At 16 months old, will she remember our Martian family vacashun?
Will she remember holding hands walking on the beach, bare feet treading the chilly Pacific?
Will she remember the animals at the San Diego Zoo and Sea World?
Will she remember going on her first amusement park ride with Daddy?
Will she remember Mama nursing her through her cold last week in the middle of the night?
My lifelong fascination with how the human brain works and how if plays out in our everyday behavior has been rekindled through the developmental "wonder fire" burning inside Beatrice.
The sheer number of neurons at birth -- firing, wiring and re-wiring -- and by 8 months of age a baby may have an astounding 1,000 trillion synapses in her brain!
Why, for example, don't I have any memories before the age of 5-6 years old, but my sister claims she does from as early as 2-3?
Most child development experts believe that short-term memory isn't fully developed until age 3, so the ability to store occurrences at any given moment with regularity is hobbled by biological development.
Barring any other predisposed genetic disability or physical defect, a loving and nurturing family environment helps to spur the healthy wiring and re-wiring.
Trauma hampers the circuitry to no end.
According to Zero to Three's Starting Smart:
At the Developmental Traumatology Laboratory at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, researchers are conducting studies in traumatized children using the most up-to-date methods to study their stress circuits and brain development. In a recent report, they described their findings on maltreated children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who they compared to healthy, normal children and to children with clinical anxiety disorders who had not been maltreated. Many of the maltreated children had been sexually abused beginning between the ages of 18 months and 7 years. They had also witnessed domestic violence beginning early in life, and some had been battered by family members. For most of the children with PTSD, the trauma was chronic, lasting for several years before the children were rescued.
Unlike non-maltreated comparison children, the children with PTSD had elevated levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, even on a normal day when nothing especially stressful was happening (DeBellis, Baum, et al., 1999). Thus, these children’s stress systems seemed to be turned on even when they didn’t need to be. Especially high stress hormone levels were found among the children who had been abused for longer and/or had more severe PTSD. Very similar results have been found for children rescued from Romanian orphanages, even though for the most part these children had been severely neglected rather than physically or sexually abused.
Not surprising then on how PTSD played an unfortunate role in my development and my sister's, and the teenage/adult struggles that ensued. As I've said many times before, we need a helluva lot more purple elevate patches out there.
However, the elasticity of God-empowered DNA gives those of us who fight back a semblance of sanity, and in turn, the opportunity to break the cycle of trauma -- whether that's domestic violence, extreme neglect, even genocidal warfare.
And it favors the nurtured offspring.
This morning we woke Beatrice together as we usually do, talking with her and giving her hugs and kisses, singing her our morning song, and pointing out different icons in her room -- Pooh, Piglet and the flying bees that Amy's sister made.
This morning Beatrice pointed out my ears, mouth, eyes and nose, and then honked my nose. I asked her if her nose felt better ('cause here and Mama shared a cold this last week). She squeezed it and said, "Doe, doe, doe, doe, doe..."
Not that I focus on morbidity with any frequency these days, but this morning I also wondered if suddenly we were no longer here, would Bea remember us? Would even Bryce at this stage?
I'm going to buck the expert scientific trends and say, yes -- yes they would.
I'm crazy like that. I told you before it's the dope.