WTF is Pregnancy Doing to my Skin?

After a miscarriage and years of infertility, finding out I was having twins was a mind-blowing miracle. I soon discovered that growing humans inside my belly would bring changes to parts of my body I thought had nothing to do with babies. Like my skin, for example.

Two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy with my sons, nevi—otherwise known as moles—suddenly erupted across my body.

I’d always had a few of them, but not like this. They were a gift of the excess hormones, and the stretching of all that skin sort of helps them come to the surface. So my doctor advised I should get them checked out, to be sure none of the stars in this newly born constellation were potentially cancerous.

I am not a large woman. Small-boned and long-limbed, 5’6” on a good day. My belly was huge, though I still had months to go until delivery. My skin, stretched very tight across my abdomen, was a water balloon ready to burst, and it was already itching in protest.

I would eventually develop a nightmare condition I’d never heard of: PUPPPS (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy), a skin reaction caused by a body under stress. And my body, full of twins, was protesting loudly. plague is more like it than plates. All there is to know about PUPPPS is that your skin will itch so much you will go out of your ever-loving mind. It was worse than the poison ivy I’m susceptible to. And there’s no cure except delivery.

But that was still down the road a couple of months. While the dermatologist was scanning my hundreds of brown spots, I asked him what my belly skin would be like after the babies were born. “Oh, the skin’s elasticity is amazing,” he assured me. “It’ll return to normal within a few months after delivery. Just keep it moisturized.”

Silvery-purple stretch marks were appearing on my lower abdomen in month six. A checkout clerk, making chitchat, had looked me up and down and said, “Any day now, right?” I almost cried as I told her no, not any day now. Not even closed.

But I digress. Having given me a clean bill of skin health, the dermatologist brightened and asked to take some pictures of my linea nigra, the dark pigment line from belly button to pubis that appears on some women during pregnancy. He said it was “one of the best examples” he’d ever seen. It would just be a picture of my belly, totally anonymous. Well, I certainly didn’t see it as my best feature at that point. That line made me look even more like a pumpkin. It was just another weird thing my pregnant body had done without warning.

But I couldn’t help but be a little flattered. One of the best examples? This was probably as close to a photoshoot as I was going to get in my altered state. So I posed for him, feeling slightly ridiculous, my nether parts surreptitiously draped behind my enormous hospital gown, and then waddled out of the office. I felt decidedly unattractive, but I comforted myself with the news that none of my nevi looked suspicious, and that my poor, overworked belly skin would eventually snap back.

Well, reader, let me assure you, nineteen years later, that my skin did not snap back. Not even closed. I have carried at least one Shar-Pei’s worth of extra, very wrinkly, saggy skin on my lower abdomen ever since. When I’m on my hands and knees, the skin hangs down like an udder.

Why, I ask myself, didn’t the dermatologist just level with me?

I needed to know what was happening to my body. I was not looking for sweet lies. Why spin it? If he’d said, “Well . . . you may have some excess belly skin and stretch marks after this pregnancy,” I would, I think, have thanked him for his honesty and prepared myself. If, in fact, it did all snap back by some miracle, I’d have been thrilled! And if not, I could have just sighed and moved on, because I would have expected it and already counted it as another bill I was willing to pay to be a mother.

I know that my belly skin and stretch marks are unimportant in the big scheme of things. These are small changes. I’ve been remade in much more dramatic ways than my physical reshaping, by my children, these amazing creatures. I would maybe even do it all again. But the entire parenting experience – even now, as my twin sons morph into pseudo-adults – continually reminds me that changes always bring some loss with them. Even good changes, like a pregnancy – with twins – after you thought you’d never have children. Even the ones for which you are prepared to sacrifice greatly – the ones that you want with your whole heart.

Were you surprised by how your body changed – before or after birth – or did things mostly go how you thought they would?

We’d love to hear about it in the comments below! The more we share, the more we normalize a variety of experiences.

Our next recognition: Scary Shit Series: Cholestasis

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