The strangest, and most disturbing, side effect of pregnancy I've experienced so far is the bulging sac of flesh that protrudes from each armpit. In fact when I was pregnant with Julia, I noticed that there was a little pink pimple-looking dot at the center of each "sac." When Julia was finally born and my milk supply came in, I was deeply worried when milk began to leak from the tiny pimple. Not only did I feel like a circus act freak, I thought there was something wrong with me. But I later learned it was completely normal. Some women's milk glands extend into the armpit area. At least there was an explanation for the fact that I looked like a pregnant cat with multiple nipples.
I still have these little fatty areas around my armpits, although I never sprang a leak with Elise, and I hope the same will hold true this time around. But in other ways, I'm not so lucky. The small clusters of spider veins on my legs and ankles that started with Julia have gotten worse with each pregnancy. Although I try very hard not to be a vain person, I admit that I have a difficult time exposing my bare legs these days. Lucky again for me, swim season is just around the corner.
To make matters worse, I have a varicose vein beginning behind my knee. Not only does it look awful, but it aches after I've been sitting for a while. And to add to the list of pregnancy effects, the small tattoo I got when I was eighteen has stretched and faded into a now barely recognizable splotch on my lower belly. I clearly wasn't thinking about the possible stretching that would occur if I one day wanted to have children. I guess it's a good thing I wasn't thinking about babies as a teenager, but someone could have warned me about the stretch factor.
There are also all of the skin and hair changes. I have new little moles and freckles popping up all of the time. Because of my fair skin, I've even had to have a few removed only to find out they were "atypical" and therefore possible cancer dangers down the road. My hair has also gotten darker with each pregnancy, and therefore post-pregnancy, I frequent the salon to get back my once natural highlights.
I confess; there are mornings when I get out of the shower and look into the mirror with utter dislike for what I see. Yet, I've always strived to love myself no matter what physical flaws I may have. And because I have two girls, I try really hard to promote a healthy sense of self-esteem. I don't typically fret over the scale or fuss too much with make-up or hairdos. So despite all of the imperfections that I've developed as a result of pregnancy, I try to focus on the positive things.
For instance, I've never gotten stretch-marks, and subsequently, I have always loved looking at my smooth pregnant belly. I've also been blessed with that pregnancy glow. My face has reaped the rewards from the extra hormones. Lastly, the vitamins give my nails just the boost they need to keep strong and look pretty.
So even though I may be wearing a cover-up from the waist down this summer, I think I may just sport a bikini to show of my favorite part of me: the big belly that holds the best pregnancy related effect of all--the baby growing inside! With glowing pink cheeks and beautifully painted nails, no one will notice all that other stuff.