Who will you be when you are born? That is the question every unassuming unborn and unhatched offspring is probably thinking as they curl up in the warmth and seclusion of their yet-to-be-identified mother’s womb. Do you believe that we have no control over events because everything has already been decided by a power such as God or fate? Or is it just sheer extraordinary luck that we are raised with either a spliff or a silver spoon in our mouths?
UNICEF estimates that an average of 353,000 babies are born worldwide each day. Our current world population is approximately 7.2 billion and growing. According to statistics, the global population surpassed the 7 billion mark in 2011 and is expected to reach between 8 and 10 billion by 2050.
With such astounding numbers, it’s hard to imagine what so many people like that would actually look like. But who are these people, and what will be their stories? Will it be a predetermined existence, or merely the luck of the womb lottery, that they are born into a gated community overlooking palm trees and the Hollywood sign, or birthed amongst the bombed ruins of an Afghanistan village in the middle of nowhere? Are we all born equal? Are we all afforded the same childhood and upbringing? Or is the life we are born into simply a roll of the dice? Purposeless, unpredictable, and uncontrollable luck that we have no say in or power over.
Picture the scene: cuddled in the warmth of the mother’s womb, the unborn fetus lays peacefully and idly in the safe haven of motherly love, protected from the enduring hurt and danger of the unpredictable reality that it will soon become a part of.
But as the doctor cuts the umbilical cord, in what vagina will the newly born baby appear, out of crying and smudged in blood?
Will it elegantly slide out of a precisely cut caesarean of a middle-class woman or frantically arrive out of a Syrian migrant onboard an inflatable dinghy boat?
Will it grow into prosperity and be surrounded by the luxuries of afternoon tea in South Kensington, or will it be riding stolen bikes and congregating outside chicken shops with the local mandem?
Could the innocuous fetus awake to the sound of police sirens on a crime-plagued estate where the sight of gangs, knives, and body bags is a vision it will only ever know? Or will that fortunate fetus be lucky enough to be raised amongst class and nobility in a picturesque country manor surrounded by greenness and prosperity? Worlds apart yet only miles away, will it spend its childhood chasing dreams or dodging bullets? Is it destiny, written in the stars, to be nothing more than another poverty statistic? A poor child raised by an unemployed, alcoholic teenage mom surviving on the scraps of pity and a jobseeker’s allowance.
Is everything just a coincidence? A remarkable concurrence of events and circumstances that is merely accidental.
That’s the thing about circumstance: we don’t have control over who we will be born as or who we will be born to. Our family, country of birth, genetics, and looks (color of eyes, straight or curly hair, etc.) are just a few key factors that can greatly influence our lives for better or worse, and yet we have zero control over them.
Nature versus nurture has long been debated in biology and society regarding what contributes to a person's characteristics. Genetic inheritance and other pre-wired biological factors are generally considered to be nature at play, whereas external factors ranging from childhood upbringing to life experiences are widely considered by psychological researchers to form part of the nurturing process. And while critics on either side argue that one has more importance over the other in determining an individual, many would agree that both nature and nurture work simultaneously together in shaping who we are.
Ultimately, we are stuck with what nature has given us, from body shape and appearance to more internalized characteristics such as mental health and vulnerability to certain diseases. And these genetic realities would have been made possible by a lifetime of ancestry and subsequent generational lived experiences that occurred by chance long before our parturition. This also includes inherited generational trauma, in which past events experienced by our direct bloodline can affect the genetic process.
It is then the job of those who nurture the newborn to shape our personality traits, temperaments, and inherited psychologies, with many profound and lasting effects of nurturing occurring in the first hours, days, months, and formative years of our lives. Evidence also suggests that the impact of nurturing can happen in the uterus.
Every single small and microscopic detail, by accident of nature and parentage, has contributed to who we are. Genetic makeup, ethnicity, culture, and geographic rearing have been made possible by factors that we cannot fathom. Above all else, who we are is purely by chance and unintentional.
So, is life just a matter of luck, or are we predestined to be who we are? Well, it’s a little bit of both, really. Either way, we are here by fluke. And as luck would have it, here we are.