I’m by no means a scientific person, I’m much more interested and motivated by the ‘fluffy stuff’ – feelings and relationships and it’s probably because of this that personally I never really felt a need to do a huge amount of reading on this topic. Epigenetics is a fascinating concept though and, given that a few people have asked me my thoughts, I thought I’d share a few things that resonated with me. Those of you who are more scientifically minded may wish to add to this –please do – I’d definitely welcome opening up a discussion on how these theories can actually be applied to our donor conceived children!
I find great comfort in the fact that, from the moment my embryo girls were put inside my uterus, I began to provide the internal environment that would be responsible for deciding how their genetic code (or blueprint as I like to think of it) would be expressed. I would have always believed that DNA within genes were responsible for the total uniqueness of an individual, but what I actually learned was that it isn’t DNA itself that creates life. The womb environment actually determines the embryo attachment and development and how we feel, think and react during pregnancy can cause certain genes to be more expressed and some more reserved (some liken it to a dimmer switch effect).
So, whilst Mila, Eska and Lena may have their genes from Matt and our egg donor, how these genes were expressed were solely down to me. I wasn’t just an ‘oven’ for those embryos. I gave them life and, simply put, I made them who they are today – completely unique, individuals that no-one else would have been able to replicate.
I came across a couple of analogies that made the whole concept easier for me to understand, one likening the embryo’s genetic sequence to a music score. Depending on which orchestra played the music, it would always sound slightly different and be in itself a unique replication. The second likened it to the genetic code being the script for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – a play that could be produced in a number of different ways according to different ‘notes in the margins’, all designed to interpret how the script is played out. The role of epigenetics creates these ‘notes in the margins’ allowing the genes to be switched up or down, determining how it is expressed.
Epigenetics is way more complex than I have explained above and is an ever-evolving concept as developments in science take place. Isn’t is comforting to know that, when we thought we had lost the chance to influence what our babies would be like genetically, we are learning that we do play such an important role in not only giving life but also deciding how that is played out? This, alongside the concept of nurture over nature, reassures me that when we define what it is to be a ‘Mum’, there is so much more than simply DNA – we give life, and then show them how to live it. 💛