The Secret Gifts of Gestation

Full disclosure: Not my belly!

Full disclosure: Not my belly!

They call it “Lightening Crotch,” my friend whispers into the phone.

Lightening?” I whisper back, like the NSA is eavesdropping. Like it’s a code word for a Navy SEAL mission in Ukraine.

She goes on to explain the searing, stabbing pain that attacks her nether regions, sends her whimpering for the handle of the Costco cart or skyrockets her off the sofa. Her husband looks at her knowingly: “LC?” he asks.

When I look it up later, I discover a handful of backroom threads devoted to the topic. Some refer to it as “Vagina Knives,” and when I experience it full throttle for the first time, I understand why. You’re cruising around the block, the sun shining on your face, filled with the joy that is the little one squirming about inside of you, the forsythia blooming, daffodil heads opening, thankful that you are still ambulatory, still smiling, and then…this.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a moment in time for me to complain about the adversity of my pregnancy. Mine has been an easy one, so much as growing an entire human being is easy, for someone who is much too vain for her own good and on a normal, non-gestating day, tries on three outfits, two earring sets and both boots and flats.

But—but—there are a host of pregnancy symptoms never revealed to incubating women. I’ve rescanned every “What You May Be Feeling” section in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and have seen no mention of the following. Same goes for Girlfriend’s Guide, which I valued for its frankness and behind-the-scenes look at a woman’s real body during a woman’s real pregnancy.

I’ve done my research; queried every close woman I know who has had a baby in the last three years and literally said, “Give me all the dirty details.” There’s the mention of the bleeding, the swelling, the vague recollection of pooping on the bed…but none of the following were mentioned until I experienced them myself or until I was also pregnant, and other pregnant friend casually mentioned their most recent malady.

It’s like Fight Club: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

I think women are afraid that 1. No one wants to hear about this shit and 2. If they reveal all these dirty details, no friend or sister will ever venture into the realms of motherhood with them, and they will be the only one up attempting to nurse with mastitis at 3:14 a.m. and never have any one to commiserate with.

But I’m going to reveal these to you so that you can be prepared. So that first time, when you look into the mirror at your nipples and think, “Jesus, are my nipples falling off?” you can rest assured that this is yet another sign that your body is making way for baby.

  1. Nipple Cheese: Who knew that your once lovely, compact, non-invasive breasts (which have now gone through several bra iterations and rival the best porn stars) would begin their lactation efforts at about six months pregnant? Even my sister, three kids in, had no good explanation for nipple sluffage, and to spare you from TMI, I’ll post an excerpt here from Stacy of Frankly Pregnant’s experience with “nipple cheese”: “During my first pregnancy, I was alarmed when I noticed my nipples cracking up. They broke apart into lots of little sections that most resemble taste buds. “What’s going on here? Psoriasis? Dermatitis? Skin Cancer?” I later learned that my milk ducts were coming to a head. Did you know that a woman’s nipple has between 20 to 50 milk ducts and milk can squirt out of each one of them? I foolishly thought that the milk would neatly come out of one hole. So, in these crevices between the milk ducts, you can get nipple cheese build up, even after pregnancy.”
  2. Rank B.O.: For me, pregnancy has been a time when my hair has glowed as if it was a Pantene commercial and forgot to get oily 22 minutes after a shower. It used to be that my grease-trap hair compelled me to shower, but a new offender has taken its place: my pits. It is true that I eat a vegetarian diet heavily seasoned with onions and garlic, and that I use “granola” deodorant, but I have done both for the last four years and have never suffered from this malodorous issue. For those of you middle or high-school teachers, take the worst offending pubescent boy sans Axe body spray you can remember, then up the stank quotient by seven and you have my pregnant body funk. It is like the smell of old cooked broccoli mixed with rotting yogurt and the off-gas of a garlic factory. I shower at 6 a.m. and the toxic brew is back before noon.
  3. Niagara discharge: Suffice it to say that most pregnancy books, sites and personal anecdotes significantly understate the amount of fluid your body produces everywhere. Everywhere. Stock up on panty liners when they go on sale.
  4. Cellulite: Sure, my genes are prone to it. Yes, I consume cookie dough by the bowlful (I know, I know, the raw eggs!) I took a few deep breaths and got over the cottage cheese I saw on my upper arms. I rationalized that the accumulating back fat would be covered by clothes 94% of the time. But when I could not zip up my boots—when I had to squish the calf fat together to form pockets of what looked like tapioca pudding to even consider closing the last two inches of my previously loose-fitting boots, well, folks, I just about cried. The female body apparently stores fat in an attempt to ensure if my cave-man husband fails to slay the cougar, my baby can still siphon nutrition from my fat-laden body. I can assure you that the co-op has yet to run out of cougar and I have not been at a loss for calories at any point in this pregnancy. Come on, evolution! Let go of that which no longer serves you—and take my fat with you!
  5. Hormones to be reckoned with: I’ll just send you to read the hysterical comments on this post by Emily Henderson. When I read them, I couldn’t stop laughing, crying and thinking to myself: I’m normal. I’m so normal. This Jekyll/Hyde madness is normal!!

So there you have it, ladies, my personal list of The Secret Gifts of Gestation. I’m dying to hear—what havoc has been reeked on your body that no one ever told you about?