Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New semester

To start the semester listening to professors proclaim their excitement over the courses they're about to begin teaching is awesome. So is getting to read extremely contemporary works by still-living writers; in Women in Literature we'll read ten books, all of them published within the last ten years (a huge and happy relief given my aversion to Jane Austen and her friends). And in Feminism and the Body we'll read, among other things, a book called Cunt (not exactly a relief since I didn't expect anything less audacious from a women's studies class but still a happy fact given my aversion to boredom, of which my Austen aversion is a subset).

This semester should be a fun one, and no doubt it will be stressful as well. Aron and I have to learn how to instantaneously turn from parents into students and then immediately back again.

I have to remember how to be an adult. Even at Target when a cashier asks, "Hi, how are you?" and I answer, "Fine, thanks; how are you?" my own voice shocks me, because I'm not used to how it sounds in the presence of adults who aren't my husband. It's a wonder I don't instead respond to the cashier with, "Great, sweetheart; how are you?" I call Graham sweetheart, honey, beautiful baby boy, little tomato. And unfortunately I do it with that saccharine mom-voice I thought I'd never naturally acquire. But surprisingly and without effort, I talk to my baby like a baby—like he's a baby and like I'm one.

Can I keep Graham out of my head long enough to learn anything? Can I read Cunt objectively and without thinking about the human that came out of my own? I don't know that I can or that I want to. I want Graham to come to class!  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fat, inadequate mother

I'm fat. It's true. No one will admit it. But even if my loved ones refuse to admit that I am fat they should at least admit that I have fat; otherwise, they're allowing themselves to turn into liars. The fat is especially heavily concentrated in my stomach region. Some people excuse the fat I have—while refusing to acknowledge the fatty that I am—by saying, "You just had a baby," which used to be true. But now, more than nine weeks after giving birth, it's far from true that I just had a baby.

Losing weight has been particularly difficult because of my inability to breastfeed. The story of my breastmilk never coming in is my favorite tragedy to tell. (My weight complaint is actually a distant second.) I truly can't breastfeed. I've spent enough time googling variations of "inability to breastfeed" and reading women accusing other women of being "unwilling" rather "unable" to breastfeed to realize that my claim of not being able to breastfeed sounds far-fetched to many. Women can be real bitches about breastfeeding. I'm convinced that breastmilk is significantly superior to formula; so convinced am I of formula's inferiority that I allowed Graham to cry nearly continually from hunger during the first four days of his life because I feared that supplementing my teeny-tiny colostrum output with Similac would make him unwilling to ever again return to my breast for food. When Graham had his first pediatric appointment at three days old, he had lost ten ounces; the pediatrician advised that I attend a breastfeeding class the next day, and when I attended the class and weighed Graham again, he had lost another six ounces. In four days, Graham lost 14% of his birth weight (babies always lose a little in their first days but shouldn't lose more than 10%). The lactation consultant at the breastfeeding class gave me a Medela SNS (supplementary nursing system), a feeding device that consists of a tube that attaches at one end to a bottle of formula and at the other end to the breast with tape. For the mother who wants to breastfeed but is having problems with low milk production, the SNS is an invaluable aid; it allows for the continued stimulation of the mother's milk supply (via the baby's suckling) and assures that the baby associates the breast, rather than a bottle, with food. For the mother who wants to breastfeed but is having problems producing any milk whatsoever, the SNS is little more than an expensive and time-consuming nuisance; it requires several minutes to connect properly to the body and the feeding tube releases formula at a 0m(zero month)+ rate; additionally, the tubing is so narrow that powder formula risks clogging it, so the SNS can really only be used with the extremely expensive ready-to-feed formula. (16 ounces of ready-to-feed formula costs $7.00, whereas the amount of powdered formula needed to make 214 ounces costs $27.00; so about four times as much money buys more than 14 times the food). But for four weeks, we used exclusively the SNS to feed Graham, because we kept hoping it'd help my milk come in. And that's not all we did. I took a prescription called Domperidone which is intended to treat some gastro-intestinal ailment but has the side-effect of promoting lactation; it didn’t work, my midwife wouldn't allow me to take Reglan, another lactation-inducing prescription, because one of its possible side-effects is depression, which I have a little history of. (I tried convincing my midwife to let me take Reglan by telling her that not being able to breastfeed was depressing in itself, and I'm sure she had great reasons, likely pertaining to medical malpractice, for refusing to relent.) A very kind lactation consultant hooked me up with a hospital-grade electric breastpump (normal price:  $300); I pumped for fifteen minutes at a time twelve, thirteen, or fourteen times a day. I drank Mother’s Milk tea and Mother’s Lactation Tonic. I let at least six different women massage and try to express milk from my breasts. Graham suckled for comfort many times daily. Nothing worked; I never produced anything more than tiny droplets of colostrum, and they disappeared within a week after delivering.

My determination to breastfeed was directly proportional to my confidence in its health benefits for babies. Incidentally, as I started off saying, breastfeeding helps immensely in the fat department by making the fat department a much smaller department. Breastfeeding burns 500 calories a day!

Aron has come closer than anyone to granting that I'm fat. This morning he asked on his way into Starbucks if I wanted a drink, and I replied, "Yes, the fatty drink please." He knew I meant that I wanted a caramel macchiato, so I acted insulted by his knowing what I meant, taking it as an indication that he thought I was calling it the "fatty drink" because it's the drink that makes me a fatty. He met my defensiveness with his own, saying crankily, "Well, it's not espresso!" I only ever drink black coffee, shots of espresso, or a caramel macchiato, so what "Well, it's not espresso!" sounded like to me was, "Well, you should be drinking espresso!" Immediately after Starbucks, Aron went to Target and emerged from the store with formula for Graham and a chocolate bar for me. It felt like he was giving me permission to be fat after feeling guilty for pointing out that I am.

I weighed 115 pounds before my pregnancy. When I visited my midwife just over a week postpartum (to readdress my breastfeeding problems) I weighed 135 pounds. At six weeks postpartum I weighed 135 pounds still. All those ladies who rubbed my boobies agreed that they looked engorged and on the verge of letting loose the milk. My breasts are still considerably larger than they were pre-pregnancy, but they're not ten pounds larger each. I'm afraid most of the twenty extra pounds perpetually sticking around are in my stomach.

Three days ago I took a bath in candlelight. I made the mood as romantic as possible and attempted to fall in love my fat. I massaged my belly mass with organic almond body scrub. I talked to it. But even in dim, flickering light and even when made silky soft by body scrub my fat belly remains unlovable. But maybe the problem is that candlelight makes me feel like I'm at a seance. 

Occasionally when I feel depressed I self-inflict a haircut. I do it by hastily chopping my ponytailed locks, and I guess it's a testament to my geometrical stupidity that I always expect performing my haircut this way will result in an even hairline across my back and down my shoulders. Actually, that I always expect this must mean that I'm more than just geometrically challenged. It has been seven months since my last hair cut and longer than that since I took my prepregnancy weight, and I keep entertaining this fantasy that after the next time I cut my hair I'll weigh myself again and be down to 120. As if my hair weighs fifteen pounds. As freakin' if.

Graham was born October 30, 2011, at 12:17 a.m. By the time I was recovered enough from labor to want to start losing weight, it was Thanksgiving, and by the time I was recovered enough from overeating at Thanksgiving to want to start losing weight again, it was time to overeat Christmas sweets. But now it's the New Year, and it's time for resolutions. I haven't made any. But I do plan, which is much weaker than resolving, to integrate more exercise into my life. I, however, have no intention of eliminating sweets from my diet. Ever.