Fake butterflies and dragonflies dangled from the plain office ceiling. My nerves fluttered as my husband sat in an office chair just beyond a portable ultrasound machine. Our eyes fixated. The image confirmed what we already knew—we’re having our third baby.
The doctor pointed to the baby’s tiny beating heart and I felt mine. “It’s beautiful,” I said. My husband looked scared. Maybe I did too.
Our doctor continued her work. She took measurements and offered genetic testing I didn’t remember from my first two pregnancies. I naively asked her if it was an amniocentesis. She smiled and said, “No, it’s a blood test.”
“All children leave DNA behind in their mother’s bloodstream,” she explained.
“What if you have more than one?” I asked.
She told me the test could actually differentiate between the current pregnancy and prior pregnancies. The idea floated around my head and heart for days. I wasn’t sure if we would get testing or not (at 34, I’m right on the borderline for advanced maternal age.)
I was sure about one thing—my heart holds more than traces of my love. I’m pumping each of my babies’ genetic signatures through my veins. I literally carry them with me. It’s like the famous line from E.E. Cummings poem “I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart.” Maybe it’s the hormones, but I’m weepy over this. Scientists are finally catching up with our beloved poets. A New York Times article explains how researchers now believe an embryo’s cells can form new organ tissue in the mother’s body (particularly the heart). It’s called fetal microchimerism and it’s truly amazing. Read more
People always say “a piece of you dies, when your mother does.” Given what I’ve just learned—this must be true. Inversely, this comforts me as I’m instantly reminded of a mother who recently lost her son, one of my high school friends. It’s not a cliché. It’s not just words; he TRULY lives on in her heart. He’s there. She carries his heart. She carries it in her heart. It’s a beautiful burden—to love this hard. I’m sure she’ll forever ache with the loss but her heart WILL keep beating. It’s not a choice. It’s automatic. That’s a mother’s love. That’s the love that will forever sustain my life.