An infant can’t tell you they’re in pain or let you know they aren’t eating enough, so the only measure of our success as mothers is what’s in the diapers and what numbers pop up on the scale at the next well visit. My father-in-law once suggested new parents were too interested in diaper talk, but a wet diaper means my baby is hydrated, and a dirty one means her organs are functioning. Without the diapers, I’m in the dark. I don’t have an infant scale to weigh my child every day, or the luxury of waiting for her to say, “pardon me, Mother, but I do believe my kidneys are failing.”
Nothing makes me happier than getting a good report on Mary’s growth at each checkup because right now, I’m a one-woman show. My child gets every ounce of nutrition from breast milk, and there are no lines on the sides of my breasts to measure out her intake in ounces. All I know is after she eats, she’s happy for a few hours. When the doctor looks at me and says, “she’s growing fast and is completely proportional in height and weight,” she is essentially whispering in my ear you’re a great mom, you’re doing just fine.
Because she is exclusively breastfed, if there is a problem it is exclusively my fault. Is
she gassy? It’s probably something you ate. Is she fussy? Perhaps you aren’t producing enough milk. Is she putting on enough weight? Your milk isn’t nutrient-dense. Pinching her dimpled thighs and nuzzling those neck folds eases my mind, because a happy chubby baby is a healthy baby.
A chubby Mom, on the other hand, is not such a welcome sight. I know, my body has performed three miracles and I should embrace my tiger stripes, blah blah blah. Right now, I’d like to be a little more tiger and a little less stripes. I can appreciate the magical things I’ve accomplished and still hate that my forearms have cellulite. That’s right, my forearms. Did you know your lower arm could get dimply? It sure as hell came as a shock to me.
While my body was busy making a tiny human from spare parts, I became horribly nauseated when I went without food for more than an hour. Carbs didn’t cut, though I ate more than my fair share of them anyhow. I had to eat fat. Eating an apple would make me more nauseated from the sugar rush and inevitable crash. I was astounded to discover I didn’t have gestational diabetes when consuming anything from a few grapes to a bowl of ice cream would result in the worst hangovers I’d had since college. So I ate hearty, heavy food every hour or two. The pounds didn’t really sneak up on me, they announced themselves with a trumpet blast after about a week of my new routine.
And then came bed rest. While I didn’t have severe restrictions, I wasn’t able to walk around from week eighteen to week thirty-seven when Mary was full term and it was safe for her to arrive. I was the picture of a slovenly housewife laying on the couch eating bonbons, except chocolate gave me the pukes so I ate chicken fingers instead. I only left the house to attend checkups and procure more chicken fingers, and my brain, much like my arteries, became clogged from misuse. I write about things that happen to me, and the only drama I witnessed during pregnancy was binge-watching The Crown.
When talking to my mom on the phone, I’d search for words that were on the tip of my grease-slicked tongue and then lose focus altogether. Thank goodness my husband knows me quite well, because every day I’d stare at him with a confused look and ask if he knew where I put the thing with the stuff on it (probably something involving fried chicken, let’s be honest). It has taken me months to clear out the brain funk and be able to string together sentences with actual nouns.
And then there’s the tiger stripes. I am, of course, a body positive goddess who doesn’t care what society thinks, etc. and so forth, but it would be awesome if I could get on one pair of pants that doesn’t have an elastic waistband. I’d be so thrilled if I any of the shirts I purchased to be loose and flowy didn’t cling to the spare monster-truck tire that resides above my beltline.
I am now attempting to right the ship, as it were, but I can already tell it’s going to be harder this time. It’s only been two and a half years since the last time I recovered from giving birth, but I’m feeling much older. I assumed when I stopped eating fast food chicken (from an establishment I fully expect to go out of business without my faithful patronage) the weight would just disappear. Since I wasn’t even allowed to get groceries at Target without riding a scooter, I assumed I’d stroll on the treadmill a couple times and lose ten pounds. It turns out my joints are jammed up with chicken breading and the recovery is going to be a long and torturous road.
I’m an extremely impatient emotional eater, so every hour is a struggle. For now I’ll keep reciting catchy memes about loving myself and hard work paying off while I dream of the few chicken fingers left in El Paso that I managed not to eat this week. You are stronger than you think! You’ll never regret trying your hardest! You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!
I miss chicken fingers.