A Womb of One’s Own: My Body Does What?

This week, the baby and I are finally coming down to the final stretch of our enforced cohabitation of my body.  In eight weeks and two days (but who’s counting?) is my due date, and while I am by no means an expert on pregnancy, I can definitely look back at pre-pregnancy me and laugh at some of the things I thought would happen.  Some of them came to pass, some of them didn’t, some may still appear.  But for this column, I wanted to focus on the unexpected parts of my pregnancy–the things that made me frantically reach for Google at 1 a.m.

I knew that pregnancy would change my body chemistry, and I knew that my prenatal vitamins would help stimulate my hair and nail growth.  What I did not expect was to suddenly develop dandruff that, despite applications of every anti-dandruff shampoo I could find, would stubbornly insist on surviving.  I tried washing my hair every day, I tried washing it twice a week, but to no avail: no matter what, those tiny white flakes cheerfully continued to exist.  I can only hope that dandruff will be expelled from my life when my son is expelled from my body.

I knew that pregnancy now carries some pretty strict dietary restrictions and “suggestions,” and I knew that I could face food aversions and cravings.  What I didn’t realize was that my lactose intolerance would disappear six weeks into the pregnancy, only to be replaced with a ferocious desire to drink half a gallon of milk straight from the jug in front of the refrigerator.  Whatever money we have saved since we quit drinking for the pregnancy, I must have spent on gallons of organic nonfat.  At first, I rationalized it as being necessary for the baby’s skeletal structure.  At this point in his development, however, I don’t know that the baby needs as much milk as I feel compelled to drink.  It is, happily, a fantastic excuse to bake food that just happens to go perfectly with a glass (or gallon) of cold milk.

I knew that my pelvis would spread to accommodate my uterus and its contents over these 40 weeks.  What I didn’t anticipate was the vast array of different ways my pelvis, hips, and pubic bones could cause me pain.  From getting out of the car one foot at a time to walking down stairs, every part of my daily locomotion has showcased a new and innovative pain.  Because our pelvises aren’t solid bone, but rather multiple bones held together with cartilage, the relaxin produced during pregnancy allows this cartilage to loosen in preparation for the birth passage.  What this translates to is the unnerving feeling of feeling my pubic mound move in two separate pieces as I walk down the sidewalk.

And then there are the parts I haven’t gotten to yet–the labor, the birth, the after-birth process.  From everything I’ve heard, I understand there’s going to be a fair amount of fluid leaving my body in an uncontrollable fashion during the laboring process.  After the baby is born, I still have to give birth to the placenta, which then necessitates uterine massage to encourage the uterus to shrink and cut off circulation to the blood vessels which had fed the placenta.  And finally, there is lochia.  Google it on your own.