I have been reading recently about personality formation. One of the articles said that researchers have found that it begins in utero. I tend to think that’s true.
I have anecdotal evidence of my own that’s pretty convincing.
When I was pregnant with Aspen, I was 26, healthy and very responsible about my folic acid intake and everything else the book said (you moms know the book I mean). One of those things was to have testing done during my second trimester. It’s called AFP and stands for alpha-fetoprotein. An abnormal level of AFP can signal issues such as spina bifida, Down syndrome and other chromosomal defects and even twins.
My level was unusually high for my age and stage of pregnancy. I also knew I wasn’t carrying twins. I was told that I had a 1 in 250 chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or Down syndrome. I was devastated. And scared. And sad.
I was given the option of amniocentesis. But I was warned that there was the risk of miscarriage with that. Plus, I wasn’t sure what I would do with the knowledge once I had it. I wasn’t going to terminate. All it would have done is provide the medical team with advance warning and let them prepare for any special needs. But was that worth the risk of miscarriage? I was delivering at a state-of-the-art hospital with a Children’s Hospital and high level NICU literally right across the street.
I worried myself crazy for about a month. And then decided that I was in good hands and there was no need for further risk.
I was even regretful for having taken the test. I wish I didn’t have the knowledge. If nothing could be done, then why know?
At that point in my pregnancy, I hadn’t put together the baby’s room yet. I hadn’t bought clothes or been given a baby shower. All I had was a single onesie. I loved looking at it and trying to to comprehend that I was going to have a little warm bundle of squirmy joy to wear it in only a few short months.
One day after work, I went home and decided that I was going to put the test result out of my head. I had gone through all the math and statistics and Vegas-style games of chance I could handle. I finally decided that I was having a normal, healthy baby, and that was that.
I plowed ahead with fixing up the baby’s room. I stripped wallpaper and repainted. I brought in a crib and a changing table, dresser, stuffed animals and made, in my opinion, the coziest, sweetest little baby’s room a mom could want.
Exhibit A: Coziest baby’s room ever. 🙂
But it was always in the back of my mind.
On January 28, 1998 at 3 am, my water broke in bed. I was a rookie, so I went straight to the hospital. I didn’t know that once I got there, they weren’t going to let me walk or pee or drink or eat until after the baby was born. I have mentioned before that I have a voracious appetite. Especially when I’m awake all night having labor and delivering a baby. (I corrected that mistake on baby #2).
Regardless, I didn’t starve. And at 12:28 pm, Aspen was born. I already knew I was having a girl. (I knew because I reallllly thought so). But what I wanted to know was, “Is she OK?” The resident, the medical student, the attending, the nurses all kept telling me it was a girl and how much she weighed, etc. I looked at Michael and he just nodded and said, “She’s fine.”
The medical team went on about doing her Apgar test and all the other stuff that needed done. But I just breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. And ordered a tray of food. (I think it was actually two trays).
My little Zach man
About three years later, I got pregnant with Zach, I decided that I was going to have no tests. Just the diabetes one. And that’s it! So I did. The OB who delivered Aspen refused to deliver this time because I refused the tests. That was fine by me. There were others in the practice who obliged and things turned out just fine without the stress and panic of the AFP.
The whole time I was pregnant with Zach, I knew I was having a boy (again, because I reallllly thought so). I had a girl’s name picked out, but no boy’s name — and I knew I needed a boy’s name. One night at about 39 weeks of pregnancy, I woke Michael up and said, “Zachary Michael.” He said yes, and we fell asleep. The next night, I went into labor.
This time, with all my experience and expertise I’d gained, I stayed at home for a while. I took a shower, put in contacts, did my hair, put on make up and made eggs and toast. Then we calmly drove to the hospital with Aspen. I got there and he was born about 2.5 hours later.
This time, there was no worry or stress. He was just fine. He was hairy, but fine.
Exhibit B: Hairiest little man that I still can’t stop kissing.
I think that their time in utero shaped who they are. Aspen is an anxious little one. She worries a lot. She gets stressed out. And Zach? Cool as the other side of the pillow. Feathers are rarely ruffled. Mellow fellow.
How can the ~40 weeks they spent developing inside me NOT affect who they are? I could tell their personalities before they were even born. Aspen kicked. A lot. She’d kick and I’d push her foot back and she’d kick again. It was no surprise that she played soccer for 12 years. She started playing kick ball with Michael when she was 2. And Zach? He was a night owl. He’d start squirming and moving his whole body from one side to the other. It was an odd thing to see. And even more odd to feel, especially when trying to fall asleep.
There’s nothing to be done about it now, I just find the research fascinating. And tend to believe it’s more than coincidence. I don’t think that this is ALL my kids are made up of. They are also kind, thoughtful, generous, funny and big hearted. But it’s a little peek into their time spent with me.
Today Aspen gave me the best gift. It’s a beaded bracelet from Australia that is made up all pink beads except for two. One of those two is white, the other is black. The white is made from water from Mt. Everest. The black is made from mud from The Dead Sea. The card that it came with said, “Sometimes you’re on top of the world. Stay humble. Sometimes you’ve hit a low. Stay hopeful.” She sure knows how to make a mom cry.