I Have Loved You For a Thousand Years: On being full-term

January 25, 2012 § 14 Comments

Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” has recently been tattooed into my brain. I think it happened when I was singing in the car on my way home from some errands a few days ago, and it occurred to me that I was full-term. And then Melanie kicked. And it occurred to me that she was responding to my singing…and then the tears came. (But that’s normal at nine months, I hear.)

At full-term, 37 weeks, the baby is not only viable but is really ready. All the fear, all the worry, all the cautious hoping can finally ebb because we made it. Of course, this is a bit of a generalization–although I am entering motherhood for the very first time, I realize that I have only begun to know what it feels like to be afraid, to worry, to cautiously hope. It is a relief, however, to know that if I were to suddenly go into labor, my baby would very likely survive.

(Side note: as I write this, Melanie squirms around in my belly–although some may find it disturbing, I have relished watching my belly pulse and move because of her activity.)

I have enjoyed my pregnancy. Yes, I had discomfort when my round ligaments decided they didn’t feel like playing nice anymore. Yes, I was exhausted a lot. Yes, I had stress nightmares from all the worrying I did. Yes, I have had self-esteem crushing shopping experiences when I realized I was too fat even to wear maternity clothes. (They only go up to a size 16/18, just as a fair warning to any plus-size pregnant women out there. You’ll do yourself a favor to forego the “maternity” labels and just buy sizes up from what you currently wear. It’s not worth the blow to your self-esteem, believe me.)

But in spite of everything, I have enjoyed my pregnancy. Immensely. I have learned a few important lessons that I thought I would share with you all before the baby arrives.

1. How to Prioritize
Before Robert and I conceived Melanie, I was busting my ass on finishing my dissertation. I think I probably could have done it, too, but I don’t know what sort of shape I would have been in as a newly-minted PhD. All that mattered was writing and graduating. The minute that stick showed the two little lines that would change our lives forever, my list of priorities began to rearrange itself. I realize that a number of academics would read that sentence and think, “Oh god, that sounds terrible!” In fact, I was in that group. Until I got pregnant. And then I realized that all those niggling feelings of depression and sadness were from dissatisfaction with my priority list. I knew there was more to this life than writing a dissertation and graduating with a PhD. Melanie helped me identify it, and she helped me give myself permission to feel proud of my rearrangement.

2. How to Worry the Right Way
Worrying about deadlines and other people’s expectations of my performance had been my default setting. I could hardly function unless I consulted someone else for their opinion of what I should do or how I should do it. My worries were often inwardly focused. Getting married helped broaden my worrying horizons a bit, but only a bit–because my husband and I are intertwined in many ways. My worries are his worries; worrying about him means worrying about myself too. And then Melanie enters the picture, and suddenly we’re worried about this little life that hasn’t even begun to live unassisted yet. We’re immensely aware of how our behaviors and choices will affect her in very real ways. After kissing me good morning, Robert runs his hand across my belly; after kissing me goodnight, he drapes his arm across my belly to feel her kick. She is the first and last thoughts we have every day. What a blessing it is to be pulled out of unintentional narcissism in order to focus on someone else and to consider in exactly which ways my actions affect another human being.

3. How to Let Go of Criticism
Although I knew there were some debates raging in the world of maternal concerns, I had no idea just how fiercely those debates were argued. I have unwillingly (and sometimes unwittingly) entered into some pretty heated ones myself. As the nine months have progressed, I’ve gotten better at smiling and nodding, choosing instead not to debate at all. Everyone has an opinion about what a pregnant woman chooses to do or chooses not to do. Anything from choosing to have an epidural block during delivery to something as simple as selecting which nursing pillow to use–these and so many others are all up for debate when it comes to the pregnant woman. And, of course, everyone feels entitled to weigh in. I believe this sort of criticism prepares the new parents for what to expect when they enter into the debates of the parenting world. I have started to work the phrase “we just do the best we can do” into my daily mantra. If I hear criticism about choosing to opt in for an epidural block, I smile and think, “That’s fine. I’m doing the best I can do.” It’s a form of forgiveness and acceptance of my own choices.

4. How to Appreciate the Body
As a larger woman, I have struggled with my body from a very early age. Even when I was a little girl (and I mean in age and size), I would compare myself with the other girls in my class, hoping to be the smallest among them. I cannot tell you how that particular habit entered into my behavioral repertoire, but it eventually morphed into self-loathing once I became one of the bigger girls in my group of friends. I still do have concerns that strangers looking at me on the street will not know I’m pregnant, but will just assume that I’m a super fat woman. But I can tamp down those insecurities with the realization that my body is doing something wonderful, something beautiful, and something that it was biologically designed to be able to do. My body is sustaining a second life, a life I am deeply aware of in many ways. Watching her move around, pressing my hand onto her rear-end (or her head, when she was facing up) and patting her makes me feel more connected to this little life squirming around inside of me. And it is my body that is doing that. My body, in spite of its size, in spite of all its socially-dictated imperfections. My body is doing this beautiful thing.

5. What it Means to Multiply Love
When I got my cats, Callie and Beatrice, I loved them immediately. But they weren’t my world. When I met Robert, I fell hard for him. I loved him so much so fast that I couldn’t stand not telling him and trying to wait some socially acceptable amount of time before sharing my feelings with him. (For the record, I didn’t make it. I told him I loved him about a month or so after we started dating. To my delight, he felt the same way.) I still love Robert as fiercely as when I first started to love him–sometimes I find myself in this habit of telling him I love him multiple times in a single conversation. He does the same thing. Robert has become my world–we have always called ourselves a family, even just as the two of us. And then Melanie enters our picture. She is our world. She is this incredible manifestation of this incredible love Robert and I have for each other. I feel like I have loved this little life for a thousand years, as Christina Perri sings about. I have loved this family for a thousand years. It is just natural to love this family.

At full-term, I feel like I am on the precipice of discovering something even more incredible, something even better. I am incredibly excited and terrified. But I’ll just keep doing the best I can do, and I will lean on my partner just as I have done since the day he and I set foot on this journey way back in January 2007.

Relinquishing the Bling in Favor of the Bump: when to take off the rings

November 13, 2011 § 9 Comments

It’s wintertime. Or so they tell me. Here in the Hab. part of the world, the days are still reaching into the high 70s, and many of us sigh longingly at the display tables of sweaters, no matter how thinly-knit. There will probably be a week or so in January when we can gleefully don those duds, but not quite yet.

In the wintertime, so the stories say, cold weather wins out. Historically, in colder climes, my hands and feet shrink. During the winter, my perfectly-fitted wedding and engagement rings spin deliriously out of control on my left hand. I am cautious not to applaud too vigorously at football games, mindful not to gesticulate too wildly, for the rings will go (and have gone) flying.

This winter, however, appears to be different. I would like to claim environmental influences–because it is still so warm outside, you see, that, that, is why I can never seem to feel cool. Why I have the A/C on a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Why I point a box fan directly at my spot on the couch. It is the fault of global warming, I insist, why my hands and feet are growing instead of shrinking.

And that’s when I let out the resigned sigh. Tomorrow is the beginning of my third trimester. And even though I have only gained 8 pounds (as of two weeks ago…Tuesday’s prenatal appointment could reveal slightly different results), the third trimester brings with it edema. Every pregnancy is different, of course, so not all women swell in the same ways, but I do believe all women swell. And I have swollen, friends. I am disturbed by my distended features. My fingers look to me like Vienna sausages. My feet like hooves. (Robert holds that they are not these deformities, but I can tell…everything is rounder.)

These past couple of days, I have noticed an increasing difficulty in removing my symbolic rings. It’s time. I can still wriggle them off, with some difficulty and threat of pain, but for how much longer is not clear.

So now what? Do I put them on a chain around my neck? Do I store them in a box until my fingers return to normal? (Will my fingers, never delicate by any stretch of the definition, return to normal??) I know that if I stubbornly continue to wear them throughout the rest of this pregnancy, I run the risk of never removing them again. Robert has reservations about my wearing these beautiful rings on a chain around my neck–he envisions disasters resulting in the loss of one or more of the diamonds that encircle the bands. Or of the wearing down or stretching out of the settings’ brackets. I can’t say that I blame him for his concerns; I share them, of course. But the idea of leaving the rings in a box…not to see them every moment of every day…well, I have been pouting all morning just at the mere thought.

But it is time. The bump is winning this battle of wills. As my belly rounds and expands, so round and expand my hands and feet. It’s time to relinquish the bling.

Yep. I’m THAT pregnant lady.

November 7, 2011 § 10 Comments

Beatrice and I were snuggling on the couch for an unprecedented free moment this morning when the tears came rolling down my cheeks. Fat, round, alligator tears. Beatrice shifted her purring weight on my chest and turned to look at me through squinted, smiling eyes. I kissed her nose and cried against her fur.

Taking a deep breath, I walked into our bedroom, mentally planning my wardrobe for the day, sure that I had finally gotten the random tears under control. Robert told me good morning and gave me a kiss. I felt a prickling just at the tip of my nose and edges of my eyes. I blinked hard and turned to the dresser.

Get it together, lady, I chastised myself. Now, what’s good for today? Jeggings or slacks? Jeggings or slacks?

As I pulled the jeggings out of the drawer, I could hear Robert’s voice. He was telling me something to do with a news story he had read this morning during breakfast. I couldn’t focus on his words. Turning around to face him, I gave him a half-hearted “hm” of acknowledgement…and then met his eyes.

“Oh yeah,” I said, lips trembling. “I’m apparently doing this today.”

Cue the hot, fat tears.

“Oh, no! Why?” His voice was soothing as he pulled me against his chest. I shook my head, rubbing my face on his shirt.

“I don’t know. I guess it’s what I’m doing today,” I said, beginning to laugh in spite of the apparent sadness riddled on my face. “Today’s 26 weeks.”

He held me and laughed along with me, not sure how to respond to a pregnant wife who had, for all intents and purposes, fallen to pieces in his arms at 6:15 in the morning.

Later, while I sat alone in his office, waiting for Robert to return from class and awaiting my own 11 o’clock composition course, I felt the tears threaten again. Melanie began to kick against my abdomen–soft, fluttery kicks followed by strong jabs on the opposite side. I imagined her flexing her fingers and toes.

“Well, kiddo,” I murmured to her, blinking past the tears so I could try to finish typing my notes on Act Two of Hamlet for this evening’s class. “Your mother has officially given in to the hormones.”

Another roundhouse kick sent me straight to the bathroom.

Just at 25 weeks, I officially became that pregnant lady. The one who dissolves into unmotivated and completely unwarranted crying and laughing jags (often simultaneously). The one whose feet behave not unlike two turtles, growing to accommodate the confined spaces of footwear–expanding into comical caricatures of their former selves when left uncontained. The one whose body rebels at the most inopportune moments, sending sharp, jagged, searing pulses of pain throughout her lower abdomen and groin.

I have received an “official” cease and desist order from my obstetrician in response to my confession that I was still seeing my personal trainer once a week.

This past weekend at my first baby shower, as I attempted to thank our guests for their outpouring of love and obvious excitement for Melanie’s arrival, I could hardly get the words of gratitude past my lips. Robert broke the tension that often accompanies watching a pregnant lady cry helplessly by muttering in a stage whisper, “I knew she’d cry.” The guests laughed. I laughed (and cried) and managed to return to my point so that I could at least thank everyone. I cried again on our way home from the party, our SUV packed to capacity with Melanie’s gifts, deeply touched by their generosity and by their obvious show of love for this precious girl who hasn’t even made her grand debut yet.

So, be forewarned: my third trimester begins a week from today on November 14th. Some of you are blessedly spared my crying jags by your computer screens. Those of you who interact with me either through voice or in person, however…please know that if I dissolve into tears in the middle of our conversation, it’s not you. It’s me.

I’m that pregnant lady.

Things That Go Bump In the Night

October 13, 2011 § 10 Comments

Houses creak at night. Cats knock things over onto the floor at night. Dogs snore and whimper in their sleep at night. The wind blows twigs and leaves into windowpanes at night.

When I was seven, I remember sitting up one sleepless midnight, listening as hard as my little ears would listen, heart racing. Surely that thud! I just heard was a burglar with a penchant for harming seven-year-old girls. My toes prickled and curled under my comforter as I picked up the sounds of movement on the staircase…someone was coming up the stairs to get me. This person was good, though–they must have been watching our house for some time. How did they miss the one creaky step? I was doomed. Done for. Finished.

I squeezed my eyes shut, telepathically sending my last earthly farewell to my family, when suddenly I felt the pressure of a body on my bed. Tears pushed through my eyelids; all I could do was wait for my imminent death.

It was the meow that did it. And the purring. And the “marching.”

“Muffin,” I breathed, sighing out all the anxiety I had built up. I could just barely make out her dark form in my dark room, but she found my outstretched hands and curled up beside me.

At that tender young age, I began to understand that not all things that go bump in the night are sinister.

Some things that go bump in the night are actually quite delightful and thrilling.

Things like a kitty cat kneading the blanket beside you. Things like a husband who shifts to snuggle against you.

Things like a baby kicking inside your belly.

It was Tuesday evening, after dinner, when Robert and I together felt Melanie’s kick on the outside of my abdomen. During the day, I had felt her protest as I leaned over a countertop and pressed my stomach into the hard edge. But this was something different. This was a joyful dance. A jig to celebrate the sateity that comes after a yummy meal.

Although she was not as active Wednesday, she still gave me a few little knocks to let me know she was in there.

And, like many new moms, I respond to her by telling her what she’s doing. “You are very strong, Melanie. You are kicking.”

I know, I know. She doesn’t know English yet…she has no verbal or other communication skills. And there is nothing to suggest that my words sound anything more than the muffled “wahwahwah” of the Peanuts cartoons. But there’s something about talking to her that is comforting to me, too.

Even now, I feel her movements underneath my skin. For those unfamiliar…they feel similar to gas bubbles, although not nearly as predictable or uncomfortable. Also, almost like a hiccup that stays centralized to your abdomen. The movements are difficult (if not impossible) to describe to others…but I know what they are. I know who they are from.

That’s my little girl bumping around in there.

Getting to Know You: the subjectification of Baby Hab.

September 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

Subjectification. It’s a word that Michel Foucault and some hard core theorist buddies of his coined to talk about the process of creating a subject.

If you’re not familiar with my pal Foucault, allow me to help you unpack this little concept (it’s one of the easier ones, not to worry) so that you can chuckle along with me at the cleverness of my subtitle. Yes…this part of the post is just to explain the subtitle. Have I mentioned that I’m writing a dissertation? πŸ˜‰

A subject in the Foucauldian sense refers to an individual who has an identity, a name, a socially-accepted and -directed Self. This is almost entirely prescribed before the subject has an opportunity to subjectify him- or herself. So, as soon as the moms and dads say, “He shall be called Richard” or “she shall be called Suzy,” poor Richard and Suzy have already become subjects. (Which is mildly better than objects, which get no say.) Subjects do have an opportunity to attempt to break free from their subjectivity by demanding that they are, in fact, agents (with real opinions and desires and needs, dammit!)…but we won’t go into agency at this point. (Just know that agents are the ones who make decisions. Subjects have decisions made for them by the agents with the potential to become agents. Objects are just things, or are people made to exist as things, that we observe and talk about with little regard to that thing’s sense of awareness or sense of existence.)

When we subjectify something, we actually create for it a pre-determined existence. We acknowledge the thing as something that exists, something that participates in some capacity or another within social boundaries (or perhaps even the subject is supposed to participate outside of social boundaries…which is also a boundary). Heidegger might (to my utter frustration) refer to the subjectivity of a subject as “the thingness of the thing.” Don’t worry, friends. I threw his little book across the room when I read that tautological nightmare. That showed him! I obviously much prefer Foucault and his straight-forward writing style (or maybe that’s the diligent work of his English translators…even still…)

So, here we are. Somehow Foucault’s subjectification relates to Baby Hab. How? I’ll tell you:

We have officially made Baby Hab. into a subject! There is a sex and a name and everything! Now, we can stop referring to the little squirmy sensation in my abdomen as “it” or “hey you in there” and have made our little observable object into a real-life subject! (I could make a case for how referring to an object with the second-person pronoun actually already subjectifies it…but I won’t.)

Get ready for it, folks…because I would like to introduce to you

…our society’s newest little subject…

Melanie Lynn!

Doesn't she have the prettiest profile? Look at that sweet nosey! And I swear I can already see her cheeks. She gets that from her mommy's side.

That’s right, folks! Robert and I are expecting a sweet, angelic baby girl! πŸ™‚ (Okay, maybe we’re not expecting a sweet, angelic anything…but she will be female, whatever her personality!)

We went in for the eighteen-week ultrasound the day after my birthday, and we were thrilled to see our precious little girl looking less like a wiggly mushroom or shrimp and more like a human being. She’s about the size of a grapefruit and weighs 10 ounces. (This morning, I called her my little filet. I like that nickname. Mon petit filet!) In fact, because of her size, they changed my due date by three days! I’m actually 19 and a half weeks along (man, that nineteenth week went by fast!), and we’ll expect her on February 13th instead of the 16th.

She looks good and active–she has two arms, two legs, looks to have ten fingers and ten toes (from what we can see on a grainy ultrasound). Her heart just flutters as strongly as anyone could want. She also looks like she inherited a pair of long legs from her Daddy’s side of the family. Currently, she’s traverse, in “hammock pose” (I like to say), which is fine for this stage. One of her favorite exercises (and this has been true since the beginning) is to bring her knees to her chest and suddenly thrust both legs out as far as they can reach. I think that’s the source of the squirming I’ve been feeling. For now, when she’s just a 10-oz. filet lying traverse, we’re good to go. But…when she’s in the head-down position? Those long legs are going to aim right for my ribcage and kidneys! I’m dreading that experience, but I’m a little bit too in love with the idea that she’ll be a dancer or a yoga guru or gymnast or soccer player or basketball player…to worry about some future kidney-kicks. (As the girl who only dreamed for long legs, seeing her daughter with legs that are clearly way longer than her torso is exciting.)

So, here’s to our new little social subject: Melanie Hab.! What a great adventure lies ahead of her.

Pregnancy and Body Image in the (still!) 20-Something Grad Student

September 10, 2011 § 9 Comments

I have just nine days to claim that I am still a “20-something.” Sure, I went kicking and screaming into this decade, terrified to lose the hard-won title of “teen.” And now? Now I’m clinging desperately to the last nine days of 29. In the meantime, there will be celebrations and hoopla, but I’m still digging my heels into the ever-shifting earth, gritting my teeth against reality, and squeezing my eyes shut to the truth. On September 20th, 2011, I will turn 30.

As I reflect on these last nine days, I’m struck by some very real disappointments. When I was eighteen, I had made a plan. I decided that I would pursue my PhD in English so that I could become a world-famous scholar. (Little did I know what that job really meant.) I would graduate with my PhD in English (with honors and utterly hyper-involved in committees and other CV-building activities) before I turned 30. In fact, I determined, it would be possible and highly probable that I would graduate with my Master’s in 2006 (done!) at the age of 24, and then I would graduate with my PhD in 2010 at the age of 28. Silly, adorable girl. I had heard tell of some true scholars, masterful experts in their fields, who had completed their doctoral degrees in four years’ time. I would be one of those overachievers. Easy-peasy. I had also decided that I would begin my family prior to turning 30. I would already have two children, the oldest around the age of 2.

It’s an adorable, pie-in-the-sky fantasy, isn’t it? (The worst is that not one person told me I was naive, that I was underestimating the work load and overestimating my ability. Where were the cynics when I needed them? Was everyone truly just watching, waiting on the sidelines to see if I actually would do it?)

Between the ages of 22 and 29, I gained 80 pounds. (If you go further back…to the ages of 20 and 29, it’s a gain of 100 pounds.)

The weight fluctuated, as weight often does, so that I would lose loads and then gain it all back with interest. As an undergraduate, I dated twice. The first (2000-2001) was an utter disastrous mistake. He knows he was a mistake because I informed him of that the night I ended it. He warped my mind, my self-perception, left me shaken, confused, and insecure. The second (Spring Break of 2004) was a fling. He kissed me in a way that made me tingle and made my heart race. But he was as dull as dishwater; he wasted my limited cell phone minutes with hours of one-sided conversation…all from my end of the line. I also suspected that he had limited brain matter, so I quickly grew bored of him in a matter of a week. I lied to him on the day that I ended our little dating experiment, telling him that I had definitely been accepted into an out-of-state Master’s program. (I had only been wait-listed and was in the heart-rending process of begging my way in.)

I dated no one during my Master’s program. I put my head down, convinced myself I was unloveable, and dedicated myself to my plan of scholarly pursuits. (I figured if I could at least get the doctorate before 30, then I wouldn’t need the family portion of my plan to see fruition.) My weight steadily increased (except for a couple of months here and there of intentional weight loss), and I knew I was ugly and undesirable. I developed feelings for a fellow Master’s student, but he failed to notice me. I knew it was because of my weight. I entered my PhD program confident that I had lost all opportunity to find love and fulfill any dream of becoming a young-ish mother and scholar, so I stopped looking with interest. Robert came around in January 2007, and that history has been fairly well-documented. I continued to struggle with my appearance, so utterly confused as to why this man found me not only physically attractive but also worth expressing love to.

When I was sixteen, I told myself on my darkest days that it would get better when I was married. When I knew someone was voluntarily linked to me, I would feel better about my appearance. I wouldn’t care so much about my weight. And then a decade later, as a twenty-six-year-old fiancΓ©e, I told myself that pregnancy would cure me of my body image issues. (You’re supposed to look fat when you’re pregnant, right??)

As a twenty-nine-year-old four-month pregnant wife (who still doesn’t have a doctorate to speak of, and who is nine days away from 30), it slowly has dawned on me that I may not be curable. I may never feel confident about my body. As I lay in bed beside my husband who rubs my expanding abdomen, I try to hear his voice over my own. I try to hear him telling me that I am beautiful, sexy, extremely feminine. The din he unwittingly competes against rumbles on that I am fat, disgusting, ugly. That I don’t even look pregnant…just fatter.

The worst of it is that this is my first pregnancy, so I have no idea where this dialogue has come from. I certainly hadn’t spent years perfecting the self-loathing pregnancy track in order to destroy my confidence as I grow our baby. (And, as a side-note, I should clarify that, in utter and unabashed paradox, I am thrilled to see the swell of my abdomen because it means the baby is growing. Have I become so detached from my body?) But it strikes me. These aren’t my words. These aren’t my original thoughts. I am not that creative.

No, these are the words of the world around me. These are the values of the society to which I succumb while I attempt to work my way through a brand-new physical experience. In the beginning, Robert and I had agreed that I would lose enough weight to feel confident (we guessed around 130 pounds, which would bring me to a weight of 135, comfortable for my 5’3″ frame). And last year, when I wasn’t writing, I began that progress and lost 40 pounds. And then gained it all back plus an additional twenty. I knew I couldn’t ignore the drumming in my head any longer, the pounding against my skull that begged “babybabybabybabybabybaby.” At the beginning of the year, far from my pre-pregnancy weight loss goal, I gave voice to that drumbeat. Robert was concerned because he knew what I saw when I looked in the mirror. He knew that I would only gain more in order to grow a healthy baby. He worried about whether or not I would enjoy the process of pregnancy.

He was right to worry.

Although I am enjoying (most of) the new sensations that accompany pregnancy (this week I am confident that I have felt the baby squirm at least once a day), I am not enjoying the changes in my own body. I lamented last night that I did not understand how my pants could get so tight that I couldn’t fasten them (typically a sign of at least 8-10 pounds gained), yet I’m still one pound under my pre-pregnancy weight. How could it be that my total pregnancy weight gain is -1 pound, but I’ve already started to wear waist-band expanding contraptions on my pants? To my great frustration, I cannot reconcile my logical brain (“the baby is the size of a navel orange, and your uterus is the size of a cantaloupe…your pants will not zip up over that”) with my emotional brain (“but…they fit fine last week!”)

And, as I said, I realize they’re not my words. They’re the words of this ass-backwards, utterly mind-fucking society. Just look anywhere and you’ll see messages of doom and gloom for the woman who gains weight throughout her pregnancy, whose belly swells.

On July 28th, this year, the Today Show aired a segment where they examined a growing trend of anxiety-related weight problems with pregnant and just-post-partum women. If you’re not familiar, please take a moment to watch it, here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/#43925366

On July 28th, I was 11 weeks pregnant. I was gripped with anxiety about losing the pregnancy, despite a healthy ultrasound just sixteen days prior to watching this segment air. I had lost 11 pounds since becoming pregnant. (Utterly unintentionally, but I was delighted.)

I immediately felt guilty. I am one of those women who is worried about gaining too much during her pregnancy because I am already so very obese. Dr. Nancy chides those who are concerned about weight gain, telling us to focus on the fact that we are actually capable of conceiving when there are so many unfortunate women who struggle. I wanted to dig a hole and hide into it. Where was my compassion?

In the seven weeks since that time, I’ve found myself still just as anxious about my weight and appearance as I was on July 28th. How could I not have gotten the message? What was wrong with me?

This:

"Wow! Victoria Beckham Debuts Slamming, Size-0 Post-Baby Bod." From US Weekly, 9.3.11. Posh Spice lost all of her pregnancy weight before her baby was 8 weeks old.


(image courtesy US Weekly)

And this:
Jaw-Dropping Post-Baby Bods!” from US Weekly (a whole gallery of celeb moms who lost it all in an incredible amount of time.)

And this:
Hollywood’s Hottest Moms” from InStyle (another gallery of svelte post-baby celeb moms; gives the impression that the only way to be a “hot” mom is to be wafer-thin and runway-ready.)

And this:
Hey mama! Post-baby body secrets of celebrity mothers” from New York Daily News (apparently one of the best ways to “lose weight” is to breastfeed. Except when you realize that breastfeeding mostly just shrinks the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size by releasing a specific hormone. Sure, it burns some calories, but it can’t combat poor nutrition.)

But I’m not the only one! Read this interview with new mom Elaine Schoch on MSN Health
Celebrity mamas fuel post-baby body blues

These are the images that bombard me when I turn on the television. When I go grocery shopping. These are the tales of weight-loss victory I hear in the waiting rooms of my OB. On the radio when I drive to work.

I know not to lose weight during my pregnancy. I also know that as an obese woman, I should not gain too much weight. I’m proud of my -1 pound of gain in the past seventeen weeks. But I don’t intend to keep it up. I intend to gain only when I need to…and hopefully, that gain will primarily come from Baby Hab. In the meantime, I do feel confused and frustrated. As a woman who has spent most of her adult life despising when clothes begin to feel tight, I am not sure how to feel when the numbers on the scale don’t indicate a gain but when the pants won’t zip.

I don’t fit into any maternity clothing because they seem to be mostly designed for already small women who just happen to get a little pooch. I’ve been seeing a change in my actual body composition…my upper legs are a little bit larger, my ass is certainly more spread out. And, of course, my abdomen is beginning to swell. Not fitting into the clothes meant for women who are purposefully expanding is disheartening, humiliating, and degrading. I begin to worry that nobody will know that I’m pregnant. I have been purchasing clothes that are simply a size larger than my pre-pregnancy size. Nothing I have purchased falls into the “maternity” category. Nothing shows off the increasing swell in my abdomen. And I’m not sure it ever will.

These are my insecurities. And sources of deep confusion. As well as guilt. I realize what an ironic blessing it is that I even have the ability to complain about the changes in my body.

I wonder if it will change…or when it will.

The trip to the bathroom that changed my life

August 11, 2011 § 32 Comments

Robert and I walked through the door, herding our love-deprived cats out of the way, heavy bags in hand. (A quick side note: the cats were totally not love-deprived–they had been well cared-for over the weekend while we were away. Thanks, sister!) We unloaded our arms, loved on the cats for a moment, and chomped our way greedily through the Publix subs we had picked up on the way home.

My bladder couldn’t stand it any longer. Robert likes to call me a camel–I can hold it like a damn champion. It started in grade school when it dawned on me just how gross the school bathrooms were, and just how much I preferred the cleanliness of our toilets at home. My strength only increased as I grew older and developed even more finely my disgust for urine-sprinkled seats, poorly-flushed bowls, and questionable wet flecks on toilet handles. Because of this extraordinarily strong bladder I have trained, I sometimes miss the early cues and warning signs…leaving me in an incredible lurch when a visit to the bathroom is not only necessary but immediately imminent. On this particular evening, the night before Robert’s 28th birthday, I found my bladder beginning to send uncomfortable urgent signals to my brain. I shot up off the couch and announced probably too loudly, “I have got to pee!” (As though I had been physically restrained by Robert. He shook his head and gave me an amused smile. He hates it when I wait until the absolute last minute before the need to go becomes an emergency.) I ran to the bathroom.

On the way, I had a thought.

While I sat on the toilet, I decided to keep myself occupied. I put my urine to work.

And then I counted to one-hundred twenty while I washed my hands.

I glanced over to my right and knew just then: this trip to the potty wasn’t going to just be any ol’ trip to the potty. This was the trip to the potty. The one I’d remember forever. The one that took place at 7 p.m. on June 5th.

The one where I found out that I was pregnant.

The positive sign was faint–I hadn’t missed my period yet. But it was there. Boy, was it there.

I grinned. I whispered, “Oh my God….” I laughed.

I grabbed the stick (wiping it off to make sure it wasn’t gross), snatched up the instructions, and walked back to Robert. I tried to hide my smile so that I didn’t give the surprise away. I handed him the instructions and the test, and he responded, “What am I looking at?” I laughed and pointed to the results indication on the instructions. His eyes lit up, and his grin rivaled mine.

“Happy birthday to me,” he laughed.

We hugged, cried, checked the test over and over.

But there it was, plain as day: we were going to have a baby.

I’ll be honest, friends. I took six home tests. On July 12th, I had my first prenatal appointment, which included another urine test. So technically, I took seven pregnancy tests. They all came back positive.

Baby Hab. is due on February 16th, although I’m hoping for Valentine’s Day. πŸ™‚

I’m 13 weeks along, as of today. My absence from the blog can be explained by my overwhelming need to wait to make my online announcement about Baby Hab.’s conception. Robert and I told our parents and siblings on June 18th, and we called the rest of our extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins) on Father’s Day the 19th.

When I had to change my graduation plans on June 21st, I realized that I would have an incredibly difficult time not writing about my pregnancy before I intended to. So I decided to take an unannounced hiatus. In that time, you all have been incredibly supportive and sweet. Many of you have contacted me through comments to check on how I’m doing (great!), and a few of you even e-mailed me privately to extend a word of encouragement. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.

You may or may not recall from the June 21st blog post about graduation that one of the reasons I listed for slowing down was so that I wouldn’t cause any harm to my body. The baby is why. I didn’t want to endanger my pregnancy for the sake of attempting to meet this impossible new deadline. I know I’ve made the right decision.

So, to answer the potential questions I think I can rightly anticipate:

1. I’m feeling better now than I had been earlier. Around my fifth week, I started experiencing morning sickness and motion sickness. (By the way, that term “morning sickness” is a damn filthy lie. My nausea lasted all day long.) I never actually vomited, but every day I felt like it was imminent. These past few days have improved. My hunger pangs don’t feel like hunger, though–it’s just increased nausea. It’s incredibly difficult to force yourself to eat when you’re afraid you’ll be sick. (Today, though…blech. I woke up feeling really yucky. I’ve pretty much just kept myself on the couch today.)

2. My energy dropped down like you wouldn’t believe. I couldn’t keep my eyes open most of the time. Lately, though, I’ve started to feel my energy start to pick back up. I still knock out around 2:30 and sleep for about ten minutes (deeeeep, dream-filled sleep), but I spend most of my days awake now.

3. I haven’t written much on the dissertation. I’ve got almost 20 pages of writing on the last chapter, but I have really pumped the brakes. And I don’t feel guilty about it. At this rate, I’ll probably defend sometime in September, which is well ahead of the deadline to graduate in December. (Oh…I’ll be eight months pregnant at graduation, ha….)

Okay, that’s about all I can think of–please feel free to ask any other questions as they come up! πŸ™‚ I’ll either answer on the blog, or (if it’s of a more personal nature) I’ll contact you privately.

Thanks again for your continuing support. I’m thrilled to be back.

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