From the Womb to the World: Ready for Birth

8 month fetusYou looked something like this drawing while you were in your mother’s womb, waiting to be born into the world – though you had unique and wonderful differences.  You took this time of waiting to practice blinking and breathing, preparing your still not quite refined lungs to breathe air.  In the last 11 weeks of your life in utero, your weight doubled!  The extra layer of fat you developed protected you from the change of temperature in the transition from the womb to the world.  If all went well, you initiated your own birth.  In the last phase of life in utero, you dropped lower in the womb in a head-down position and then triggered labor to begin.

At any moment in the last two months of your mother’s pregnancy, you could have been born.  Perhaps, you were premature.  Today’s advances in medicine allow very premature babies’ lungs to get what they need.  Many babies born a whole month early need very little extra help at all.  The only change for babies after birth, whether premature or not, is a change in external life support – then, mothers provided through the womb; now, survival is helped outside of the womb.

Nothing magical happened to you when you were born that made you human.  You were always human from the moment of your conception!  You didn’t change after you were born, except in the way in which you received oxygen and nourishment.  You were always growing, developing, and striving to survive and to thrive – and you continued this growth, development, and quest for survival while being born, as well as after your exit from the womb.  You are still developing, surviving, and hopefully thriving, today!

Parents can experience something wonderful in the moment when they first see their baby’s eyes, and, so, it’s natural for them to feel the most awe after birth.  Newborns themselves, however, cannot see very well.  But they can hear, and were listening – and even learning – for months before birth, as fetuses.

As a newborn, you yourself readily recognized the voice of the woman who carried you for the first nine months of life and preferred that voice to all others.  Stories read to you and lullabies sung to you in utero were still recognized by you after you were born into the world.  You had been hearing them, learning their particular rhythms and cadences, and growing familiar with them.  So, it’s only natural that you preferred them to any new story or lullaby introduced to you after birth.  Scientific research proves this.  And, yet, you may still be amazed by the facts.  Why?  Do you not know that you were you, unique and wonderful you, at the instant that you were conceived?

Before God formed you in the womb, He knew you.  Our Creator knit you uniquely together.  By Him, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Created in His Own Image, you are His beloved creature of flesh and spirit.  Your body is amazing and beautiful, but mortal.  Your soul is even more amazing and beautiful – and immortal.  Body and soul, you are one beautifully amazing human being!  You were lovingly created by God to know, love, and serve God in this complex and amazing life – and to be happy with God forever in the next.  You were created for a reason, for you have a divine mission that only you can fulfill.  May you always remember that your life here on earth has divine purpose – and that eternal bliss waits for you.  Rejoice and be glad!

What was true on your very first day of life in utero is still true today, no matter how old you are or in what kind of physical circumstances you live: it is good, it is very good, that you are here.  And God blesses you as you strive to be the person of love, truth, and goodness that you were created to be.

Every life is sacred.

© 2016 Christina Chase


Sources:

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/third-trimester-old

The Endowment for Human Development:

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit18.php

https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit19.php

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, Respect Life: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

Psychology Today: Fetal Psychology

Genesis 1:27

Jeremiah 1:5

Psalms 139

Baltimore Catechism part 1

Sensing the Great Big World: 7 Month Fetus

7 month fetusWhen your mother began her third trimester of pregnancy, you looked a lot like this
picture.  During your seventh month in utero, you began to use all five of your senses!

Sight:

Ultrasound reveals that babies at this age like to open their eyes and look around.  What were the first things that you saw?  In the dark safety of the womb, the first thing that your eyes were able to distinguish was light.  “… God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” [1] You could see sunlight and artificial light as it penetrated through the uterine wall, and your pupils dilated and constricted in order to better see in your watery world.

Sound:

With your cochlea, the hearing organ of your inner ear, fully developed, you’d been able to hear a variety of sounds for quite a while.  At this particular age, you could even distinguish between different voices!  “…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Smell:

At this age, important parts of your nose were fully operational, so that you had a fully functional sense of smell.  Scientific studies show that infants born prematurely, at just 26 weeks in the womb, can detect different odors.

Taste:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalms 34:9) Swallowing amniotic fluid, you tasted what your mother ate while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, developing that affinity for the foods of home.  Do you like licorice and those black jellybeans?  Chances are that your mother ate something anise flavored while pregnant!  Food tastes travel fast from mom to baby – reaching your little taste buds in just 45 minutes!  Sweet tastes would make you swallow faster and bitter tastes would cause a less pleased reaction that even showed in the expression on your face!

Touch:

“With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together.” (Job 10:11)  You had been sensitive and reactive to touch from a very early age, by just five weeks in utero.  As you grew, more and more of your body detected touch and pressure and you even felt pain.  By seven months in utero, your entire body was capable of feeling touch and the grasp of your hand was even stronger than it was right after you were born!

And you were on the move!  Through a series of walking like motions, you liked to do somersaults!  You received antibodies from your mother at this age, that would protect you from a wide variety of diseases.  Small as you were, had you been born at this time, it’s highly likely that you would have survived – a chance that increases with ever improving medical technology.  Your brain waves, at this stage of fetal development, were similar to those of a full-term newborn – and you could even cry.  Yet, shockingly, babies in utero are not, by governmental law, considered human beings at this point in life.  Abortion is still legal in the third trimester of pregnancy.

© 2016 Christina Chase

from original post on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development:  https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit16.php

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-26-30

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Science

Photo Image: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[1] Genesis 1:3

Dream a Little Dream: 6 Month Fetus

By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs.  What was your first playlist?  Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two.  Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.

Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.

You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.

6 month fetusWhen you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes.  All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.…  Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”[1]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

from an original post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

[1] Job 33:15

A Time to Sing: 5 Month Fetus

When you were this age, you, too, looked a lot like this picture![1] Baby at five months in the womb

With your eyebrows nearly complete on your little face, the hair on your scalp was beginning to grow. All of your skin layers and hair follicles were present, ready to sprout. You also had all of your glands by this age and your skin began to be covered in a creamy white substance, called vernix, to protect its new stage from the amniotic fluid until just before birth. Your mother’s body was beginning to grow and show her pregnancy, midway through, as she felt you move about more often.

After just five months in the womb, you had developed a pattern of movement, heart rate, and breathing activity that followed daily cycles. Called circadian rhythms, these cycles continue to be part of your biological life. Small, hidden, and utterly dependent as you were, you followed the laws of life… a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to exercise and a time to rest, a time to listen and a time to speak… For, as we know, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….”[2]

A time to listen and a time to speak?  Yes!

Sound became part of your life experience. Your cochlea, in your inner ear, was fully developed and you were already responding to a variety of noises. You were continually surrounded by the sound of your mother’s heartbeat, as well as her digestive system, and the swishing noises of fluid in the womb. Loud noises beyond the womb startled you. But even gentle, sweet, and melodic sounds coming from the world outside could be detected by you, as little as you were, and change your heart rate and movements. Repeated sounds that you heard in the womb started to become familiar to you – like your mother’s voice, lullabies, and the cadence of a particular story – and continued to sooth you after birth… as they can still comfort you even now.

Also, at this age, amazingly, you began efforts to make your own verbal sounds! Ultrasound imaging shows movement within the voice box of an 18-week-old fetus that are distinctly similar to those required for speaking. Think of it… when you were no bigger than a cantaloupe, your Creator began to draw sound from out of your mouth, there in the watery world of your first forming. “He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God”![3]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources for the science – see:

The Endowment for Human Development, https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit14.php

Web M.D., http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-17-20


[1] http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[2] Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

[3] Psalms 40:3 (NKJV)

Quickening: Human In Utero

four month human fetusWhen you looked like this picture, your mother was beginning her second trimester of
pregnancy.

Your gender was determined in the instant that your life began, but it took a couple of months for your gender to “show”.  An ultrasound could have revealed your sex to your parents as early as 12 weeks.  Interestingly, gender dependent developmental differences begin to show at 14 weeks in utero – with girls moving their jaws more frequently than boys.  No kidding!

Diapers in the womb?  No, but… although your umbilical cord carried away most of the waste products from your developing body, you also had your first bowel movements at this age!  From about 12 to 18 weeks, the material expelled from your body was the same as what was expelled from your body as a newborn – meconium, a mixture of digestive enzymes, proteins, and dead cells.  Life is beautiful – and messy, too!

Still maturing in your external appearances, your tiny little face was gaining fat deposits at this stage, starting to give you those adorable, chubby baby cheeks.  And you were making facial expressions similar to your parents’ – at just eight inches tall!  With your bronchial tree and cerebellum formed, you began to gain more and more weight, producing tooth enamel, many hormones, and stem cells in your bone marrow.  Except for the top of your head and your back, your whole body was sensitive to even light touch.

You had been moving since you were only six weeks old – flipping, kicking, dancing – but, because of the thickness of the uterine wall, your mother hadn’t felt you.  By the end of the fourth month of your life, however, you were finally able to kick hard enough to cause your mother to feel something.  This first sensation of movement has often been called “quickening.”  It was a time at which some ancients believed that the being within the womb became human – obviously, they didn’t have the scientific technology and tools that we have today!  With increased knowledge comes the understanding that we are human beings from the beginning of our unique lives – that we are human beings from conception, no matter what.

Sensitive and responsive to stimulus from a very young age, at 16 weeks you reacted to stimuli, like needles and painful procedures, with the stress hormone that adults have.  Yes, little and hidden as you were at this age, you intensely felt and strongly reacted to pain.  “But here I am miserable and in pain; let your saving help protect me, God…”.  (Psalm 69:30)

© 2016 Christina Chase

from a post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/

Image from: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

Human In Utero – No Matter What

Between the 8th and 12th week after your life began, you had your own unique set of fingerprints! Yet another way to identify you as YOU. Of course, God doesn’t need any physical markings to know who you are. As He says through his prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

three-month-old human fetus

Your mother was only near the end of her first trimester of pregnancy when you looked like this picture. And you were less than five inches from the crown of your head to your heel. Small as you were, you bent your knees and elbows and wrists, moving your little muscles with increasing strength – yawning, stretching, squinting, turning your head, and moving your tongue. Your tiny face, hands, and feet were sensitive to touch. Any pressure on your feet would make your knees bend up, pulling your feet away from the stimulus. Your teensy, tiny hands were already capable of grasping.

Yet, despite your sensitivity and action, your mother couldn’t feel your movements. From her, through the umbilical cord, you received the oxygen that you needed while you breathed amniotic fluid in and out to exercise your lungs. As you sucked your thumb, the amniotic fluid that you swallowed was processed through your digestive system. Your incredibly itty-bitty fingers and toes were growing nails, and you touched your hand repeatedly to your face, where your little nose and lips were completely formed. Your facial appearance continued to change, as it continues to change through every stage of your entire lifecycle. At this tender and tiny age, in the fetus stage, you made complex facial expressions – and even smiled.

Given all of this, many might still have dismissed you as nothing but tissue, using the scientific term of fetus as a way of denying your humanity. But, you were you from the beginning. YOU – who are made to grow, developing and changing in both large and subtle ways, every day of your life for as long as you live.

And even if, through deformity or disease, your knees, elbows, or wrists could not bend, or your nose, lips, fingers, or toes could not neatly form, you were still you – and you are human. Physical appearance and abilities do not limit your humanity. From the moment God created you with a spiritual soul, animating your unique life form, you were a living human being. No matter what size or shape, no matter how limited or weak, the Creator of All delights in your existence. You are created in the image and likeness of the Divine, which has no physical criteria, and that is why you are sacred from the beginning – independent of length of time or breadth of space – and for all eternity.

You are God’s beloved human creature, no matter what.

© 2016 Christina Chase

originally posted on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Jeremiah 1:5

Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development 

Web M.D. (uses LMP for age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore (image source)

All God’s Creatures: 2 Month Fetus

What makes a human being a human being?  Is it a case of knowing one when we see one?  The Bible, however, teaches us not to judge by appearances.  And, so, there must be more to it…

human embryo in first month, looks like a tadpoleLooking at this picture of you, in your first month of life, you looked more like a tadpole than a human being.  In fact, scientists say that there is very little difference in appearance between a frog, a mouse, and a human being at the embryonic stage.  It’s right and natural that we have commonality with all living things – we are all creatures, after all, created to live on this earth.  Didn’t St. Francis sing of our brotherhood and sisterhood with the fish and the birds and the beasts of the fields and woods?  The variety of creatures in our planetary home is rich, amazing, and beautiful.  Some are green and slimy, able to hop and swim; some are small and furry, able to scurry and gnaw; and some are tall and long-haired, able to write poetry and map stars. Continue reading

Your First Heartbeat: Human In Utero

You were once smaller than a grain of rice.

And, yes, you looked a little weird at this stage of your development.  But, make no mistake about it – you were you, human in every way, growing and thriving, intimately connected to your mother, your own heart beating with the drive for life.

Finding Shelter

After conception, your cells multiplied and divided quickly, changing you from a zygote to a blastocyst.  As you drifted freely in your mother’s womb, you grew more complex and caught onto the lining of your mother’s uterus, attaching yourself and burrowing in to this place of refuge.  The very touch of your presence caused a space to open for you so that you could nestle in for safety and continued life.  Your mother’s blood vessels, little capillaries, reached out toward you to begin giving you nourishment.  The placenta and umbilical cord began to form, creating that vital connection between you and your mother, without which you could not have grown, without which you could not have survived.

Although she probably didn’t even know of your existence yet, your mother was already mothering you, naturally, with the great biological gifts given to her as a woman.  It was her blood supply that gave you nutrients and through which your wastes were taken away.  She instinctively made room for you and for the continuation of your life.

Heart-To-Heart

In this same first month of your life, when you formed your first connection with a human being, your very own heart began to beat.  Think about it… This was truly the beginning of your life as a human being in relationship with others: another person began to give to you what you needed and take from you what you couldn’t handle on your own.  It is divinely poetic that it was at this moment in your life that you had your first heartbeat.  We say that we relate to one another through the heart.  Think of your mother’s blood vessels, which gave you your first nourishment, as her heart strings.  Your pull upon her heart strings made room for your life – for your own heart to begin to beat, too. Continue reading

The First Day of Your Life: Zygote

This is a picture of you.

human development zygote

Just after the first day, 1 cell (zygote) becomes 2 cells

This is what you looked like after the first day of your life.

In all the billions of galaxies in the universe, there is only one you – and you started as just one cell, about one tenth of a millimeter in size, which divided into two, and then more, and more….

It may be strange for us to think of ourselves with such a tiny beginning. But this is the miraculous truth of human life. Created in the image and likeness of God, we are yet humble creatures. Each of us begins with the divine spark of life, formed in the womb, following the design of our Creator. You and I are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

The answer to the question of when you became a human being is simple. You became you at conception, when your mother’s egg and father’s sperm united. Scientists, at this first stage in your life, would call you a zygote. And no serious scientist would deny that you were alive on that very first day.

When you looked like this picture, your genetic makeup was already complete. Your eye color, hair color, gender, general build, facial features, and genetic predispositions in health were set – as were your inherited traits, or natural gifts.

Nothing was added after your conception to fully make you a human being. You only needed nourishment and protection to help you to continue to grow and develop – just as you still do, now.

Your parents didn’t know that you existed on that day. But, God did. God knew His plan for you from the start. The unique role that you are able to play in your family and in society was always known by your Creator.  Every one of us has a particular mission – your mission can only be fulfilled by you.

You are intricately formed and wonderfully alive – as you have been from the beginning!  What was true on your very first day of life is still true today:
it is good that you are here.

© 2015 Christina Chase


Sources: see –

Web M.D.

Endowment for Human Development

JustFacts.com

Archdiocese of Baltimore

Inside Out

I would like

to have grown

from the inside out.

To know myself,

with my eyes closed,

closed eye

before I explore

the external world

of color, shape, and sound.

To learn, internally,

to hold onto and release

my anger and grief,

before my fists are formed.
baby-fist

As a baby, I instinctively

clutched

the brightly colored toys,

and my hands learned

to handle.

I would rather have learned,

emotionally,

to stack my joys

into a castle precarious,

beautiful,

and when it falls,

to laugh and rebuild.

blocks classic Castle

It seems to me

that we have all grown

from the outside in,

and our construction

has suffered from it.

For think how easy it is to see a light in the midst of darkness,

And yet how difficult to see a hope in the midst of despair.

candle_light_jesus_2_by_hari4u2-d5r1gjs

unpublished work © 2014  Christina Chase
as first posted on ChaseChristina.com