Thursday, January 22, 2009

Connecting the Dots

Sorry I haven't been around the blogosphere much lately. Between Jason's awesome contest, a new cat (a very sweet stray cat adopted us during the holidays), and germs taking up residence in our home (ugh!-- this is the first week since the holidays that both girls are actually at school, where they belong!), I haven't had much "me time" to devote to blogging. I had no idea what to blog about when I woke up this morning. But while reading Chris Eldin's blog, an idea was sparked.

Have you ever had the experience of discovering that you can connect the dots between seemingly unrelated interests and experiences in your life? I feel such glee when this happens. But then, I am predisposed to enjoying connections and meaning thanks to my thinking preferences (you know, the I, N, F, and J ways of thinking…)

So I thought I'd share one of these connections with you.

Dot #1:
Some of you know that motherhood is a topic of great interest to me. I had no idea how much motherhood would change my life (cliché, I know…), but my postpartum experience made me consider shifting gears in my career. I had been a geriatric rehab specialist. Now I'm considering breaking new ground in Occupational Therapy by starting a practice devoted to the needs of new moms who are struggling with role transition.

In my research into the struggles of motherhood, I came upon a book by Dr. Harvey Karp-- The Happiest Baby on the Block (which, btw, should be a mandatory baby shower gift!) and found his "Fourth Trimester" theory. He calls the first 3 months of an infant's life the Fourth Trimester, because according to the positive (and significant)correlation between mammalian body size and length of gestation, human pregnancy should last 12 months, not 9. But since modern humans evolved larger craniums (relative to body size) than our hominid ancestors, moms who carried to full term died during childbirth. Those who delivered at 9 months, when the baby's head could still pass through the pelvis safely, survived. And, as a result, we are left to deal with newborns who would much prefer to still be in the womb for the first 3 months of their life.

Dot #2:
When I read Dr. Karp's theory, I just smiled. Because I had heard a similar theory 15 years before I became a mother. During a time when motherhood was the farthest thing from my mind.

In college I wrote a term paper about how the pelvic and cranial anatomy of Neanderthals may predict gestation length. At that time, a new theory in physical anthropology fascinated me-- that Neanderthals' pregnancies probably lasted 12 months.

That class, Human Evolution, was the beginning of what became an anthropology minor (my major was biology). And of course, that can be connected to:

Dot #3:
When I was 8, I told my parents that I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up. This interest came from my fascination with human evolution, dinosaurs, and:

I was always interested in time travel. I read every story I could find about time travel. Those Choose Your Own Adventure books were the best!

Believe it or not, there is an even earlier connection that can be made. An interest in time and connections across time can be argued to be a result of:

Dot #5:
My inborn thinking preferences: INFJ (see my posts on personality theory for the definition). My brain was wired to gather data through intuiting processes and make decisions based on feeling. These ways of thinking, paired with introverting and judging, make for a personality type (INFJ) that finds meaning in connections and often displays ESP-like foresight.

Which is why I am so delighted when my foresight fails to predict a connection and I discover it after the fact…


JaneyV said...

I once saw a documentary about childbirth around the world and I remember being particularly impressed by the experience of women in (I think) Ethiopia. The woman who has given birth is taken care of by the other women of her family for the first 30 days after giving birth. She stays in bed the entire time. This ensures she rests, her body recovers, she bonds with her baby, her milk is rich and nourishing and she learns the rhythms of her baby whilst being nurtured herself. The husband visits regularly, he is not shut out but this tradition allows the wife and new mother the time and space to adapt to her new role without having the pressure of looking after a home and husband. I thought it was a beautiful tradition. it seemed to me almost a continuation of pregnancy. The fourth trimester theory seems eminently sensible to me. I think that as women we are expected to return to normality too quickly after giving birth. I think having this nesting/bonding time free from other responsibilities is so much more civilized. Of course these days how many of us have the luxury of being surrounded by lots of female relatives who have the time and interest to nurture us that way?

Re connecting the dots, I too see the patterns of behavior and experience that have led me from one place to another. I have seen how negative cycles will repeat themselves until you learn from them, internalize their lesson and move forward. Joining the dots and completing the puzzle is very much a part of who I am too. Vive les INFJs!

My word verification is Dumboo. Do you think Blogger has seen my ears?

Sarah Hina said...

Now I understand why my babies were so crabby! :p That's fascinating, Aine. I had never heard the 12 month gestation theory before, but it makes sense. Swaddling did help my kids relax during those first few months--and I remember making sounds that imitated my swishing heartbeat, too. The cruel, cruel punishment of having big brains...

I like seeing those intuitive connections become manifest, too. It doesn't happen as often for me, though. But it has happened while writing messy, sprawling novels, in particular, when threads will suddenly weave together in a way that seems like it was destined all along. I wonder how much work my subconscious has been doing to get me there, though. ;)

To be able to "see" things ahead of time is quite another matter, though. I imagine it does provide a sense of security, and the confidence to move forward with a certain wind at your back. :) I definitely think you should break that new ground! New moms need all the help and support they can get. You'd be the perfect person to provide that. :)

(Still want to see Indiana Evans, though...;))

Anonymous said...

An ocean of dots, all interrelated, all pieces to a larger puzzle.

Keep connecting them. I too think there are truths to be found there. :)

(As for gestation, can't we invent an artificial womb or something? Those three months would be so much sweeter. ;) )

Aine said...

Janey~ Oh, Janey! I'm sure your ears are lovely! :)

I was so fascinated to learn about mothering customs/practices in other cultures (when I took a course to become certified in teaching infant massage). This is the kind of information that all new moms need to hear. I think Japan has a similar month-in-bed custom, too. And there is a culture (in New Guinea, perhaps... I can't remember...) where mothers strap the infant on their chest and go right back to the farming and chores while the infant has complete access to suckle whenever it wants. Supposedly they nurse and suckle continously (no hour or two between feedings). People in that culture are shocked and scared to hear a baby cry (full blown wailing) because it means something is terribly wrong. And, what's even more interesting is that there is no such thing as post-partum depression or baby blues in that population.

Yes, you stated it well-- it is so much more civilized to allow such nesting/bonding time. It saddens me that our culture has devalued mothering (the tasks of nurturing) so much. And we pay for that with young moms who struggle with self identity, depression, fatigue, etc. None of this can be good for the baby.

Sarah~ See-- your instincts were spot on! If only our culture supported you more, provided for all of your physical and emotional needs, so that you could have devoted all of your energy to nurturing the infant... Alas!

Thanks for your vote of confidence in my therapy ideas! Now if I can just get past my idealistic visions and start executing...

Ha! Indiana Evans... can't imagine flinging rocks and dirt anymore. Never wanted to do that part anyway. My dream was to crawl into my luxurious time machine and go witness and study early man. I wanted to watch that Neanderthal funeral as they laid flowers in the grave, peek at the cave artists while they painted, and find out once and for all what, if any, language they used! Yes-- Jean Auel was my hero.

Jason~ I am looking for those truths. That is my mission. And not just the truths hidden within the dots of my own life, but also those dots that connect all of us across space and time. The universal truths of humanity. We are all the same in many ways, and all part of a much larger whole. But naturally, my goal in uncovering these truths is to facilitate harmony... so INFJish of me. But there it is!

Oooh! My dear architect, (batting eyelashes), gather a few rational/inventor types-- that is exactly what we need! An artificial womb!

SzélsőFa said...

After having two kids, the notion of a 'fourth trimester' (almost an oxymoron here, but a lovely expression as that) seems quite reasonable. Sometimes kids just need to feel the heartbeat and the warmth of the body they emerged from.
*Now insert a rant about modern society and women being forced back to work very, very soon and large families being separated*

I'm also quite fascinated by time travelling.

It must be my lower understanding, but I don't see how these dots are connected, Aine. I'm sorry. But I enjoyed this thoughtful and honest post anyway.

Charles Gramlich said...

I always thought the 12 month gestation thing for neanderthals was very interesting, even though I think it unlikely. But I loved anthropology myself.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I love thinking about thinking - lol - I love connecting the dots from a single thought to a dozen "links".

When my sisters and I have gab sessions that last into the morning hours, I love to remember where the conversation started and where it ended up. It amazes me how all the related subjects, somehow, sift down to a completely unrelated topic in the end!

Unknown said...

You do connect dots quite well, as I told you before! ;-) I love your passion for this subject.

Aine said...

Szelsofa Apparently my connections aren't as clear in writing as they are in my head...Jason had the same complaint as you. :P

But I'm glad you enjoyed it anyway!

Charles~ Yes, I see that that theory has been refuted in the years since I was in college.

Kaye~ It is fun to trace the path that conversations take! It's like the "six degrees" game that was all the rage when I was in college (especially "six degrees of Kevin Bacon"--LOL!).

Catvibe~ Thank you! I guess it takes another INFJ to recognize the connections I was making... :)

Just so you know, I'm still working on gathering the kids together to check out your travel video! It looks very interesting!

Unknown said...

INFP actually! ;-) Same same (ish).

Chris Eldin said...

This is soooo interesting! I wish I had known about the 4th trimester after my children were born.
I love what Janey said about the mothers staying at home for a month. This makes so much sense to me.
And also interesting what you said about the mothers who let their infants suckle continuously. Wow. We are taught the opposite.

I am so glad you are connecting the dots, and sharing your paths with us. Your blog and your writing are so warm and welcoming. You are a natural with people.

And just one last thing--LOL at Sarah-"punished for having big brains" cracked me up!


Aine said...

Catvibe~ D'oh!! I knew that. **glancing right and left** No one saw that, right?

So, as I was saying, it takes another idealist to recognize the connections...

Chris~ Thank you so much for your kind words! I've learned so much about how poorly our culture handles motherhood. It's frustrating to see young, new moms struggling with a time in their life that should be (no, needs to be) calm, nurturing, and focused.

If I could just get my act together and start my OT practice... at least then I would feel like I'm getting this information out there a bit.

Yes-- I nearly fell off my chair when I learned that there are people (cultures) that have never seen a mom with baby blues or depression. And the most painful realization was that our instincts would lead us in that direction-- if only society supported our ability to follow our instincts!

Karen said...

My youngest daughter and her husband swore by The Happiest Baby on the Block, and I think they may have had him! The premise makes so much sense...who couldn't do with a little more cuddling, snuggling, nurturing?

This post has led me to your older ones about personality type. Very interesting! I've been reading about Enneagrams, too, lately. Do you know that personality assessment? I'm not particularly fond of what I think it tells me about myself! LOL

Aine said...

Karen~ Hi! I'm so glad to hear that your daughter had success with the "5 S's"! Sadly, I didn't discover the book until my youngest was 3. We really wish we had read it before our first was born!

Yes- I've read a bit about Enneagrams. I want to learn more (perhaps I'll have some time today... :) )

But, if you are interested, I strongly encourage you to explore the Myers Briggs theory. It has such a solid basis (from Carl Jung's work) that is really about cognitive function rather than "sorting" people into a category based on traits. In fact, it doesn't claim that people are a "type" even though most people talk about it using such terms. Rather, the theory helps you to recognize how your brain prefers to process incoming data and make decisions. Therefore, everyone has a unique personality even though we can share similar thinking preferences. Just like two left-handed (the brain's motor preference) baseball players still have their own batting styles.

As you can tell, I'm a bit passionate about it. :) If you want some guidance with the theory, feel free to email me. I love helping people use it to learn more about themselves and their loved ones. It can change family dynamics profoundly! And you may discover a way of thinking that you never could have conceived of on your own. And, for writers (since many of my blogging friends are writers in Jason's circle), you can use the Myers Briggs types to develop very realistic characters.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine - I awarded your blog the Lemonade Award. Swing by my blog and take it "home." :)

Karen said...

Thanks for the encouragement and information about Myers Briggs. I've read about it some but not deeply. Now I'm sure I will.

I see that K. has given you the Lemondade Award. I'm giving you seconds. You might just want to add that you got it from me, too. :)

Aine said...

Kaye~ Aww, thanks! I'll head over as soon as I can. I don't often get much blogging time in on the weekends (school days are heaven!)

Karen~ And "Thanks!!" to you too! I'm so flattered! :)

If you aren't amazed and excited by what you learn about yourself through Myers Briggs, come back over here and tell me. That theory never fails to nail it once you've determined your preferences accurately. :)

Vesper said...

Delightful dots, Aine! I had no idea about the 12 month gestation - I think it's fascinating! And the time travel... wow! My heart aches with pleasure when I think of time travel... I'm glad we have this too in common. :-)