Zona Pellucida, Explained

Um, what’s a ‘zona pellucida’? (And why would you name your website after this?)

I get these questions a lot.

IMG_1310If the online world demands brevity to the tune of 140 characters, and if the ‘average’ person’s attention span must be utterly DAZZLED within a single *second* if you expect them to read past word six in your article,

then why on earth would you *consciously endow* a website with an obscure, Latin URL?

I’m happy you asked.

First: If you are an ‘average’ person with an ‘average’ attention span, and if you are enraged that you’ve already been reading this page for the past 15 seconds, then I’ll give you the short story: I named this website zona pellucida because I am a geek.

Next: Are you curious about the longer version of the story? That’s only natural. (I knew right away that you weren’t ‘average’, anyway.) Please: read on.

It started long ago in a land far, far away…

I first encountered these two magical words — zona pellucida — while I was providing counselling services at a sexual health center in Alberta, Canada. At the time, I lived and breathed all things Reproductive Wellness, feeling an overwhelming, magnetic compulsion to absorb as much knowledge about women as I possibly could– about our bodies, our health, our relationships, our experiences– everything. In my quest to know All The Things there were to know about being a woman, I even purchased (and subsequently lost myself in) a book about menopause entitled, It’s My Hormones, Stupid!. I was 22 at the time and was nowhere even close to menopausal. I just had to know. 

Anyway. During a particularly memorable literary escapade, I found myself devouring a book by Natalie Angier. It was called Woman: An Intimate Geography, and quite early into this book (in a chapter all about Eggs), Angier introduced a little something called the zona pellucida. In her words:

“[The] thick, extracellular coat [of the egg] is the famed zona pellucida—the translucent zone—the closest thing a mammalian egg has to a shell. The zona pellucida is a thick matrix of sugar and protein that is as cunning as a magnetic field. It invites sperm to explore its contours, but then it repels what doesn’t suit it. It decides who is friend and who is alien…

The zona also thwarts the entry of more than one sperm of its own kind. Before fertilization, its sugars are open and genial and seeking similar sugars on the head of a sperm. Once the zona has attached to the head of a sperm, it imbibes the sperm, and then it stiffens, almost literally. Its sugars turn inward. The egg is sated; it wants no more DNA. Any sperm that remain at its threshold soon will die.”

Pp 13-14, Woman: An Intimate Geography. Natalie Angier, A Peter Davidson Book, Houghton Mifflin Company, NY: 1999.

Are you swooning yet?

When my bright eyes first drank in those words, I was mesmerized. Captivated. Falling in reverence at the altar of the pellucida. (Remember: I was 22. And I was also a teensy bit nerdy.) So I did what any fascinated, poetic, romantic-leaning young woman would do: I made a mental note to myself to name something, anything after the zona pellucida, at my very first opportunity. As luck would have it, blogging became A Thing within a few short years, and my URL was promptly (and lovingly) adorned with the two words I loved the most– zona pellucida. And here you are now.

“I still don’t get it.”

I see. You’re having a difficult time discerning a meaningful connection between women’s eggs and a website about coaching and personal growth. Makes sense. Well, to me,

The zona pellucida represents security, selection, safety, and sustainability.

It symbolizes our boundaries– not defensive barricades, mind you– but the deliberate, conscious, and loving decisions we can make about what’s allowed in versus what can stay outside of ourselves, please and thank you. I love the idea that, even on a cellular, microscopic level, our bodies know what’s good for us. I adore the notion that even the tiniest, most humble of our body parts can say “I’ve made my decision. That’s enough now.” Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, I even imagine myself surrounded by an adult-sized zona pellucida, a translucent but intelligent shield that acts in my best interests, filtering in things that will serve me and repelling anything that will bring me down.

(Are you sensing the geekiness yet? I mean, I did just admit to imagining myself wearing an invisible, protective onesie. But this is– partly– why I’m so in love with ‘zona pellucida’ as a name and as a concept.)

The zona pellucida also symbolizes the sheer magic of creation.

As women, yes: we can make babies, but on a figurative level as well, we have astonishing capacities to bring forth magic into this world. Whether it’s a book, a business, a piece of artwork, or a delicious meal, we are uniquely equipped to create. (And I am uniquely equipped to support you on your creative path!) We can combine the smallest and the simplest of ingredients together and make something remarkable! Once again, the zona pellucida (bless it) is heavily involved in this process. Creatively speaking, what are you inviting in to your field? What are you repelling? Think about this…

Most importantly, the zona pellucida is all about choice.

We get to decide for ourselves. This isn’t some active sperm/passive egg sort of narrative– no. The choice is always and eternally ours to make, and my mission is to continually shine a light on this– to remind you of your divine capacity to choose and to create your own best life. (Amen.)

So. To summarize– this website is called zona pellucida because:

1. I am a geek

2. I [heart] healthy boundaries.

3. I am thrilled by our capacities to create!

4. I’m all about choice.

(Mostly, though, it’s because I’m a geek. Obviously.)

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s