Fetal microchimerism is a $37 term, and I will do my best to explain what it means using a $1.25 brain.
When a woman carries a child, not only is blood and nutrition exchanged from mom to baby in a remarkable two-lane two-way highway system, but cells from mom to baby and baby to mom also make the same journey.
To play it safe, here is a description from the Harvard Science Review: “Fetal microchimerism describes the presence of living cells from a different individual in the body of placental mammals. The placenta generally serves as a bridge between the fetus and the mother for exchange of nutrients and wastes. But that is not all that crosses this bridge — fetal and maternal cells can cross between the two organisms intact. While maternal cells do end up in the fetus, significantly more fetal cells are transferred to the mother. The result is that the mother carries a small number of foreign cells belonging to her fetus within her body — hence the name ‘microchimerism.’ ”
Discovered more than a hundred years ago, this incredible piece of science informs us that cells belonging completely to moms exist in the children they bear, and cells of children remain as part of a woman’s own biological system, in many cases, until she dies.
There is now scientific evidence to support my own children’s beliefs that their mother possessed an unfair advantage of intuition that she would yield as a defensive weapon. They may have been wrong to think she had eyes in the back of her head, but now they know, thanks to advances in scientific knowledge, that they have a special bond with their mother they cannot have with me; and my wife, as I have always suspected, has a unique connection to our children I cannot share. Praise the Lord for another $37 term, complementarianism.
Talk of “birthing parent” aside, moms were already amazing people before anyone ever heard of microchimerism, but, like just about everything else related to life issues, whether it be in utero surgeries, advanced electronic imaging, survivability ages for premature babies getting ever younger, one thing is distinctively clear: the more science, the more obvious that life’s incredible journey begins at conception.
Scientists have discovered these cells in moms that belong to their babies as early as six weeks from conception. Imagine the ramifications of that in Scripture. When Mary visits her cousin in the first chapter of Luke, Elizabeth is like the prophet she is sharing cells with at that very moment when she declares, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).
So, if we ever wonder if we sometimes exalt Mary too much, science catches up with 2,000 years of revealed truth with definitive evidence Mary carried the human cells of Jesus within her own body most likely until the day she was assumed into heaven. That factoid alone is enough for all of us to redouble our Hail Mary output.
Even babies who are lost to miscarriage or abortion leave cells behind in their mothers’ bodies. What a blessing that is for women who grieve so deeply when a child is taken by God’s choosing before he or she can be born. They can be comforted knowing some presence of their little one lingers with them.
And what a challenge for women who choose to end a pregnancy for their own motives, for the same physiology applies to them. There is a profundity embedded in both instances, where a woman carries the cells of a child that might have been as well as should have been, and it is just another reason that we should redouble our efforts of compassion and outreach to women in that latter category.
People who take the so-called “pro-choice” position often make the claim that a fetus in the early stages of gestation is nothing more than a clump of cells. Well, I have more breaking scientific news — we are all just a clump of cells. And now we know that some of those cells that reside within women who have been pregnant are not even their own.
What an incredible gift from God to design his daughters in such a way that binds them to their own sons and daughters spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. Now my children and all sons and daughters must conclude that they are “stuck” with their mothers, and their mothers are “stuck” with them.