Monday, February 09, 2009

not fighting the power

When I was pregnant with Gabe, I viewed my expanding belly with a certain measure of awe. I couldn't believe my body was capable of doing this amazing thing, and I was ecstatic when it became obvious to those around me that my buddha belly was from pregnancy, not just weight gain. I was pretty liberal with what I ate, taking advantage of the pregnancy and enjoying the newfound flavors that were appearing in food. I don't know if this happens to everyone, but when I'm pregnant, food tastes amazing. An ordinary turkey sandwich turns into the most delicious turkey sandwich I've ever had, a chocolate chip cookie can practically cause orgasms, and even a salad tastes delectable.

This liberal attitude meant that as the end of my pregnancy approached, I'd gained considerably more weight than I'd hoped to gain. It wasn't atrocious, but I ended up gaining around 40 pounds. I say "around", because they didn't weigh me at my last appointment when I ended up being induced, but based on where things were headed at my 40 week appointment, I'm sure I hit at least 40 pounds and I choose not to even think about how much I may have gained in those last few days. I still (stupidly) wasn't super worried about the weight gain because up until that point I hadn't struggled with my weight. I fluctuated a bit over the years from college to law school and through marriage and job changes and moves, but we're talking about a change of about 5-10 pounds, nothing that would have made me think that losing the pregnancy weight would be a challenge. My mom always talks about how she lost all her pregnancy weight within 2 months of giving birth, and I was optimistic that I'd have a similar experience.

I was, umm, very wrong. From the start, losing the weight from Gabe's pregnancy was difficult. I dropped the typical water weight, placenta, amniotic fluid, and actual baby weight within a couple of weeks, but I was left with 15-20 pounds that were firmly settled into my hips, thighs, and stomach. Breastfeeding did NOT help, and in fact, in the end it turned out that my body held onto a good 5-7 pounds until I finished breastfeeding, no matter what I did. Losing the weight did happen, but not until Gabe was 15 months old. I stopped breastfeeding when he was a year old, watched what I ate (to a certain extent), started taking longish exercise walks with Gabe, and willed the weight away. I had gotten to the point where I started to think that perhaps the weight would never go away, when I stopped breastfeeding and slowly the last pounds started coming off.

Still, even when I hit my pre-pregnancy weight, I didn't fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I suspect my body has reorganized itself into a different shape, but as long as the number on the scale was the same, I could deal with the new changes. I bought almost a whole new wardrobe of pants and shirts, and I was relatively satisfied with where I was.

And then I got pregnant.

Literally, the same month that I hit my pre-pregnancy weight, that second line showed up on the test. I couldn't believe it. Having just lost the last few pounds of weight, being pregnant again was a totally different experience. I was anxious and careful about the weight gain this time around. I was almost relieved, in a way, that my nausea kept me from over-eating. I felt sick far, far longer than I had with Gabe, and although it was torturous to be debilitatingly nauseous at 20 weeks, I was grateful when I stepped on the scale each week at the doctor's office and found that the numbers had stayed the same.

At the same time, though, I felt so guilty to be obsessing over such an inane thing. Who cared about the weight gain when I was so blessed? How could I be thinking about a stupid number when I was growing a beautiful baby? But I couldn't help myself. I was terrified of facing the same long struggle with pregnancy weight, and I pledged to try to gain less this time around. I'd be more careful, do a little more exercise, eat a few less cookies. As I'm writing this I feel like this makes it sound like I was seriously restricting my food intake or agonizing over this, which couldn't be farther from the truth. It wasn't like I was going to the gym or taking extreme measures with my diet, but it was often on my mind.

In the end, I was able to gain less than my last pregnancy, and Josie was kind enough to come a few days early, which helped. I topped off at 30 pounds, and I was really happy with that number. I would have loved to keep it at 25, but I also didn't want to put down the cookies, so I guess I didn't want it that bad.

Thankfully, the post-partum experience has been totally different also. With a toddler and a newborn, I don't have the time to sit on the couch and eat all day. I'm also up and down playing with Gabe and picking up the house and bouncing Josie around. The weather has been abysmal here, so we've done NO walking whatsoever, but still the number keeps dropping on the scale. On Saturday, I almost cried when I was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans after less than 8 weeks. That is ridiculous! Gabe was a year old before any of my pre-pregnancy clothes could even be attempted. I still have a ways to go, though, and I suspect I might still hold onto these last 6 pounds, just as I did with Gabe, but I'm relieved that I haven't struggled the same way.

At the same time, even as I'm typing this post, and while I was watching my weight over the last 11 months, I feel almost sick that this is worthy of a blog post. Why are we (or at least me) so obsessed with weight? Who cares? We attended a birthday party on Saturday, and I was struck by how thin all of the mothers were. Not just regular thin, but almost anorexic thin, TOO thin. Even the ones that were pregnant were all skinny legs and arms with a belly protruding from fitted clothes. I got an email the other day with pregnancy tips and their advice was that I do a MINIMUM of five days of cardio per week while I'm pregnant. I'm sorry, I am all about staying fit and keeping things healthy and under control when you're pregnant (and I saw the results of eating liberally last time), but I also think that maybe we are going overboard.

Not only do I have an Ivy league education, try to be a good partner for Josh, raise two kids, keep the house in decent shape, be interesting, fun, kind, but I also have to look hot doing it. It's crazy!

Still, I know it is nuts and unfair and unnecessary, but I will still be relieved when those last pounds are gone. Vain, huh?


Anonymous said...

Girl, don't even get me started on weight issues. I have MAJOR ones. No matter how thin I get, it's never enough and then I gain weight frighteningly easy (as I did over the now trying to drop a good 10-15 NOT VANITY lbs.). It just never ends for me. It dawned on me the other day that I don't know how to eat unless I'm on some sort of diet. I'm a smart woman, I should know better. This "weight battle" that I've been fighting since I was 12 years old (yes, really) is pathetic. Sad, actually.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

What, you object to being a Stepford wife? What's the matter with you?

Seriously, I totally identified with your post. It took me two years after AB to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and I didn't do it healthfully; I lost the last 5 pounds because I was in trial and I don't really eat then. And then, after enjoying all the compliments ("You are so skinny," which no one had EVER said to me before, because I never was a "skinny girl") over the November and December holidays, I got pregnant with ALB. Whoopee.

Summer said...

As long as your concern about your weight and size isn't taking over your life, and as long as you aren't basing your self-worth on the size of your jeans, I wouldn't feel too guilty about caring about your weight. After all, it is a health issue. Obesity leads to all sorts of health problems, and the things you do to keep your weight down -- eating sensibly, exercising -- have health benefits that extend beyond weight control. A little vanity is healthy!

Meika said...

Oh, my gosh. Yes. Baby #1 was born in Japan, and there were no weight issues there because the doctor told me I was too fat at every visit but one. Not fun, but a good motivator. The pounds dropped themselves right off (like you, clothes still didn't fit though). Then the big move. In the three weeks that we spent living in the Marriott in Japan and then were in Hawaii, I put on TEN POUNDS of cheeseburger and curry weight. Then got pregnant again. Gakk. Anyway, I just joined the gym and went for the first time yesterday, and as I walked my laps around the track went... holy crap. It's a good thing I did this. I am TUBBY!

Sorry to hijack with my own personal little rant there, but *I* feel better now, anyway! :)

ccw said...

It took me about a year to lose the weight with each of the three and yes everything rearranged after each one.

There is skinny mother syndrome in my neighborhood also. There are some normal sized women and a few that would be very overweight/obese but for the most part everyone is probably a size 6 or under.

I wish I could say that I was above it but I have major weight issues no matter my size and they are worse when I am thinner.

My Wombinations said...

I do not think it is shallow to want to look like yourself again after a baby. I have sold more than a couple essays on the topic to major magazines, which makes me think we are not alone:)

liz said...

Reading the folks over at Shapely Prose (and check out the folks in the sidebar there, too!), has really helped quiet (though not stop for good) those voices in my head about my weight, my body shape, my pants-size.

Hugs and kisses.

liz said...

And also check out The Shape of a Mother. Our bodies change. They just do. And sometimes the weight never comes off. And sometimes gravity has an effect. And sometimes we don't change at all when we expect to.

Knit and Purl Mama said...

Every woman is obsessed with weight, even when women are thin, they think they could be thinner.

I got pregnant with Mack when Sean (and Gabe -his birthday buddy!) was almost 9 months old. I still had on me about 15 lbs from my pregnancy with Sean. Maybe even 20. I had gained SIXTY pounds with Sean. Yes, you read that right. But, I went from losing 25 lbs in 2005 for my wedding, to April of 2006 getting pregnant and discovering food again, like you said. I was NOT letting myself gain that much with Mack's pregnancy, especially sicne I had still not lost all of it from Sean's pregnancy.

Now that Mack just turned 9 months old (and I didnt really breastfeed either kid very long), I'm finally doing something about it (and seeing a nutritionist and excercising too). I'm not down 18.2 lbs in 9 weeks. (about 2 lbs per week). I still have almost 17 lbs (just less) to go, to reach my goal. It's hard let me tell you. Especially when you love food. It's going to be a long journey, but I'm willing to take it!

Wishing you good luck with your journey.