My mom’s given so much of herself – her time – her care – her heart – pouring herself into me, and this mother’s day as I’m pondering how to thank her, reminiscing about the moments we’ve shared, I’m doing a little digging about what we inherit from our mothers, and what I’ll inevitably pass on, whether I like it or not.

So, here’s to you mom for way more than the 23 chromosome pairs in each cell, but for my mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), containing 37 protein-coding genes solely inherited from a mom. Before my research, I had never heard of epigenetics or mtDNA (also known as maternal inheritance). And as I’m seeking to honor my mother this Mother’s Day, here are a few other findings that took me down the genetic rabbit hole. While both parents have given us the 23 chromosome pairs we learned about in high school Biology, we have mom to thank for a few traits:

  1. Widow’s Peak – If your hairline is shaped like a V, like Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio, just to name a few who give widow’s peaks a good name, chances are you may have inherited this hairline from your maternal grandparents. Often hairline is inherited. The name “widow’s peak” was originally given because the V reminded people of the hoods widows used to wear while mourning. People also perpetuated the old wives tale that if you had a widow’s peak, you’d become a widow early in life. How’s that for Mother’s Day trivia?!
  2.  Varicose Veins – Weak valves in leg veins are to blame and can cause spidery, bulging abnormal veins to pop up to the surface of the skin. These vein weaknesses, or the propensity for them, can be inherited from either (or both) parent, but are more common in women than men (pregnancy, estrogen, heredity). Take this “Vein IQ test” and read more about Varicose Vein Fact & Fiction in our article here.
  3. Mitochondrial Diseases – thanks mom! May want to leave this one off of the greeting card or out of the Mother’s Day brunch conversation. If you’re interested in some depressing reading, here’s more information.
  4. Color Blindness – This is usually true for males. While only 1 in 400 females is red-green color blind, 1 in 20 males is thanks to color blindness being an X-linked trait. Since males have only 1 X chromosome and not the double whammy (XX) like females, they do not have another X chromosome to offset this X-lined trait.
  5. Menopause Timing/Menstruation Timing – Our mother’s early-onset menopause or early or late menstruation is often what we experience. This is not always the case, but research has shown you will follow your mother’s cycle, give or take a few years.

And there is so much more we could inherit from mom – her eye color, her heart of servitude or fashion sense, maybe her flair for interior design or her culinary expertise, her dedication and loyalty. Genetic research is fascinating, but truly a mother’s heart and example is the most impressionable. Thank you mom for tireless hours on end of showing me patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control – all qualities I pray my daughter will also have, G0d-willing. Happy Mother’s Day, M!


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