Pippa Pig brushed her teeth in a hurry and threw on any clothes she could find. She was late for the dress rehearsal! She ran downstairs, two at a time, grabbed her duffle coat, ran outside and got into the car, where her mum was waiting.
Pippa had just turned 6 years old and was playing the role of ‘Dorothy’ in her school’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The school was famous for its plays and Pippa could not wait to walk out on stage in front of all her friends and family. It was late June, just before the school holidays, and there were birds in the sky and bees in the flowers, and the morning sun gave the wet grass a glistening appearance. They drove down the long winding roads to her school in the hills of Sunville. As she got out the car and saw the big school theatre where she was going to perform, she suddenly felt nervous.
‘Don’t be nervous, Pippa’, her mum reassured her, ‘You’re going to be amazing’.
Pippa walked through the doors of the theatre with her head held high and thought about how great it was going to feel to act in the play.
Pippa and her mother said a rushed hello to the teachers and other members of the theatre play, lots of whom were Pippa’s good friends. They then went backstage to get Pippa into her Dorothy outfit, which was a beautiful long white dress! On the way to the dressing room, Pippa had a sudden thought about herself and was instantly upset in front of her mother.
Inside the dressing room, Pippa told her mother that she had been worrying about the way she looked in comparison to her friends. ‘I’m a lot smaller than most of them and I look so young and not like a 6 year old!’ She was in tears, and her mother put her arms round her daughter pig and gave her a big hug. ‘Oh Pippa’, she said, ‘don’t be upset! You look perfect to me, I promise’.
‘All pigs grow and develop at their own individual speed. Some take a while to grow fully and develop into the adult that they are going to be, and others do it very quickly. This process of going from girl or boy, to adult, is known as puberty. It doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as everyone grows up to be healthy and strong enough. You are doing just fine and will be a big and strong pig one day!’
‘But when does this become not normal?’ asked Pippa, with a confused look on her face.
‘When I was your age, it was the other way around for me. I developed very quickly indeed, and was found to have a medical condition known as ‘precocious puberty’. This meant that I turned into the adult I was going to be a bit too quickly. Often there is no cause, and it just happens. But sometimes it can be caused by something that is quite serious indeed.’
‘But what is puberty? What is going to happen to me?’ Asked Pippa, who was shocked to hear about all of this.
‘This means that boys start to notice hair growing under their armpits and on and around their penis. Their testes in the sac below the penis, start to grow and their voice starts to get lower. For girls it involves the growth of breasts, which are around the nipple, and also the appearance of hair in the armpits and below the belly button. Later on during puberty, girls start having periods. All these changes are caused by a change in the amount of some messengers in the blood. These messengers are also known as hormones, and the important ones here are called LH and FSH. A pea-shaped gland in at the bottom of your brain, called the pituitary, releases these. Usually, it starts after the age of 8 for girl pigs and 9 for boy pigs. In my case, it all started a bit too early! This is more common in girls.’
‘The doctors needed to ask me some questions about me and my family, have a proper look at me and my body, and then do some tests on me to make sure that it wasn’t a serious thing causing my early development. This included taking some of my blood to do tests on it, and taking pictures of some of my bones to make sure it was okay. In most people, it is not known why it happens. If it is a more serious cause, then sometimes an operation is required or more concentrated treatment is needed.’
Pippa was starting to understand it all, but was still a bit confused. ‘Are there any problems that can result from it?’ She asked.
‘Well, because people with this condition develop early, it means that their bones stop growing earlier, and so they are usually a bit shorter than other people. This can be stopped from happening by early treatment, though. It can also make people feel sad about themselves, but as long as they have supportive families and good doctors then this should be fine, too!’
‘So, everyone grows and turns into an adult at a different speed, but sometimes this can be too slow and too fast. And when it does happen too fast you need to make sure that there isn’t a serious cause.’ Pippas said.
‘Exactly!’ Confirmed her mother.
Pippa felt a lot more comfortable about the situation that she was in now, and knew that her body was just taking a bit more time to grow and develop than the others, and that wasn’t a bad thing at all.
She put on her Dorothy dress and her mum gave her a kiss on the forehead. ‘Go out there and amaze them!’ She said with a smile. Dorothy stepped out on stage and wowed her friends with her acting skills. The play the next day was a sell-out performance, and Dorothy enjoyed every single second of it! Her mother was even in the front row. After the performance was over she ran out from the theatre to find her mum, whom she gave a massive hug. ‘You were just perfect!’ Pippa’s mum said, as they drove along the long, winding roads to their home.