In the beginning a small egg lay in a dark and crowded ovary waiting very patiently, she knew not yet for what. Then the little egg began to change. She ripened and she matured until she was ready to begin a great journey. The little egg slipped through a small opening and slid into the nearby fallopian tube. The little egg moved slowly through the fallopian tube. It was dark and strange, and for the first time she was all alone. The little egg longed for a friend, a companion, someone to share her adventure. The little egg could survive on her own, all alone in the tube for only about twelve to twenty-four hours. So, the little egg not only wanted a friend, she needed a friend.
A tiny sperm swam up, up, up through a dark new world. He swam through a small opening called the cervix and out into a big space called the uterus. The uterus was so big, and he was so tiny that he was afraid to stop swimming. So, although he was very tired, the tiny sperm swam on. He swam and he swam until he found a smaller place. The tiny sperm swam out into the smaller space which happened to be a fallopian tube. And, it just so happened that the tiny sperm swam into the very same fallopian tube that the little egg was floating in. But, the tiny sperm did not know that the little egg was there. The tiny sperm only knew that he was in a strange, dark place and that he was all alone. Oh, how he longed for a friend. He longed for someone to join him on this exciting and frightening journey. He could survive on his own and all alone for about two or three days, maybe a little while longer.
Now the tiny sperm and the little egg were both wandering around in the very same tube, each feeling very alone and longing for a friend.
Then, a marvelous thing happened! A miracle occurred! The little egg and the tiny sperm found one another. They leaped and twirled and danced with joy. Then, at long last, the two were so tired that the tiny sperm burrowed his head into the little egg, his whip-like tail dropped off, and the two became one fertilized egg. And now they were ready to begin the great adventure that both had been created to search for.
Within two or three hours the ovum divides into two new cells. During the first three days it splits into thirty-two cells. By the fifth day it will divide into ninety cells. The little egg and the tiny sperm are now an embryo.
The embryo has three layers of tissues which develop separately. The outer layer grows into the baby's skin and nerves. The middle layer grows into cartilage, bones, connective tissues, muscles, the circulatory system, kidneys, and sex organs. The inner layer grows into the organs of breathing and digestion.
By the end of the first month, the embryo has a head and a trunk. The features are already beginning to form. Tiny structures called limb buds, which will grow into arms and legs, have begun to appear. The tiny heart forms and begins to beat by the twenty-fifth day. The embryo is about one-half inch long, and weighs about one-third of an ounce.
By the second month, the early stages of the placenta, chorionic villi, are visible and working. All of the major body organs and systems are formed, however they are not yet completely developed. The baby's heartbeat can be detected by ultrasound. The first bone cells appear as bone starts to replace cartilage. The ears, wrists, and ankles form. The fingers and toes develop. Eyelids form, but are sealed shut still. At the end of the second month, the baby, now a fetus, is about one and one-fourth inches long from head to buttocks and still weighs less than one ounce.
At the third month the tiny baby begins to be known as a fetus. The fetus has soft nails on both fingers and toes. There are twenty buds for future teeth in baby's mouth. Hair is beginning to grow on the baby's head. The circulatory and urinary systems are operating; the liver produces bile and the kidneys secrete urine into the bladder.
Sexual differentiation has taken place and the reproductive organs are developed. However, the gender of the fetus is still difficult to distinguish externally.
The baby begins to move, at first with twitches and trembles that start in the arms and legs and then spread to the neck and trunk. Then it begins to bend and stretch its legs, and make stepping movements. It makes a fist, and opens and closes its hands. Baby can even lift and lower its head now. But, baby is still far too small for Mommy to feel any of these movements yet. By the end of this month the baby is about four inches long and weighs just a fraction over one ounce.
By the fourth month the baby, nourished by the placenta, is developing reflexes, such as sucking and swallowing. The bag of waters cushions the baby from bumps, keeps it at a constant warm temperature, enables it to exercise its limbs and move freely, and provides liquid for it to practice swallowing. The water inside the bubble of membranes is always fresh as it replenishes itself completely every six hours.
The baby turns somersaults, and around eighteen to twenty weeks Mommy may begin to feel the fluttering of tiny wings or the popping of small bubbles called quickening. Baby turns its head, opens its mouth, and can hear. It yawns and stretches, raises its eyebrows, and wrinkles its forehead when it frowns. The baby's skin is pink and transparent. Baby is now about six to seven inches long and weighs around five ounces.
During the fifth month the baby has a real growth spurt. The internal organs are maturing. The baby begins to sleep and wake at regular intervals. The baby still has plenty of room to move around freely in the uterus, and therefore is very active now. It moves from side to side and turns head over heels. The baby's freedom of movement is enhanced by the fact that it is lying in salt water, which gives an extra buoyancy, and by the springy muscular wall of the uterus which gives an extra bounce. All of this activity is strong enough to be felt by Mommy, who is now very much aware of the miracle growing inside of her. The baby sucks its thumb, practicing the movements it will need for feeding later on. Soft, downy lanugo and a protective vernix coating cover the baby's body. Long white eyelashes appear. At the end of the month, the baby is about eight to twelve inches long and weighs from one-half to one pound.
In the sixth month the baby continues to grow rapidly. The organ systems are still developing. The baby's skin is red and very wrinkled, with no underlying fat. The finger and toe prints are visible. Baby's eyes open, and baby can see the light that filters through Mommy's abdominal wall. By the end of the month the baby will be about eleven to fourteen inches long and weigh about one to one and a half pounds.
The seventh month marks another period of rapid growth for the baby. Calcium is being stored, and fetal bones are hardening. Baby exercises by kicking and stretching. It opens and closes its eyes. It sucks its thumb, hiccups, and may cry. It can taste sweet and sour. Baby responds to light and sound. Fat begins to be deposited and baby starts to really gain weight. Baby is about fifteen inches long and weighs around three pounds.
In the eighth month the baby continues to grow in both size and weight. It is too big to move around much, but the baby's muscles are strong and Mommy can feel the vigorous kicking of legs and thrusting of arms when baby does move. The shape of a small elbow or heel may be visible at times with these movements. The bones of baby's head are soft and flexible, and baby is almost ready for birth. But, baby still has to put on some fat to help the system to regulate heat and cold after it leaves the controlled environment of the uterus. Growth of the brain is great during this month. Most of the systems are well developed, however the lungs may still be immature. By the end of this month baby is about eighteen inches long and weighs around five to five and a half pounds.
During the ninth month the baby gains about one half pound per week. By thirty-seven weeks the baby's nervous system is mature and ready for birth. The layer of fat that has been building up under baby's skin is now plump enough to allow baby to regulate its body temperature when it is born. Baby prepares for birth and settles into a favorable position. Usually baby is head down, resting with its knees curled up against its nose and its thighs tight against its torso. At forty weeks baby will be full term and measure nineteen to twenty-one inches in length and weigh six to nine pounds.
This page is dedicated to the wonderful little miracles in my own life and to the terrific man I married who continues to stand by my side and be the string of realism that anchors us to the facts of how things are, and yet allows my fairy tale world to exist in the lives of our always changing and forever growing family.
We would like to give a special thanks to Lennart Nilsson whose spectacular photography has allowed us to watch this miracle of life.