"…the kingdom of God is at hand…" Mark 1:15

Browsing Respecting Life

Your First Heartbeat – Human In Utero

This is a picture of you.

This is what you looked like in the first month of your life.

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

After conception, your cells multiplied and divided quickly, changing you from a zygote to 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 did not even get know of your existence, 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. 

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 – and you were smaller than a grain of rice!  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 heartstrings.  Your pull upon her heartstrings made room for your life – for your own heart to begin to beat.

Your mother, who shared with God, the gracious Author of Life, in the responsibility of giving you life, was definitively pregnant!  She would have been able to discover her pregnancy and your existence in this first month of your life.  Did she receive the news with gladness or fear?  Or a mixture of both?  The choices that she made once you were nestled into her womb had profound impact on your life.  What she consumed, both nutrients and toxins, had effect on your development.  And, if you’re coming into her life was unplanned and unwanted, if she was overwhelmed and frightened by your existence, then the people with whom she spoke and in whom she confided would also have had an impact on your life.  They may have counseled her to terminate her pregnancy, to make it as though your conception never happened. 

But… you are still here…

… And that means your mother did not stop your heart from beating.  She did not willfully end your life.  Your mother allowed you to live, and grow, and be born into the world. 

No matter what your relationship with her was like after your birth, every beat of your heart is thanks to the beating of your mother’s.  We are all dependent at the beginning of our lives and we remain interconnected with others throughout our years.  No heart beats alone.  We need one another – not only for our survival, but also for our joy.  Human beings are made to love.  Our hearts yearn for the understanding of others.  They ache with loneliness or betrayal.  They beat in sympathy with those who are suffering.  When we find mercy, compassion, and tender generosity in loving human beings, our hearts are glad.

And, yet, your heartbeat is your own and no one else’s.  When you are alone, even in the depths of a dark and dreary place, your heart continues to pulse with the will to live… and the will to love.  Sometimes, in moments of quiet stillness, you may hear that desire for love in your heart.  And, if you are truly mindful and truly connected to the Source of your being, then, perhaps, you may hear responding Love.  For the embrace in your mother’s womb was only a shadow of God’s total embrace – completely life-giving and loving without end.  It is when we know this divine connection that our hearts beat with true life and true joy.  For, as Saint Augustine says in his Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, and hearts are restless until they rest in You.”


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