Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Phenomenal Genetic Accident(s)

Obscured by a conversation about his own genetic counseling, one half of a concerned couple recently asked me about Brian's and Michael's diagnoses and whether there was genetic "blame" to be assigned. Was someone -- my husband or I -- carrying a predisposition toward Down syndrome that could be passed on or might be present in other family members? Clearly worried about his own genetics, I informed my friend that Down syndrome is a genetic mistake where 1 chromosome -- the 21st -- over duplicates and the rest of the cells just continue to replicate the mistake. The questioning continued, seemingly trying to find a reason for this "black mark on our genetic chart!" I emphasized the mistake scenario again and again but he could not grasp the idea of chance in pregnancy..... Imagine that!

On another occasion, I was part of a discussion regarding the propensity to conceive identical twins. Being the mother of identical twins and having done much research in this area, I explained that the occurrence of identical twins is a "freak of nature". A genetic accident where the egg splits in two to create two identical babies. Some of my fellow conversationalists just could not grasp the idea that my identical twins were not the responsibility of special genetic donations from my husband's distant, twice-removed, relative-by-marriage who had identical twins... [we think]. Hell, there have been 5 sets of identical twins conceived in the past 70+ years in my extended family. That certainly proves the notion that this is a hereditary phenomenon. Doesn't it? The concept that the occurrence of identical twins is governed by happenstance seemed unacceptable to many.

These two separate conversations fascinated me in their similarities. Yet they had diametrically opposite goals. The assignment of blame for a random genetic occurrence that was perceived as "bad" (read: Down syndrome) versus the desire to claim responsibility for a random genetic occurrence that was perceived as "good" (read: identical twins) was mind boggling. On the blog, http://happiness-project.com/, the idea of life's "True Rules" suggests that some things hold true in life no matter what. Surely, the saying, "Sh#*! happens" is one of those true rules. Some things just happen. Without blame. Without responsibility. Without reason.

Well, thank God for happenstance. For "freak-of-nature" occurrences. For genetic mistakes. I am so LUCKY to have been "chosen".... Because Brian and Michael are the most Phenomenal Genetic Accidents that have ever happened to me.

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