Motherhood is awesome and tiring at the same time. Men do not share in our ability to birth a human, therefore motherhood is akin to a secret society of sisters. There are scores of interesting facets of momness, both physically and socially. We’re a pretty cool bunch, and I hope you enjoy these varied 13 amazing motherhood facts that commemorate today’s moms and those who came before us.
1. We Carry Our Children in Our Hearts, Literally
There is no shortage of saccharine quotes about children being our hearts living outside of our body or our hearts carrying a part of our progenies with us wherever we go. That said, I’m not waxing poetic when I tell you that we literally carry our children in our hearts, and in our lungs, liver and kidneys. Even our brains are sometimes infused with our child’s cells. This happens when the placenta links us during pregnancy and the cells derived from the fetus, via the placenta, multiply.
Long after giving birth, these cells proliferate in up to 75 percent of women. This process of harboring cells from a fetus is called fetomaternal microchimerism and can also occur when miscarriage happens. Those who have suffered miscarriage may find it comforting to consider the fact their lost child’s cells are likely sticking around for a long while.
2. Merry Christmas, Baby
The most common birthday in America is September 16, meaning Christmas Eve is the most popular conception date. We are not doing as much last-minute wrapping on December 24th as one would assume! Nine percent of all US conceptions take place in December. What else is there to do when outside temps are frigid, but we’re not? Not surprisingly, August has the lowest conception rates. Scientists do note a general decline of sperm quality during summer months, but I attribute it directly to back-to-school shopping.
3. Mrs. Vassilyev, Eighth Wonder of the World
Move over, Octomom, your brood is hardly impressive! The beset spouse of Feodor Vassilyev holds the record for being the most prolific mamacita in history. I find it a bit disconcerting that little is known about her, less her impressive roster of scions, which include a total of 69 children. Unbelievable! Yes, this woman with an undocumented first name, and her randy Russian husband, conceived 69 children, which comprised 16 sets of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Of these 69 tykes, 67 survived infancy.
Upon the death of his baby-making machine, Mr. Vassilyev went on to sire more cherubs with his second wife, to the tune of 18 children in 8 pregnancies. Unfortunately for him, he lived in the 1700s; he could have made bank bestowing his strong swimmers through sperm donation.
4. A Mom’s Right to Shoes
Think the foot-swelling during pregnancy was a bummer? Turns out, overall weight gain during pregnancy puts more pressure on feet and permanently alters shoe size in many women. Foot flattening can cause up to a half-inch increase in size. Additionally, the hormone secreted by the placenta called relaxin loosens ligaments in the body to prepare it for childbirth, and not just in the pelvic area; feet can be affected as well. This may cause dismay in some, but after my second pregnancy, I celebrated my noticeably larger trotters by buying some great new kicks!
5. Biology Giveth, Biology Taketh Away
While the changes in shoe size are lifelong, the same cannot be said about breasts. Pregnancy and breastfeeding make many of our twins resemble those of a Victoria’s Secret model, however what goes up must come down. Once a woman ceases nursing, her breasts sag and can drop an entire cup size. The change in size and shape is more evident the more children one has. A cup girls, you have my condolences. Though, the greatest change in size happens to those who had bigger fun bags to begin with and for those with a history of smoking. Another great reason to give up cigs, as if there are not enough already.
6. Sizable or Shrunken: Our Breasts Are Cool
Every girl who eagerly awaited the quintessential department store voyage to purchase a training bra knows the power of breasts, and nothing solidifies this fact more than when the opposite sex starts to take notice of our burgeoning busts. Until motherhood rolls around, that is. There are more studies out there than I can count about the benefits of breastfeeding a baby, and as soon as a woman’s belly expands, well-intentioned friends and family chime in about nursing. While I am a huge supporter of doing what works for you, there is a widely unknown health benefit to breastfeeding that is worth mentioning.
A woman’s mammary gland receptors can read signals from a baby’s saliva by actually sucking an infant’s spit back into the nipple. When the body senses something is amiss, it gets to work adjusting its immunological composition. That’s right! Through nursing, we can diagnose and treat our baby’s needs. While some may consider the concept of baby backwash entering a mother’s system to be a tad disturbing, I consider it a beautiful, utilitarian means of communicating without words. Long before we are triaging skinned knees, we are able to treat our babies with what their delicate immune systems need through the custom antibodies in breast milk.
7. Beulah Hunter, We Salute You
The lengthiest recorded human pregnancy was in 1945, in Los Angeles. Beulah Hunter’s pregnancy was a full three months longer than the average human gestation of 280 days. She marinated her bun in the oven for a whopping 375 days! I hope she received a really nice push-present, though I don’t think they were a thing in the 40s. In my house, push-presents aren’t even a thing of the aughts!
8. Baby Can Heal Us Too
Many expectant mothers suffer fewer symptoms of chronic conditions such as psoriasis and multiple sclerosis when compared to pre-pregnancy. Symptoms are likely to return, but the reprieve is a welcome side-effect of pregnancy and is attributed to the steroid-like nature of some pregnancy hormones. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers stand to gain the most: 3 in 4 women with the condition report a relief in symptoms, with select mommas-to-be going into full remission.
9. 1,440 Minutes in a Day
Every harried mother will agree: there are not enough hours in the day. But where does all this time go? Everyone’s schedule varies, but if you look at how small tasks add up, it’s quite telling. If an average of two minutes is required to change a diaper, this adds up to over 60 hours per year spent in the trenches. And this is only factoring in 5 diaper changes per day! The number increases during high volume times! Do the math for your own schedule: when you calculate bathing, meal prep, education and playtime, our awake hours are consumed by the needs of our wee ones.
We are all working moms, but those who maintain employment outside of the home are still statistically more likely to take on a bulk of the parenting and household responsibilities. Defining exactly where our time goes varies, but time is a precious commodity, as evidenced by a 2014 UK poll that determined most moms are afforded a modest 17 minutes of free time per day. Thank God for DVRs!
10. Strength in Numbers
Exactly 3,988,076 births were registered in the US in 2014, up one percent from 2013. I’m in no way mathematically inclined enough to calculate the number of diaper changes associated with that stat, but what it does tell me is that we are a mighty network of new moms, and there are enough of us that making new mom friends should be easy! It also tells me the makers of maternity stretch mark creams have nicer homes than I do.
11. Mother’s Day for the Masses
Nobody is happier about the annual birth rate than greeting card companies! Every year, millions of new consumers are born and will eventually be shopping for Mother’s Day gifts. There are about 152 million Mother’s Day cards sent annually, and it is by far the busiest phone day of the year. America's total estimated spending on Mother's Day is $21.4 billion. And all I wanted was a trip to Olive Garden that never came to fruition. But I digress. Anna Jarvis, the creator of Mother’s Day, is said to have denounced the holiday years after, due to the mass commercialization of the second Sunday in May.
12. Prenatal Prep in Ancient Times
I haven’t been over-the-moon about every OB doc I’ve seen, but I’m eternally grateful for having the resources I do. Ancient women relied on goddesses during pregnancy. I’m pretty sure goddesses are not covered by my HMO. Alas, ancient deities associated with childbirth include Frigg, the Norse goddess who watched over married and laboring women; Eileithyia, the Greek goddess of labor pain; and cow-headed Egyptian goddess Hathor, associated with motherhood and childbirth. Upon reading that, my short, balding OB doc, Dr. Heizman, doesn’t seem too shabby, despite his chronic garlic-scented breath and frequent use of the phrase miraculous vagina.
13. Call Your Mother!
Nothing beats stress better than a hug from mom, but a study performed at UW Madison showed that the oxytocin hormone can be produced simply from the sound of a mother’s voice. The study consisted of 61 girls aged 7-12 performing math and public-speaking tasks in front of a group of strangers. Afterward, 19 girls were released to their mothers who offered 15 minutes of comfort, while 20 of the girls had only a phone conversation with mom. The remaining 22 students tuned into an emotionally neutral film. The results? The girls who shared phone conversations with their mothers had the same reduced levels of stress hormone cortisol as those who saw their moms in person. Of course, the TV-watching girls tested higher in cortisol, reaffirming the fact that mom can be a great source of comfort in person and away!