the influence of infancy

Scientists continue to make fascinating discoveries about the impact that the gestational environment can have on a fetus, as well as the earliest stages of infancy and their impact on the person for the rest of his or her life.

Did you know that if a mother is stressed while pregnant, her child will be more likely to be easily stressed throughout his or her life?

We all know the stories about babies who, for myriad reasons, aren’t held or stimulated enough — learning delays, personality disorders, inability to form attachments.

I am developing a theory related to this regarding how hard a person is willing to work for something, even if it’s important.

Case in point: when Second Son was a newborn, he had a terrible time breastfeeding. He would act like he was starving, work away furiously for about 3.5 minutes, and then give up with a look and demeanor of extreme and utter exhaustion. When I took him in for his 4-month checkup, it was discovered that he had grown 2″, but only gained 8 ozs. Eventually, the doctor conceded that he was tongue-tied (something I had been telling him for two months, but that’s another story), and the frenulum was clipped a few weeks later.

By 6 months of age, he could drink from a cup, and couldn’t be bothered with either breastfeeding or a bottle. Too much of a time commitment, and he apparently had too much to do.

Now, (he’s 17), we can keep him from eating all of the dried cherries by putting them in the cupboard behind and underneath something. This is a boy who won’t make pasta with pre-made sauce for dinner because it’s too much work. He basically lives on yogurt (for his school lunches — he doesn’t like it, but it’s faster than making a sandwich), cereal, and Doritos. Oh, and bananas. Tonight he actually had to consider, at length, if he and his girlfriend wanted to eat dinner with us (steak, sweet potatoes, green salad) because it would mean that he would have to do the dishes, and that sounded too much like work.

I’m pretty sure he won’t starve in his first two years of college because he will live in the dorm and all of his food will be prepared for him.

Not sure about after that, though. And it’s not like he has any body fat stored up to get him through.

6 Responses to “the influence of infancy”

  1. February 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Interesting. So what’s your theory for Second Son? What happened in utero to turn him into a work-avoidance teen? I’m dealing with a ten year old girl who avoids any amount of hard work, even if it’s something she’s keenly interested in doing or learning. She adores robots and wants to build her own, but when she found out she’d have to learn electronics (she has a special kit to teach her 300+ basics), engineering basics, and the fundamentals of robotics, she stopped bothering. She loves riding horses, but when she was asked to help feed and groom the horses in the stable for the /free/ classes she was getting in Germany, she balked. If it doesn’t involve books, video games, or dressing up, it’s too much work.

    Now, I know I had a stressful environment while pregnant with her–our roommate at the time needed to pick illogical arguments with high drama every few days, and we had so little money, my first trimester I lived on popcorn, dry packaged apple cider, pasta, and saltines–but could this really be the factor that leaves her work-shy?

    It’s not as though she’s lacked for a hardworking role model. She’s watched me work and continue my education at the same time, she’s seen me struggle with disabilities while getting a higher degree and maintaining the household while paying our room and board through cooking meals. So . . . your ideas and theories are most welcome. I’m homeschooling her now, and yet it’s still a struggle to get her to do more than the minimum amount of work, despite her getting to choose what subjects she studies and getting a big say in how we approach each topic.

    • February 14, 2011 at 7:37 am

      My theory is that it was so difficult for him to “eat” when an infant, because of being tongue-tied, that he’s not willing to work very hard to eat even at the age of 17.

      And I’ve had the same experiences with both of my sons, who witnessed me get a doctorate while they were in elementary and middle school, etc., etc., and do just enough; although First Son (junior in college) seems to care more, and work harder, now that he’s really interested in what he’s studying.

  2. February 14, 2011 at 4:40 am

    This is the type of study I find fascinating. I know I am easily stressed, and have always felt it was due in part to being the first child of a mother who herself is high strung. I think what goes on in utero has to have an effect on the person after they’re born. It’s layng down the basics. I’ve always loved that babies can hear music (and conversation) in utero, and have wondered if my love of jazz was because when my parents were first married, my Dad played a lot of jazz records (which didn’t continue as I got older).

    All these things are so interesting to me. I think diet has to have an effect, as well, but exactly what who knows (yet)? Having a peaceful, calm, loving pregnancy with well-balanced nutrition and healthy exercise/movement has always seemed, in my mind, the best starting point for a happy, healthy, relaxed baby/child/adult.

    • February 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

      The studies also showed that the in-utero environment influences whether people are skinny or fat, likely to develop things like diabetes, etc. as well.

      I’m only disappointed because I can’t remember where I read this study, so I can’t cite it directly.

      • February 15, 2011 at 1:29 am

        Don’t worry, I believe you, hahaha! My mother was overweight, and I tend to be also. As to hard work, both my parents were hard workers and I have always been less so, although they were good examples to me. I can work hard, especially if I find something interesting, but don’t all the time and know that I have a lazy streat.

        Diabetes, too? In utero influence? I know the tendency runs in families (as with other diseases), but in utero influence(s) is interesting. In 100 years (or 1000) we won’t make any mistakes when pregnant, and our children will be perfect! We’ll be thought of as primitive Neanderthals who almost ruined humankind, right?

  3. February 15, 2011 at 1:30 am

    streak, goddammit! not “streat”.

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