05 May 2006

FatBrain Strikes

It started innocently enough. A friend took a snapshot of me, Kestrel, Catalina (the other baby he was playing with), and her mommy. Her mommy was gorgeous. Thin, made-up, perfect hair, generally just all-around put together. I looked like absolute hell. I was making a bad face, but.... but.... I'm fat. For the first time ever in my life, having babies has led me down the metabolic road to hell. It's not like I didn't know this was coming. I'd actually taken advantage of the presence of a scale in the home I was visiting (I don't own one, and haven't weighed myself since just after I had Kestrel) to find out the damage. The numbers aren't that bad; I weigh what I weighed before Rowan was born. Except that then, those numbers indicated a body that went to the gym for at least an hour every stinkin day and had muscles so solid that I got recruited for the gym's bodybuilding team even while 6 months pregnant with Rowan, and now they indicate a body that cleans up toddler food leavings by eating them herself. I'm wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes, too. Except for jeans, since my hips have spread and there's not a darned thing I can do about that short of wrapping myself like a mummy. If a pelvis is going to move around to let a baby out, it's never going back to the way it was before. I'm cool with that. But why, oh why, does it need to keep that extra bit of padding on top??? The female body metabolism shifts radically during nursing, so that fat reserves are held onto for dear life... the life of the baby, to be precise. When a woman's body is providing nourishment for a baby, it tends to fortify against any possible disruption of the food supply, and that means keeping fat around. So that means that evolutionarily speaking, I'm a winner. The genes for survival are there. Very little comfort, that, but there you have it. The clearest statement I can find for how culture and evolution can at times be at cross-purpose. It would help if I lived in a culture where postpartum poundage was recognized as a sign of a mother's dedication rather than a signal that she'd gone badly to seed. Alas, we worship the maiden and despise the mother and crone here in the Western World. Women with children are the #2 most ignored group of people anywhere, just behind old women. I'll never be a maiden again, and I'm good with that. I *am* a mother, I have walked that valley, I have two beautiful boys and a whole lot of good story material to show for it. I just wish that, as capable as I am of bucking society's trend in every other arena of life, I didn't recoil in horror at my own photographs. Besides the Mommy Metabolism, of course, the two key factors to personal poundage are diet and exercise. We've been flirting with a raw diet for months now, and I've been vegan for about a year, with slipups now and then for scrambled eggs and gourmet cheese. So it's not like my caloric intake is all that dramatic. I'm a fruit and veggie girl. So, very little hope for help there. It's the lack of real exercise that's killing me. Who amongst us walking the Mommy Way has time for a real workout like in the pre-mommy days? Certainly not me, not if I want to keep my domestic scene from degenerating into utter chaos. And while life with a toddler and a pre-toddler does provide opportunities for incredible activity, it's seldom the sustained activity that's required. It's usually just individual instances of heart-pounding stress, with great stretches of not much in the middle. The challenge, going forward, is acceptance. Isn't it always, though? Acceptance of my mommy body, acceptance of my time limitations, acceptance of my role as Provider of Primary Nutrition to my boyo. And in the meantime, maybe I should run around the block a few times.


At 5/05/2006 09:48:00 AM, Anonymous Bubba said...

Beware the demon "acceptance".

That leads to inclusion in the Mount BubbaManJaro Club.

I don't like this club. It's painful. I'd HATE to see you join me.

At 5/05/2006 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous v said...

Hey L,
As usual, I love what you wrote, and it all feels familiar. I was a mother when I was still a girl, and that identity is the only one I seem to have. And all the time I hear, “Wow, you look great,” (with the unspoken tagline: “for having ten kids.”) Well, the truth is, great compared to what? Though I’m glad they’re not telling me I look awful, I just look like me. I hear what you’re saying about the loss of fitness, and I can imagine that. Since I never was buff I never had to endure the loss of it…. but your healthy body has never been anything but an ally. It’s taken a different shape now, one ideal for this particular challenge of motherhood. And in any form, you are still beautiful. Love, v

At 5/07/2006 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

yep this is exactly where i'm at too. well except my pre-pregnancy clothes don't fit me anymore. for 2 years i resisted buying larger clothing sizes, telling myself i would have to lose weigh rather than buy bigger stuff, but i just splurged on some last week because i am tired of having nothing comfy to wear. i'm stunned at my weight number...never weighed this much in my life outside of pregnancy...and just can't believe that things I wore last summer aren't buttoning this summer.

it's definitely the lack of exercise. and now that i'm not nursing, eating more calories became habitual except now my body's not burning them like it used to when making milk.

i see what bubba means about acceptance leading down a slippery slope. i also see needing some place to rest between hating your body and being kind to yourself. mixed somewhere in there is mourning the loss of maiden and accepting or acknowledging our new form, new role. in a society practically void of rites of passage, we find ourselves one day transformed into mothers without a process for the emotional/spiritual body to fully grok what was happening. obviously the physical body has a process, 9 months gestation, and then voila, mama has a new body, but our brains sometimes aren't clued into what that means. let's create some kind of ceremony, to welcome the new and say goodbye to the old, shall we? i say it's never too late, even 2 kids later, to just mark this passage with a ritual.

i try to wrap my head around the emerging butterfly image, to remind myself how beautiful this body is, and i am grateful for your reminder that this curvier body means successful reproduction of the species. it's so hard to get past the maiden glorification...hell for me even, I am trying to date (maiden activity) with the mama body/brain and with child attached...wacky reversal of sequence...no wonder things are so screwy in our society, when we make choices way way out of the natural flow of life stages. makes me start to understand why dating feels so blah to me (so many other things a mother needs to do) and yet mother without mate needs to continue to seek mate to preserve the survival of her family. and if our friggin' culture revered mother's bodies like they do the maidenform then it might be a hella lot easier!

sorry for jamming up the comment box...off to my own blog to continue the thought process....

At 5/08/2006 07:34:00 PM, Anonymous Dana said...

And then comes middle age spread. It's never-ending.

As my daughter's eye doc said, "After you're six months old, it's all down hill from there."

Sigh. Dana


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