Monday, January 26, 2015

Losing The Baby Weight

"Wow. You don't look like you've had four kids."

I've heard that before. I suppose it's meant as some sort of compliment that I've somehow been lucky enough to have survived four pregnancies without my body being completely destroyed.

It's true that I never had  a lot of trouble "losing the baby weight". I might weigh a good ten pounds more than I did before my first pregnancy,  but I think that has more to do with hitting my forties than any lingering postpartum pounds.

I did, after all have my first baby more than eighteen years ago.

I gained exactly thirty pounds with that first pregnancy. It seemed like all baby. You couldn't even tell I was pregnant if you looked at me from behind. From the front, it looked like I'd tucked a basketball up under my circus-tent maternity blouse (the kind that were considered oh-so-chic in the mid-90s. Thankfully, maternity wear has come a long way since then. My daughters will be much more fashionable.)

He weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces when the nurse laid him in my arms. It might as well have been the weight of the world. I didn't know what to do with that little human.The weight of my responsibility seemed enormous, like I would drown in it and be lost forever.

I lost myself in parenting books and La Leche League meetings and vaccine research and nutrition labels. I was afraid that any wrong choice would leave him scarred for life, if not physically at least emotionally. So I obsessed and I worried. The weight of him in my arms was lite, but the weight of him on my heart seemed immense.

He weighed over 30 pounds by the time he reached his second birthday. He was heavy to carry, balanced precariously on my hip, constantly grabbing for things. The weight of his questions pressed on my sanity. Now he was on the move and into everything, the weight of keeping him safe and sparking the curiosity of his rapidly developing brain weighed on me with more gravity than his toddler body.

He topped fifty pounds when he hit school age. He was almost too big to carry, and had to share my arms with a brother and sister. And I carried the load of his early education, of life lessons, and the development of his character.

When he hit puberty, he weighed more than 100 pounds, and I wondered when he had become too big to hold. That day slipped past in a stream of so many others, and I am sad that it doesn't stick out in my memory. I should have remembered the last time I held him. I should have lingered on his little boy smell before it was replaced with body odor and deodorant and dirty socks. When he turned thirteen, I was no longer burdened by his weight in my lap, but by the weight of the grocery bill (Oh. My. God. The amount of food growing teen boys consume on a daily basis! It will blow your mind.) and of teaching him about safe sex and respecting women and of self-respect and managing money, of being honest and true to your word.

And on top of it all was the added weight of his three siblings.

Public Domain
I thought I would have lost it by now. The baby weight.

It's been more than eleven years since my body has birthed a baby. It seems like more than enough time to shed the extra weight that motherhood packs on.

But while the maternal weight can't be seen on my hips and my thighs, it's the weight that can't be seen by the naked eye that can't be shed. It's the weight of my concern for the well-being of four fabulous human beings that the Universe thought to place in my care. It's heavier than the pounds that the bathroom scale measures and it grows as they grow. That weight doesn't go away, not with any amount of time or fad dieting or exercise or plastic surgery. It's there forever. There are probably more stretch marks on my heart than on my belly.

It's that weight on my heart that won't go away. Not if I live to be 150.

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