A Womb of One's Own

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.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

8 replies on “A Womb of One’s Own: My Body Does What?”

First, I am a pad novice, pretty much only ever wore them after having babies. Buy some thin overnight pads with wings. I hated wearing the generic thick hospital pads, but the big-brand name thin ones gave the protection I needed without having a bed pillow in my panties.

Second, do you know about the peri-bottle? If you have a two story house, ask the hospital for a second one to take home, one for each floor of the house. You’ll thank me. You don’t want to have to dash upstairs to your bathroom every time you need to go, and for the first few weeks, bladder control will not be what it once was. Of course, you’ll be wearing the giant pad, so no biggie, I suppose.

Third, sort of related to the second, you want to make sure you are trimmed up or even clean-shaven down below. Just prior to going to the hospital for my second delivery (first was twins) I took a shower and got as cleaned up in that department as I could manage. It is SO MUCH EASIER to wash and keep that tender area clean in the days and weeks after delivery. I wish someone had told me this my first time around.

Fourth, placenta is cool. I asked my doc to show me. He flipped it inside out, showed me where everything was. You won’t feel it coming out. Unless you’re like me and want to know about it, you probably won’t even notice it happening.

Fifth, take all the tylenol and motrin they recommend. I thought, “this hurts so bad there’s no way otc tylenol can even touch my pain.” Wrong. Take it, take it on schedule. If nurse says “you can take 4 every 4 hours,” TAKE FOUR every FOUR hours. It will transform “Dear-god-I-can’t-sit-down” into “dang, that stings. Hope it’s better tomorrow.”

Finally, I am an epidural girl. I thought that because I planned the epidural, I did not need to mentally prepare myself for the job that is labor. Again, I was wrong. For the second pregnancy, I found some wonderful meditations for labor cds at the library, and started listening to the lessons months in advance. You likely already have a plan in place, but I found it incredibly helpful to have a back up plan, a strategy for dealing with the experience (and for me, so much of it was nerves the first time around).

In the end, delivery is not really that bad. I mean it’s bad, but it’s temporary. And there is nothing like the experience of having a baby. Nothing. It is surreal. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but three kids is enough for this working mom, unfortunately.

Good luck!

OK, I’m going to go TMI on you. I HATED using store-bought pads when I was postpartum, and the hospital ones weren’t any better. I had some stitches, and they really hurt when they heal. Plastic sticking to them doesn’t help one bit. What I wish I’d done is either made or bought some cloth pads. If you google “mama cloth” you can find them.

And yes to SaraB’s point: I was a little afraid of the afterbirth, but I hardly even noticed it. Possibly because there was a team of doctors and residents stitching me up, but whatevs.

Um, Ipo, just be prepared that your hair and scalp may not bounce back right away. For me it took a couple years for my hair to recover and I’ve had weird thinning patches. As for dandruff apple cider vinegar is good, if you can tolerate the smell. Google remedies. I’ve had to use it straight and have had stinky hair, but my scalp was flake and itch free. My hair, skin, and food tolerances were forever changed after two births. My father said boy pregnancies were harder on women’s bodies, generally speaking.

From what I remember, afterbirth is something of an afterthought. I was so relieved, physically, mentally and emotionally, to have the baby out that I was in a complete daze. My memory of afterbirth was the doctor saying “Wait, don’t sit up just yet… OK, you’re good.” And lochia is really just like having a crappy period for a month or so. I would recommend that you stock up on the biggest, most comfortable pads you can find. The last thing I wanted to worry about was leakage and using the ridiculously large pads (if you can, swipe some from the hospital – you’ll see what I mean) took that weight off my mind.

When you read about this stuff in medical language it sounds kind of horrible and gross, but in reality it’s like every other aspect of pregnancy; you get used to it and get on with life.

I didn’t actually get to see mine. The midwife asked if I wanted to, and for some reason I said no.

Also, funny story: I had to sign a bunch of stuff when I checked in, including a form that said that any body parts they took out of me belonged to the hospital, and not to me. I kind of laughed about it (I wasn’t in hard labor at this point, obviously), and the midwife said, absolutely seriously, “Oh, well, of course you can have the placenta if you want.”

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