I don’t remember how old I was when I found out where babies come from. I remember I had a book called “How babies are made” and I remember poring over it when I was little, flabbergasted and astonished that this was the actual nature of the thing, but I don’t remember a specific moment when I found out. My Mum, on the other hand – recalls that when my grandmother explained it to her in proper detail she went into her room and sobbed, because she figured that if her mum had to make up such a totally insane story about how babies got started, then the truth must be too horrible to imagine. (For the record, she had been told the truth.)
While I’ve got no real memory (beyond that weird book) of learning that stuff, I remember being a young woman and finding out about where my eggs came from, and being so stunned I could hardly get my head around it, and the most amazing thing is that since I found out I’ve told lots of people, and most of them were surprised too. I don’t know why this piece of information isn’t considered required learning, but get this: When a woman gives birth to a daughter, that daughter is born with a couple of million immature ovarian follicles called primordial follicles. Each of these follicles contains an oocyte (pronounced “oh-eh-site”) and that’s the fancy name for a whole, intact, immature egg. From that moment forward, thousands of these follicles die off until puberty, and then about a thousand a month die with every cycle. (If the word “die” bothers you, you can call it by its proper name – atresia.) Of these thousand that die each month, one will be recruited (actual word) mature, and be used in that woman’s cycle during ovulation.
This means that when you are pregnant with a girl, your body makes all the eggs that she’ll have in her whole life. Your body is all “Spleen – check, four chambers for the heart- good job, ligaments to support the liver – check… yes, yes, that’s a good length for the phalanges of the feet….. oh, and now let’s make the potential for the next generation of humans. Throw that in there. It will be nice to have it out of the way.” The mother makes all the follicles that will be the root of her daughters fertility, and her health, age and nutrition all play a role in the quality and quantity her daughter is born with. (No pressure.)
This means that my mum made the egg that became her granddaughters when she grew me, and twenty six years ago, when Meg was within me, the very egg that will become our grandchild grew at the same time. It has existed as long as she has – and now thanks to the contribution of another single cell…
Megan is growing her grandchildren.
I’m just so glad I ate well.