Pregnancy is weird—all of it. The very act itself, I mean, it’s a human growing another human inside her body. If that’s not bizarre, I don’t know what is. Stranger still are the accompanying symptoms, like the urge to pee every time you pass a toilet and the way you can fantasize about your cravings while you are actively barfing, and the amazing fact that your bra cup suddenly runneth over (a boon to us small-boobied women who finally get the breasts we prayed for every day of our seventh-grade year).
But as weird as those things are, everybody knows about them. There are chapters devoted to each of these issues in every pregnancy book and mentions in every fetal-development-tracking app. What those things fail to mention are the “other” symptoms. I suppose not everyone gets all of them (lucky me!), but they’re worth mentioning, since some can really catch you by (unpleasant, horrifying) surprise if you aren’t expecting them.
1. The Beard
I’m putting this one first because it was the most shocking. Toweling off after a shower one day, somewhere around the seventh month of my first pregnancy, my hand brushed against some roughness on the underside of my chin. I thought it was dry skin, and tried to rub it off, but it wasn’t budging. So I tilted my head back, looked hesitantly in the mirror, and holy manliness! I was growing a Brillo-pad patch of chin-pubes.
I was hoping maybe they’d disappear once my hormones were back to normal, but no. The bad news is that it never went away. Oh, and I gained like 10 more chin hairs with each pregnancy (four total—you do the math). The good news is, well, there is really no good news about being a woman with a beard unless you have, like, a wardrobe of flannel shirts and want the ultimate rugged accessory.
2. The Fat Nose
Some pregnant women only gain weight in their adorable, basketball-shaped bellies. But some women get fat all over. I’m a woman of the full-body fatness variety, and while I expected a certain amount of baby-bulk in, say, my hips and my upper arms, I did not anticipate that my nose would get bigger too. But it did, and I walked around for the last few months of my pregnancy with a swollen schnoz that would have been better suited to a garden gnome.
3. The Skin Tags
Pregnancy wasn’t kind to my skin to begin with (Pimples! Pimples everywhere!), but I didn’t know I’d grow more of it. Yet there they were: weird little flaps of extra skin that appeared in random places, like the sides of my neck and under my armpit, serving no purpose whatsoever aside from being odd and annoying. Yay.
4. The Ugly Veins
When I was young, childless, and naïve, I’d see women with road-map legs and think about how terrible it must be to age so ungracefully. Little did I know that by the time I was a ripe old 29, I’d have spider veins on the backs of my knees so bad that I could navigate someone from here to China. And speaking of China: Think of a female body part that sounds similar. Now imagine a painful, bulging varicose vein there. Yep, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds. Another lovely pregnancy surprise. Thanks, kids!
5. The Big Feet
File this under “things that make absolutely zero sense,” but my feet have grown—and stayed bigger—with two of my pregnancies. Now, if your feet are cute and small to begin with, it won’t make much of a difference. However, my feet started out as “those are kinda big” (size 9) and spread out into a “damn, those are huge!” (size 10), which makes it difficult to find shoes that don’t look like they belong on a clown.
Last time I went to buy a pair of heels, I was eyeballing the same pair as a man who was shopping for a drag show. My youngest is nearly 4, and I’m still waiting on the day when I wake up and slip into a 9 again, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Yes, pregnancy is a grab bag of strange bodily surprises, but they’re just preparing you for the biggest surprise of all: a brand new person to figure out. And that’s even harder.
At least I’ve learned how to manage the beard.
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