Working It Out
Arcata CA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 3, May-June 2003, p. 97
When I was blessed a few years back with a baby boy, I had a vision. My life would go on much as before, only with a tiny baby keeping me company, smiling and gurgling as I went through the routines of daily living. That vision was almost immediately replaced with one where I barely maintained my sanity while struggling to meet the needs of one who, while adorable, was a tyrant. Any time of the day and especially at night I answered his clarion calls for "Milk, milk, milk, and step on it!" In those early weeks I was oblivious to everything but mastering this new role of motherhood.
It was then that I began to notice that not only had my world changed, but also I had changed. Namely, there seemed to be a lot more of me. Twenty-four pounds more, to be exact. I told myself it was all in my breasts, but that myth was dispelled after my husband pointed out that I was wearing maternity jeans. Embarrassed, I packed them away, and was left with a wardrobe of sweatpants and tight t-shirts.
I told my doctor, "I think I have a glandular problem. All the other nursing mothers are losing weight, but I hardly eat anything and I haven't lost an ounce!"
She smiled gently and said, "If you burn more calories than you take in, you'll lose weight."
She didn't believe me! I left her office in a huff, grumbling about the unfairness of it all. When did I, a new mother, ever have time for a meal? Most nights it was all I could do to grab a spoon and a pint of ice cream while my little one was nestled at my breast.
I tried to ignore the growing problem of the larger me by avoiding full-length mirrors and clothes in general, but my new pounds fairly shouted for attention. They stood out in all sorts of awkward bulges, as if they'd been lobbed at me from some distance away and stuck fast. My ankles were thick and my feet were plump, my knees had a double chin and my midsection, well, let's just say I got tired of people asking me when my next baby was due. My upper torso was dominated by "The Milk Factory," but the novelty of being well endowed quickly wore off. I wanted my old body back and was willing to try anything to get it.
"I'll exercise," I declared. The local gym was advertising an aerobics class for new mothers. Babies were welcome. I signed up right away. On class day, I struggled to get out of the house on time, lugging my son in a car carrier that seemed to weigh 100 pounds. I couldn't find parking nearby, so I walked a few blocks with the carrier bashing into my shins. By the time I reached the gym, I was sweating profusely. Class had already started, led by a boyish woman with a body fat percentage of 3.0. She whipped the class through a routine of jumping, step climbing, and marching that hurt every part of my body. The other women moved smoothly through the program while I focused on not looking like a fool, but I was always a step or three behind. Everyone was kind. I was glad, though, that my son slept through the entire pathetic performance. We went home and I weighed myself. I had lost a pound.
I went to my second class a few days later. This time I managed to keep up somewhat, and even to throw some verve into my moves. As I leapt onto my step and threw my right foot out, I lost my balance and fell, knocking over the woman in front of me. Red-faced, I finished the class and went home to weigh myself. I had gained a pound.
I decided aerobics was not my "thing." Instead I bought a fancy jogging stroller, intending to zip around the block a few times a week with my baby riding in style. I had been an enthusiastic runner before my pregnancy, thinking nothing of knocking off two or three miles every other day. It wouldn't take long to fall back into my old habits.
Everything went fine with my new program until I came to my first hill, and then I fell apart. It may as well have been Mount Rainier for all the gasping, grunting, and perspiring that went on, and that was just the first 20 yards. I felt awkward not having my hands free, and altogether discouraged with my outing. "My running days are over," I thought dispiritedly.
Right about then I decided to leave my fat where it was for awhile and tackle another problem that had been bothering me-loneliness. My old friends didn't seem to understand my new life very well, and sometimes blanched when I whipped out a breast to feed my son. I hadn't really gotten around to making new friends. So, despite my innate shyness, I dragged myself to a La Leche League meeting.
It was astonishing to see so many women brought together by a common interest, cheerfully nursing their babies and discussing the changes motherhood had brought as if they actually relished their new lives. I really enjoyed my first meeting. I met someone there, a woman with a baby girl, who happened to live in my neighborhood. Before long we had arranged to push our strollers around the lake a couple of times a week. She was such good company and we had so much in common that I really looked forward to these outings.
After a few weeks she suggested that we jog a little way each time we did our three-mile route, and it seemed like a good idea. The pace was never so strenuous that we couldn't keep talking. One day we were so engrossed in our subject, I think it was spit-up, that we jogged the whole three miles. It wasn't long after that that I put my sweatpants and my scale away.
My jogging and mothering buddy lives 600 hundred miles away now, but she's never far from my thoughts. I wonder if she knows how profound an effect she had on my confidence and my spirit. Thank you, my dear friend! And thanks to La Leche League for bringing us together!