Jess got her 2 month shots recently, and while we were at the public health nurse, they also weighed and measured and assessed all sorts of things. (See, me crying in a medical office while discussing my feelings, AGAIN, ugh.) She took her shots like a champ. There were three of them in quick succession (and having got my own booster shot 1 minute earlier, I was extra sympathetic about how much they hurt). Jess was screaming away as I tried to latch her on the boob, but she was screaming too much to focus. So the nurse rang a bell, loudly and constantly. I actually laughed at my poor baby who was so entranced by the sound of the bell that she stopped crying completely and then latched on. (She ate for 2 minutes, then fell right asleep, and slept for most of the rest of the afternoon.) The nurse told me that the bell doesn’t normally work on 2 month old babies – usually not until they are older. I was like, yup, my baby is amazing!
However. They also, as I said, weigh and measure the baby. Her head was in the 97th percentile (might explain that c-section…). Her length was about 55th percentile. And her weight? 97th percentile. Which on the weight to height chart put her right off of it, in the what the hell range. Sure, if your baby is at the top range for weight AND height, that you clearly just have a big healthy baby. But 55th and 97th? That’s, well, that said to me that my baby is short and fat and oh god what I am doing wrong to have cause my little girl to be so out of proportionality oversized already panic flail guilt.
Then we had a doctor’s appointment 5 days later, and they weighed her WITHOUT a damp cloth diaper and got her age in weeks correct, and she went to 55th percentile in length and 70th percentile in weight – a much more normal proportion for a little baby.
And I was relieved.
And then I felt kind of shitty, both at my reaction and more so about my relief.
I mean, I’m short and heavy myself. And I’m pretty okay with that. I mean, I’ve been this height since like 14, so I’ve had time to get used to the fact that I’m the shortest in all of my extended family. (My sister is 6 inches taller than me, and my cousins are mostly taller than her.) My weight’s been pretty stable since I started working 8 years ago. My natural weight range is small. Hell, compare my lowest weight in high school while I was on the cabbage soup diet (UGH) and my highest weight pre-pregnancy is only 23 pounds. It’s very hard for me to move outside that range, compared to my sister or cousin whose ranges are much bigger (30 and 50 pounds, respectively). I have long made my peace with my weight, as much is probably possible in our media driven world. I know that I would rather lift weights than run, and that my body muscles easily and holds on to my belly fat, and than it would be so very, very difficult for me to move and then stay bellow my natural range. (Hey, if healthy eating and swimming competitively at least 6 times a week as a teenager didn’t make me slim, there’s not much I can do now at 30 to change that.) Sure, I can be healthier and I do prefer to stay near the low middle of my range instead of the top, but still, I’m okay with my body and myself. (Although one post pregnancy note – c-sections are terrible on your endurance and stomach. I tried crunches yesterday, and managed a measly TEN without even managing to lift my shoulder blades off the ground. And it hurt. My fitness classes a few months ago would often have at least 10 minutes of serious ab work, and now I can’t do 30 seconds of weak work. Sigh. THAT upsets me, and I will be working hard to get my core strength back.)
So, back to the baby. I’m okay with my body and my short and heavy proportions. Why on earth would this cause me to react so strongly about my baby? My breastfed on demand baby? Babies cannot eat more than they are hungry for – their stomach can’t expand and if they eat too much it comes back out. You can’t overfeed a breastfed on demand baby, I’m told by the doctor, the nurse, the internet. And yet, I felt like I was already failing her.
Clearly, I have work to do. My mother had a ton of body issues that she projected on me, and she’s already starting on Jess. (She accused me of letting a 9 week old baby of eating from boredom, not hunger, “like we both do, right?”. Thanks mom.) And I want to break that pattern. I don’t know how yet, but I will work on it. I’ll also tell my daughter that she’s beautiful more often than my mother did to me. (Which is easy. We’ve already surpasses the number zero.) But look that that smile and those chubbly wubbly cheeks.
How can I not want to protect my little girl from my issues? I owe it to her to get over my reaction to the initial news, even if it was incorrect. Because there is a good chance that she will to grow up to be built like the women in my family – short and chesty and muscular and chubby. I owe it to her to make her feel like I always have her back, yes? To make her believe that someone will always find her beautiful and smart and strong. Growing up with that security is something I never had, and really want to be able to give to my baby. So that’s my work, I think.