I met a mother with a beautiful, calm six-month-old baby who smiled and cooed during the three hours we spent together. I commented about her baby's temperament and was surprised when she answered "When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to cut out as much stress as I could from my life." Would that we all could be so lucky.
Scientists see evidence that genetics is only part of the equation. Intrauterine factors such as the mother's stress level, nutrition, emotions and physical environment contribute as much to her baby's life-long temperament and health as its DNA.
I suspect that, as the science of fetal origins unfolds, we will have a new wave of mothers blaming themselves for things beyond their control. Eating right, keeping their weight in check, and not drinking or smoking won't do it. They will also have to think good thoughts, lest negative emotions produce chemical substances that can harm the fetus. What a huge responsibility!
On the other hand, it could be liberating to think that the best parental intentions after birth compete with what is beyond the mother's control.
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