it may be true that our children (especially our sons) seem to age us, that they are largely responsible for the gray hairs and deep wrinkles, the fetal cells they (especially our sons) left behind in our bodies are associated with longevity. They help us live longer, healthier lives.

On the most basic primal level of life our children affect us. Their cells mingle with our cells in our skin, kidneys, liver, and brain... they pulse through our blood and reside deep in our bone marrow. And in the most beautiful dance that biology can muster, even if the baby she carried didn't even live to be born, the cells of that child stay with her mother, resonating and thrumming and healing in ways that mothers have known intuitively throughout time.

It blows my mind (even more than how fast my children lose things or how badly my teenager's room reeks), to think about the beauty of this. That we carry our children with us through our entire lives, down in our very cells, in the core of our bodies, that we are forever changed for having carried them no matter how briefly. That they live in our hearts and our minds and that they heal us. Their presence makes us stronger.

It's like art. It's poetry. It's dance and drama and boundless grace. It's beauty.

Who says science isn't beautiful?

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