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Charlize Theron’s adoption process made her boobs hurt… Yes, really

We all know that pregnancy brings a slew of weirdness to our bodies. Everything from nausea and swollen feet to tender breasts and something horrifically called “cheeseburger crotch” is on the table as your body does the incredible and sometimes kind of gross work required to get a baby growing.

It’s definitely not uncommon to tick a ton of symptoms off a list when you’re expecting a baby. But what if you’re expecting a baby without being pregnant? It’s possible, and Charlize Theron recently weighed in on the weird stuff her brain did with her boobs when she adopted her son.

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The actress and ultimate Imperator sat down with Chelsea Handler recently to discuss the process of adoption, which she called “so maternal” that her brain had her body doing things that “don’t make sense” during the adoption process with her son, Jackson, now 5. The biggest one? “My boobs hurt the entire time that I was waiting for him!”

If that sounds strange to you, it shouldn’t. Theron’s theory that the hormones that accompany the desire for a baby are so amped that your body can take on pregnancy symptoms has real science to back it up.

Pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy, is when, for various physiological or psychological reasons, a woman experiences pregnancy symptoms that are so intense they actually trigger pregnancy hormones like prolactin. It isn’t a matter of having sympathy pains; it’s a matter of having actual pains. Women with pseudocyesis symptoms — and sometimes men with Couvade syndrome — can experience any and all pregnancy symptoms. They don’t just imagine tender breasts; they have tender breasts. And the No. 1 reason women experience the phenomenon? An intense desire for a baby.

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Now, we of course can’t say whether or not Theron had actual pseudocyesis. But even if she didn’t, the idea that an adoptive mother might experience biological symptoms while she waits to bring her baby home isn’t absurd or far-fetched. After all, there are lots of ways to become a mother.

Giving birth is certainly an intense emotional and physical experience, but so is adoption. Emotions run high, and those emotions can easily trigger physiological symptoms. Some adoptive parents are even known to suffer postpartum depression in the early months of parenting, just as biological parents do.

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Bodies are strange and wonderful things, and so are the many paths people take to become a parent. It’s no surprise that when those two things collide, you end up feeling things you didn’t think were possible. In the end, we all end up at the same place — parenting a child or children that we love. Our bodies don’t much care where they came from.

So is it a little strange to think about? Sure. Is it uncommon? Eh, not really. And as much as tender boobs can be a real pain in the tits, Theron can at least be thankful that her body didn’t decide to go in the direction of persistent, violent puking instead.

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