I’ve had low blood pressure, high blood pressure, sciatica, bright blue boobie veins, a bleeding anus and really, really good hair. But nothing could have prepared me for the awful moment when I looked down and saw that I appeared to be growing a dick.
No, this isn’t some cutesy way of saying, “Surprise! I’m having a son and he’s growing a teeny penis! Ha ha, gotcha!” I was actually growing something on the front of my groin area that looked like my own, private penis. And it was scaring the hell out of me.
It was the 25th week of my pregnancy and I was loving it. My morning sickness was long gone, and I adored my baby bump. One evening, after a shower, I stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror to marvel at my changing body.
This was something I did regularly. My eyes scanned everything, from head to toe; my slightly chubbier upper arms, my blossoming boobs, my expanding baby bump. But then, I saw something that was new and just plain weird.
I leaned into the mirror to make sure that it wasn’t just the shower steam distorting my vision. Have you experienced any of these embarrassing sex moments, like the Mamamia team have? (Post continues after video.)
In the mirror, I saw that a soft knob of flesh had appeared on the front of my vulva. It had never been there before. I stopped breathing. What was this weird growth, and how had it appeared out of nowhere?
I looked down at my body to see if it was really, truly there, but my baby bump obscured the view of my groin. So I bent down as far as I could, and prised apart the two folds of skin that guarded my vulva. To my horror, the little fleshy bump was there and it was real.
I poked it, and it didn’t just feel like a floppy bit of skin, but like there was something under the skin, something vital and serious and functioning.
The bathroom suddenly felt very hot. What was this thing on my body? After examination with a hand mirror, I saw that I still had all of my girl parts, in addition to this new bump. So it’s not like my clitoris was swollen. This was separate, unique growth that was around two centimetres long and one centimetre wide.
So, like any intelligent woman with slightly hypochondriac tendencies, I came to two conclusions.
1. I had a dangerous cyst and I was dying.
2. I was growing my very own penis.
That night, I crawled silently into bed with my boyfriend. He knew that something was wrong.
“Why are you so quiet? Are you okay?” he asked me. I’d spent the past few months babbling excitedly about our new baby and now I could hardly look at him, let alone speak.
“I’m just tired,” I mumbled.
Really, what I wanted to tell my partner of nine years was this: “I think I’ve got a giant cancerous cyst on my groin, and I’m going to die without meeting our new baby.” Or: “Something strange is happening to my body and I’m growing a dic, and I don’t know if you’ll love me any more.”
Of course, I couldn’t say any of this. Instead I held this horrible, scary fear deep inside of me and couldn’t sleep that night.
Even though I’m a smart woman who regularly lurks on pregnancy forums while devouring textbooks on pregnancy, I just couldn’t shake the suspicion that I was growing my own dick. I’d never heard of any pregnancy symptoms that involved growing a lump or appendage “down there”.
The growth really did look like a mini, flaccid penis. It had the same soft, wrinkled skin of a man’s penis, and seemed to be positioned in a very penis-appropriate area of my body. It was also a slightly different colour to the rest of my body – a little bit darker, maybe slightly purple-ish. Again, this was just like a man’s penis.
I’d been experiencing that sensation of heaviness for the past few weeks, and now, it was all making sense. All of that pain was going towards growing something that that I really didn’t want: a cancerous cyst or mini penis.
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The one thing that kept me sane was knowing that I had a check-up appointment with my obstetrician within the next few days. I planned to ask him what the hell was going on with my vulva. Before that, I just kept this new development to myself, amidst constant checks to see if the “thing” had grown or changed at all.
I turned my back if I had to change in front of my partner, or I scurried off to the bathroom. Sex was definitely off the menu because I didn’t want him to see or feel my new genital growth. I felt ashamed and fearful.
Finally, the appointment came. Dr Williams took my blood pressure, measured my belly, weighed me, and did all of the usual boring things. I could feel our appointment was wrapping up. It was now or never. I had to ask him.
“Uh, Dr Williams, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Of course! Go for it,” he smiled.
I took a deep breath, and then plunged in.
“I’ve noticed a lump on my vulva. Can you look at it for me, please?”
Ever the professional, Dr Williams was quick to put my mind at ease and led me over to his examination table. I laid on my back with my knees bent and my legs apart. He turned on a bright lamp and directed it to shine right on my vulva.
He pulled gently on the skin of my vulva, and then asked: "What is it I'm looking for? Do you mean this? It's just an ingrown hair."
I couldn't believe that the lump was actually so small that the doctor couldn't see it. To me, it was larger than life, and had consumed all of my thoughts.
I tried to point to the lump, but as I was lying down, my baby belly obscured my vision. Dr Williams passed me a hand mirror so that I could have a better view.
"Here it is," I said, as I pointed to the lump.
"Oh, that's definitely a varicose vein," Dr Williams assured me. It was nothing to worry about.
I was visibly relieved and blurted out to him, "Thank God - I thought I was dying or growing a dick!"
Dr Williams laughed. He explained that during pregnancy, the blood flow to the pelvic area is increased, which can lead to the development of varicose veins. The veins can become very prominent and, at times, painful.
"Yours is small," Dr Williams told me. "You should see some of the others. I've seen huge veins, that go down women's legs."
"Wow. That would really look like a penis," I reflected.
According to Dr Williams, the bulging varicose vein would diminish after I gave birth to my baby. But all in all, I was normal and healthy.
I walked out of my obstetrician's clinic with a huge smile on my face, and I'm sure that the many women in the waiting room just thought I was another radiant, beaming mum.
That's what was at the core of my happiness: that I could return to feeling like a regular, happy and healthy mum-to-be. There was nothing wrong with me.
As I looked at all the expectant mums in Dr Williams' waiting room, I wanted to make an announcement. I imagined standing on a chair to declare the good news: "Ladies, if you spot a fleshy bulge on your genitals, do not panic. It's just a vein. Dr Williams gave me the good news! Believe, and you shall be calm."
Then everyone would applaud me and experience a blessed relief.
Instead I quietly thanked the receptionist, paid my bill and went home.
That night, I confessed to my boyfriend what I'd been worried about. He laughed with me, but also urged me not to keep secrets like that again. He didn't like me worrying about something like that by myself.
"Can I see it?" he asked me.
"No way!" I yelped and squirmed away from him on the bed.
To this day, I've never told anyone else about the time that I thought I was growing a tiny dick. Even though Dr Williams, Google and the baby books tell me that genital varicose veins are extremely common during pregnancy, I can't help but feel like a freak.
To me, it feels like this pregnancy symptom isn't cute or relatable, like craving lollies and gherkins everyday. It's not something I could ever share with a mothers' group.
I truly thought that I'd seen it all when it came to pregnancy. Now, I've come to realise that the human body is full of surprises. And even more incredible is the mind's ability to work itself into a lather at the sight of a tiny bit of skin. My new pregnancy mantra is this: expect the unexpected.
Have you experienced varicose veins "down there"?