A Tale of Homicidal Infants: How You’re Slowly Killing Mommy

It’s a boy! It’s a girl! It’s twins!!!

Overly excitable pregnancy posts are an unavoidable Facebook theme. Cliché pregnancy announcements are easily identified by a close-up of powder blue onesies or the tiniest pink booties, and each is accompanied by the same tale of overwhelming beauty! Can there be anything more magnificent and innocent than a new baby?

This is the fairytale American culture would have you believe.

 

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Image Credit: Flickr via Christian.

 

In reality, conception is a declaration of war, with Mommy’s body as the battleground. The campaign, initiated by each of us as infants, can endure for decades. If Mom fails to win, it may mean her death!

The initial wartime foot soldiers were deployed by you as a baby in the form of single fetal cells, leaked across the placental connection and directly into Mommy’s bloodstream. Once present, they will remain in Mommy’s body forevermore.

Since you and Mom competed over the same resources, your army of fetal cells were given the directive to “divide and conquer”. They branched out and focused efforts on organs involved with resource allocation. Thyroid, breast, and brain tissues were in the crosshairs as fetal cells sought to alter the very physiology of Mom’s body and greedily increase your share of finite resources.

Fetal cells forced their command over the thyroid, using it to elevate body temperature to levels more satisfactory for your growth, but well beyond Mom‘s optimal range. They also sought breast tissue so it could be grown and modified, maximizing milk production. While the rest of Mom’s body experienced the slow degeneration of pregnancy, your cells made sure she still provided for you!

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Image Credit: Flickr via Jayhel Aheram.

The cells you released even took part in the heinous act of mind control! Mommy’s brain was swamped with fetal cells, which worked in unison to upregulate production of maternal hormones (oxytocin and prolactin). The flood of chemicals brainwashed Mommy and encouraged feelings of love, bonding, and calm towards your presence.

Not everyone was convinced by your “fetal” attempts at brainwashing, though.  Mom’s immune system recognized you as a demanding parasite and a counterattack was launched. White blood cells sought to destroy your foot soldiers, but they would not surrender without a fight. Fetal cells escalated the battle by destroying protective maternal immune cells and fighting against the very body providing life.   

Mom’s body was so overwhelmed during pregnancy, that more overt symptoms of danger may have become apparent. She risked potentially fatal complications such as gestational diabetes (16% of pregnancies) or preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure in 10% of pregnancies).

The battle of pregnancy is well-known amongst the medical community, but doctors have labored under the assumption that, after your birth, Mommy was safe from your selfish acts. All she had to do was survive the onslaught of pregnancy. Only recently have we become aware that the battle continues long after birth.

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Image Credit: Flickr via Program Executive Office Soldier

Fetal cells can survive for decades within their host by deploying the secret weapon of phenotypic plasticity (the ability to change physical structure without altering their genetics).  This allows guerilla cells to assume a constantly changing disguise. The immune system is unable to recognize them and they become assassins, hiding in plain sight.

Cells remaining in mommy act as dangerous zealots, blindly dedicated to a baby no longer present. Throughout her life, Mom’s immune system must be relentlessly on guard, trying to identify and destroy hidden invaders. An over-exerted immune system is bound to make errors and this leads to complications such as inflammation, cancer, and other diseases. For instance, an abundance of fetal cells is connected to development of autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

The immune system is not the only one suffering. Your brainwashing attempts lead to a weakened nervous system, so Mom is more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. The breast tissue, once favored for growth and nutrient allocation, is now more prone to some forms of cancer. Likewise, Mom is more apt to develop multiple thyroid diseases, including cancer, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Grave’s disease.

In summary, your fetal cells may still be causing the pain, slow degeneration, and eventual death of your mother!

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Image Credit: Flickr via Cory Doctorow

So, be extra thankful today. Perhaps pick up the phone and express love for the sacrifices of health and bodily integrity that Mom is providing to you even now! She will surely answer with expressions of adoration as well…. Though, you will never know whether it really is Mom speaking, or just the brainwashing actions of your fetal cells!

About the Author

image00Stephanie Graham is a native Georgian who has traveled the world for the sake of conservation. She has worked monitoring macaw populations in Costa Rica, conducting behavioral observations of elephants in South Africa, aided in assessment of Ethiopian wolves, and determined population dynamics of jaguars in Belize. She has a MSc from Auburn with a thesis focused on genetic structure / connectivity of black bears across the southeast.  Stephanie is starting a PhD next semester ( stephanie.graham@uga.edu).