Last week one of my relatives had abdominal surgery (which went well, thank you for asking, and he's recovering nicely). When all the cutting and stitching was finished, he was left without his belly button.
This led me to contemplate something I'd never considered before: the navel. On the inside.
We all know about the outside of the navel. It marks the place where the umbilical cord attaches to bring in all the oxygen and nutrients the developing fetus needs. After we emerge from the womb to become air-breathing little mammals, the cord dries up and drops off, leaving a neat little innie or outie behind to collect lint and help us locate our waists.
But obviously, all the good stuff traveling through the cord has to get somewhere inside the unborn baby's body. So exactly does it connect to in there, and how? And after we're born, is it still attached to anything? Or is it just there, like a bricked-over doorway that's no longer needed?
This required research. I asked one R.N., two veterinarians, and several mothers. Then I Googled "umbilicus." I do love the Internet; there was stuff online about the belly button that I never even knew I wanted to know.
First, briefly, the biology. In the fetus, the umbilical cord includes one vein and two arteries. It connects to the liver and the heart. I think it connects to other places as well, but finding out exactly where involved more multi-syllabic words than I wanted to look up.
This is the cool part. Within a week or so after a baby is born, the internal umbilical blood vessels become ligaments. There are six of these that connect our belly buttons to various places, including the liver and the bladder. I don't know just how important those ligaments are in holding everything together in there. Still, we probably ought to stand up straight and suck in our bellies; they probably appreciate the help.
Of course, the Internet being the Internet, my search results didn't stop at the physiology of the navel. I found a rhyming dictionary site with a bunch of words that rhyme with "umbilicus." These included Bacchus, hibiscus, circus, and hocus-pocus; feel free to create your own poem.
I also found a site with detailed descriptions, complete with photographs, of ways to enhance the appearance of one's belly button through plastic surgery. I'd never considered umbilical reshaping as one of life's necessities—or even one of life's luxuries—but I suppose if one were considering a career as a swim suit model it might be helpful.
Or my relative could always consult a plastic surgeon to rebuild his missing navel. I doubt that he will, though. Through the miracles of modern medicine, with a little help from his family, he already has a prosthetic umbilicus. On the front of his hospital gown, someone has pinned a bright yellow button.