Archive for March, 2008
I’ve got a whole series of thoughts about how becoming a mother has had a huge effect on how I feel about myself and especially my body. They kind of fall into two basic categories: 1) ways in which the physical aspects of motherhood – pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – changed me, and 2) things I have learned from my children themselves, by observing how they eat, move and treat their bodies, seeing as they don’t have 30+ years of psycho-emotional baggage to contend with. I don’t know how well I’ll do, getting these all written and out, but I’m gonna try.
Everything I know about loving my body, I learned from my kids
I’ve been trying to catch up on blog-reading the past few days, and came across this post from wellroundedtype2. At first I just started to comment, but, as often happens for me, when I found myself starting a third paragraph, I thought I might as well just make it a whole darn post of my own.
A lot of the feelings wellroundedtype2 describes having about her child, I have about my own children.
I know there will come a day when one of their peers tells them that their mother’s body is “unacceptable.” I try not to think about it much, but the fact is, I’m sure it will happen, and probably more than once.
And so, in the meantime, I am doing all I can to encourage my boys to love their bodies, and to at least make a good show of seeming to love my own. It’s not always easy – I’ve had a lot of years’ practice at feeling inadequate and pretending my body just doesn’t much exist as best I can. But I chant, “Fake it ’til you make it,” to myself, and give it a shot anyway.
So about six months ago, when one of my boys developed a fascination with my belly, I squelched my angst about it and took a deep breath and pretended that it was fine. That when he pushed my shirt up, and nudged the top of my pants down a bit to reveal my belly button, I didn’t mind. I focused on my breathing and managed not to flinch when he rubbed his hands all the way out to the sides of my belly, and then when he decided to look at my belly button from way too close up, I managed to pretend my laughter was due to tickling instead of embarrassment.
That first time, I thought, “Okay. He wants to check out my tummy, that’s fine. Because all bodies are fine. Because he loves me and has no idea that somehow my body isn’t supposed to be lovable, and so he loves my body as much as he loves the rest of me. Okay. Fake it ’til you make it. Christ on a cracker, I hope he doesn’t plan to make a habit of this.”
Well, of course, he did decide to make a habit of it. Murphy’s Laws of Parenthood required it. And from that point on, he didn’t go more than a couple days between requests to check out my belly.
Sometimes he’d just rub his face on it, and stick his fingers in my belly button.
Then his brother got in on the action, and sometimes I’d be subjected to a whole series of amateur-league raspberries being blown on my belly. Which was just damn funny, and so I laughed my butt off at that.
By this point, I was no longer faking it as much. I’d kind of gotten used to it, and a lot of the time I just found it really sweet, actually.
Then they started up this game, where they would trace the shapes of various foods on my belly – mostly various fruits and cookies – and pretend that those were all the things in my tummy, regardless of what I’d actually eaten. And by then, it was just a thing, and so I focused on encouraging more talking from them (because talking is a bit of an issue for us these days) and teaching them words and concepts and the like.
And so now? I’m cool with it. Of course we have discussions about how we don’t lift up our clothes in public, and sometimes I’m not feeling up for it and so we save it for another time. But a good portion of the time, it’s just this thing my kids do, and it’s cute. They love my belly. Some kids love their mom’s hair, some kids love to play with their mom’s hands, my kids love my belly.
The funny thing is, the longer it goes on, the more and more I accept my body myself. When I couldn’t keep up with a yoga class a week or so ago, I was cool with it. I said, “Damn, that class kicked my ass,” and that’s all there was too it. I didn’t view it as some kind of proof of my failure as a person, and once upon a time? Oh, I soooo would have.
Even during classes that don’t kick my ass, if there are moves I can’t do? I don’t do them. Or I modify them. But otherwise? I don’t worry about it.
It’s just my body. It does the best it can for me, and I am learning to appreciate that, and not spend so much time pouting about why it can’t be a completely different body than it is. I’m learning to treat it more nicely, and let it call the shots more often than I used to. And I’m also learning that when I do let my body call the shots – when I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, sleep when I’m tired, move when I’m energetic – I feel better.
A lot of the time I joke about how once they’re old enough to understand what grounding is, my kids are going to be grounded until they’re 30 for all the crazy things they’ve done and the shocks they’ve caused me thus far in their lives.
The truth is, they’ve also taught me a lot. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for them. I would still be treating my body with suspicion and contempt, trying to deny its very existence as best I could. I suppose that means I owe them a little bit, too.
Well, maybe they’ll only be grounded until they’re 27, then…. 😉
This Sunday will mark the 54th anniversary of my mother’s birth. It will also be the first of her birthdays we will spend without her.
I’ve spent most of the past ten months trapped between a desire to organize and revolutionize and galvanize against the fat hatred which told her that her health was not worth tending, that her life was not worth saving, and the terrible knowledge in my heart that if she knew what I had done – that I’d written about her life and experiences as a fat woman, that I’d even said publicly that she’d been a fat woman, she would be mortified, furious, appalled.
We almost never talked about weight or body size at my house. Once my sister and I reached puberty, we were all fat, and we just didn’t talk much about it unless we absolutely had to, like during the annual clothes shopping trip before the new school year and that sort of thing.
My mom, like I think a lot of us fat folks, was always torn between wanting to be noticed, and wanting to disappear. She wanted to be noticed for being interested in fashion, for knowing how to dress (and for all that her tastes and mine were nothing alike, my mom really did know how to put herself together when she wanted to), for being funny and generous and enthusiastic. But she also feared being noticed, because if someone noticed her, they would also notice she was fat, and she’d been in the world plenty long enough to know that you couldn’t trust most people to look at a fat person and see anything but a ‘big, disgusting fatty’.
So for me to be here, talking about my mom being fat, and talking about how she’d been hurt and humiliated by that doctor, and telling the whole freakin’ world about what she went through?
She would hate that.
She would slap my disrespectful mouth, and rightfully so. Who the hell am I to go on the internet, of all places, and talk about things she never even talked about with me? How dare I sit here and say I loved my mom, and I wish like crazy we could have gotten over all our difficulties so we could have been closer than we were, and say that I miss her and can hardly listen to oldies on the radio anymore because half the songs I hear remind me of her, when at the same time, I’m doing the one thing that would have hurt and humiliated her more than anything else?
And then I read things like this comment from fatgirlonadate.
Or I read posts at First, Do No Harm, a project inspired by my posts about Mom, but which I’ve done jack to help out on in months, so caught up am I in fears of what my mom would think of all this now.
I read all this stuff, and I see that these things are continuing. That people’s lives are at stake here.
And I think, “Mom wouldn’t have wanted that.” If Mom had known about all this, if she’d known what other people had suffered as a result of the same cruelty from (certain) health care professionals as she had, she would have joined up. She would have bought a To Hell With Tiny Pants T-shirt and worn it loud and proud (while bumming around the house on a Saturday afternoon – that whole ambivalence about being noticed thing, you see), and she would have taken part in the discussions, she would have encouraged None Given to get her necessary checkups and not take “no” for an answer from some lab-coated jerkwad too prissy to touch a fat woman’s vagina.
She would have sent an email to fatgirlonadate expressing her sincere condolences about fatgirl’s aunt, and probably would have included a link to a book that she thought might help fatgirl and her mom cope with their grief.
And it’s only now, that I’m sitting here writing this, and thinking seriously about what Mom would have done if she had been around for all this, that I’m finally feeling like perhaps, just maybe, I’ve done the right thing. That she’s not stomping around the afterlife hating me and cursing the day she gave birth to me. That if she’s out there, somewhere, maybe she’s even a little bit proud of me?
So Sunday, in honor of Mom’s birthday, I’ll be going to my yoga class in MY To Hell With Tiny Pants T-shirt, even if I’m concerned it’s a little short on me and I’ll be showing the whole class my stretch-marky belly. And if anyone asks, I’ll explain what it means and why I’m wearing it.
And I’ll listen to “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver and I’ll cry a whole bunch.
And I’ll probably do something else, too. But mostly, I’m going to try to keep in mind what Mom would have done, if she’d known about all this. I’m going to stay focused on how Mom would have responded to the Fatosphere, and try to ignore the voices that tell me she would never have wanted me to say a word about her.
Because she never thought about herself. So long as it had just been her, she wouldn’t have worried about it. But there’s no way she would have stood for someone else being treated the same way she had been. There’s no way she would have sat back and done nothing, knowing that other people were living in pain, were sick, and some were even dying, because of health care professionals who think they’re too good to treat fat people.
Maybe she wouldn’t have been on the front lines, but she’d have been here. She’d be reading and commenting and supporting other people as much as she could.
Granted, I doubt she’d be thrilled to know I talked about her so publicly, but I think she’d have understood, and I think she’d have forgiven me. Well, eventually.