|Top left: with Maddox. Top right: with Felix. Above "My belly now"|
From a young age my petite figure has been a coveted object to people perhaps not genetically predisposed to have so. I have always been this way. I have never been anorexic. Hell, you can't keep me away from food. When I was in 6th grade a few friends banded together in concern for me. They confronted our guidance councilor, they told her that I was anorexic. They said they were scared for me. My guidance councilor told my parents. I was not anorexic. I am not anorexic. My parents came to me knowing this not to be true and asked if it was. I had to continue to go to school with these girls who had jealousy in their hearts toward me. I could not help it. This is my belly, this is they way my body is. I was shameful, I was self conscious, I was all things I never should have been.
In high school, a breeding ground for self awareness, I became displeased with my abdomen. It happened when I least expected it to, but when most experience it. In the locker room. There was a girl, she was so beautiful. She had these amazing aqua shining eyes surrounded with luscious lashes. You could tell she spent a lot of time out doors, or in a tanning booth, her golden skin so fresh and clean. We were all getting dressed for track practice and she took off her shirt, and there it was...her belly. I was transfixed and was trying to look away. I didnt want her or any of the other girls to see my momentary obsession. She had an abdomen of extreme form. It was an eight pack for lack of better terminology. I went home after practice, showered, and stood, naked, in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom with the door locked. I stared at my belly, flat as it may have been, it was not like her's. I moved on from that day, never forgetting how that made me feel. Is that how my friends in middle school felt?
Time passed, not a thing about my belly ever wavering from the day prior. Then September 26, 2006, I found out I was pregnant. I had never loved my belly more than I did that day. I had never cared less about having a slim figure as I did then. As my tummy became swollen with my growing son, I became more and more please with it's roundness. Feeling the tumbles and the squirms of his little body engulfed in mine. Regardless of how glad I was, I was still issued the occasional, "You don't look that pregnant" or the "from the back you'd never be able to tell". With each comment that was handed to me, the more was taken away from my joy.
At the end of my pregnancy, I became ill. Four weeks prior to having my son, Maddox, I had literal gut wrenching pain, diarrhea, and aversion to eating. I became depressed. Unable to maintain a weight that pleased my midwife I was forcing myself to eat. Luckily, this time passed quickly for me and he was born, with an epidural, four days early, healthy. Six lbs, fifteen oz. I continued to have bowel pain and troubles, sometimes unable to control it. Bending down, picking things up, sneezing hard, I'd loose control and shamefully I'd go tot he bathroom to change my underwear. After about 8 months this all subsided and things were relatively normal again.
In the interim of all this I took a mommy core fitness class. I worked hard and got my flat tummy back in no time. This was actually not my goal in taking this class. I felt happier when I was exercising. In that it was a "mommy" fitness class I was surrounded with women older than me that perhaps were fortunate to gain a reasonable , healthy amount of weight during their pregnancy. The looked at me with side ways glances. Jealous. Am I safe no where? Surely they must be joking. But week after week they were there, with their humorous sarcastic comments. It was rude, it was painful. But I just smiled on. I was beginning to think I was not genetically predisposed to be skinny, more so I was predisposed to have a think skin.
Time passed, as it does, and I met a man. Stephen. Beautiful, wonderful, caring, masculine, Stephen. Oh, man do I love this Stephen. We got married. He loves my belly. In all its forms. We got pregnant. I was excited at first. Again, like my first son, I looked forward to my belly growing with my new son. But I got sick. I got really sick. My first trimester was hard, nausea, vomiting, the flu, a horrible virus that left me bedridden for a week, unable to eat. It was awful. My husband took care of me. Then my second trimester was nice, happy, hungry. I felt great. Still the comments came, you should eat more, when are you going to start showing? All the same as before. And I wondered, could this same dialogue be used with some one who is over weight? Never. I would never imagine saying these things to any one. Every one is fighting their own battle with them selves. Its a spectrum we are all on and its all about perspective.
The happiness ended in August. After Stephen and I had our wedding celebration. I hadn't been able to eat for a couple weeks prior to that day and had had diarrhea for weeks. I called out of work, I was in the hospital. I was severely dehydrated and my potassium was lower than ever. I wasn't eating, no surprise my electrolytes were so out of whack. I couldn't work any more. That killed me. My stomach, intestines, and rectum waged war on me day and night. I hated my belly. I hated my child. I would have traded him in for relief. I was not granted either, trading, or relief. The days pressed on and I became friends with the couch and only the couch. I couldn't tolerate my friends, my Stephen, my son Maddox. I was in hell. I was taking several pills several times a day, treating the symptoms, never finding a cause. I was in the bathroom 10 times during the daylight hours, waking every few hours to sit on my porcelain throne. I saw Dr. Potash, I saw my PCP, weekly visits to my OB. I hated every thing between my neck and my knees. No one could help me. I cried in hospital rooms while the potassium coursed through my veins painfully, while nurse after nurse after nurse missed my veins for IVs. My arms were a war scene. I hated my belly.
After a few visits to Dartmouth I had a diagnosis. Finally. Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. A rare high risk pregnancy related illness. Turns out that what happened at the end of my pregnancy with Maddox. And with each pregnancy the chances are higher that it will come back, stronger, more lethal, and more dangerous. The only cure? To have the baby. I found this out on a Tuesday. I had Felix that same week two days later. Spontaneous, beautiful, natural, vaginal birth. Six weeks early, six lbs 9 oz. Healthy, happy, baby. That baby is three months old now and my belly is small again, not toned like that girl in the locker room, and it may never be like her's.
I am learning to care for my belly. What's inside. The things I eat, the way I eat, what I do. It has become an obsession. I had a 5 week break after I had Felix from the diarrhea and the pain. Then it came back. But I am learning. I am thankful for my healthy sons, my adoring Stephen, and my knowledgeable friends.
And cliche as it may be....Its not whats on the outside that counts. Its the inside that matters. So with that in the forefront of my mind, I will let the comments fall to the wayside, I will smile, and I will say Thank you, I'm a lucky lady.
I love my belly now. I want to care for it and do what is right for it. Think before you open your mouth, for food, for words.