Season 1

Episode 7

 

 

I Never Knew I Would Share My Body AND my Brain With My Baby

The first time Mike and I had sex after the conversation where we both agreed we wanted to start “trying”, was emotional.  After 20+ years trying NOT to get pregnant, this was honestly the first time I ever really wanted to get pregnant. It was the first time I felt something close to being ready… ready to put aside other aspects of my life so I could be pregnant and be a mom.

Getting to this point — the point of actually having unprotected sex with the intention of getting pregnant — felt like a milestone, at 36 years of age. Having sex like this was admittedly very surreal and accompanied by many unexpected reactions that immediately followed. The first reaction was incredible joy with tears of such rolling down my face. I had never felt so connected to someone in my entire life than I did in that moment with Mike, with the potential of a new being starting to grow inside of me. That joy was short lived, however because then I got angry. Very angry! Unexpectedly enraged, in fact. The anger seemed to stem from the thought that there could soon be a “thing” growing inside of me that was going to take over my body, my identity, and me!! "GET IT OUT!!!” I screamed internally. Who was this other being about to inhabit my body? What permission do you have to take over me? I clearly wasn’t ready to share everything with this child. The anger eventually subsided and the intellect took over my mama brain. I wondered: How could two minds live within one body? How could two spirits? What does that mean if they do? Does it mean anything? Then I felt a deep sense of guilt. How could I be a mom if I had feelings of anger like I just did toward an unborn, innocent child? I am a horrible person. I should never have children! Looking back after being pregnant and having a baby, those emotions were kind of predictive of a cycle of emotions that would dominate my post-natal mama brain too. Yikes.

We didn’t get pregnant that time but this idea of a new mind growing inside of me continued to surface in different ways. Seeing the first ultrasound (at 14 weeks) and the very-obvious development of another human’s brain inside of me was also very surreal and reminded me that another mind lived inside of me. 

I admit, despite having studied human development, I didn’t realize how much of a person there would be inside of me at 14 weeks. Of course, this is assuming “person” is somewhat equated with brain development, which is questionable to say the least but definitely quite possible. But I did wonder what it meant for my own mind. Did my mind really have unlimited access to this body any more? Was it prepared and willing to share space with another? I also wondered about other experiences where two minds occupy one body? For example, the twins Tatania and Krista from BC who share part of one brain, who I heard about on the CBC. Indeed, they did share some experiences. They were one but two in one. 

This mind-body issue lead me down several thought experiments and in the process I happened upon some interesting research showing that a baby’s DNA left over from pregnancy can be detected in the mama’s brain throughout the mother's lifetime. WHOA!!  That’s pretty crazy and totally new to me as a neuroscientist. Granted, it was relatively new knowledge (~2012) but frankly, I didn’t care too much about this sort of data until it became relevant to me. And now it was.  

Of course, this reinvigorated my interest in unexplained phenomenon and things like telepathy, specifically with the idea that mama and babe are so connected, energetically, spiritually, and biologically. Clearly, we shared the same body for some time, which is one thing. Then we have this crazy connection afterwards, particularly if we breastfeed or bottle feed doing skin-to-skin. Then there’s the whole attachment parenting idea, which further supports the connection. But this baby’s-DNA-in-the-mama’s-brain idea is beyond incredible. What are the implications of my mama brain harbouring my baby’s DNA within my own brain. What could that give me access to, I wondered? I couldn’t help but wonder if this helped explain how some moms seem to intuitively “know” things about their children before it seems logically possible. You know… like those mom’s who claim to have known their child was in danger just as it was happening. What if this explained it?? I like paranormal psychology, particularly when it starts to be shed light upon by neuroscience!

Now, as far as conventional neuroscience can tell, the DNA of my baby, continuing to exist in my mama brain does not dictate that I will be able to feel or otherwise experience what my baby is feeling after they have left my womb. But… what if there is an explanation that neuroscience has not yet uncovered? What if there is some resonance of that DNA that continues to exist in my brain that is still connected with all of the other DNA molecules that are alive within the baby. I think this is where quantum physics comes in, right? The wave-particle duality? The idea that atoms can exist in two places at once and are connected? What if they are paired, these cells that contain DNA of a baby that exist in my brain and in my baby’s brain? What if there are bonds that chemistry or physics still doesn’t understand? What if molecules that can exist at two different places at the same time and give rise to the same (or maybe different) experiences? Or what if baby and mama can both connect to a third dimension of experience and exist in that bond as a connected unit but not individually? What if this DNA-of-my-baby’s-brain-in-my-brain idea is further support for the “oneness” described eloquently in ancient philosophies like Buddhism and Yoga? What if this piece of modern neuroscience tells us more about the history of human connection than any other piece of neuroscience?

Hmmmm…. It’s worth thinking about at least… 

 
 

Supplementary Information

Bearing Sons Can Alter Your Mind
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/09/bearing-sons-can-alter-your-mind

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains: The connection between mother and child is ever deeper than thought.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-discover-childrens-cells-living-in-mothers-brain/

Conjoined Twins: 
http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/twin-life-sharing-mind-and-body