Sunday, 27 July 2008

feeling my fears

Further to the thoughts about "feeling my feelings" from my last post, I've had a bit of an up and down day today.

I called my youngest sister in Australia this morning, and we had a good long chat, the kind we don't have often enough. She told me about her kids and how she's dealing with the middle one acting out in what we think is an effort to assert some kind of individual identity and the weekend away she and her husband had for their anniversary. I told her how I didn't get the job I interviewed for last week, which I was disappointed about, and how my husband works too much.

And I'm not sure how we got onto the subject of babies. Specifically, my babies, and the things that fill me with fear and dread when I think about having them.

The thing is, for years I've been saying I'm not sure about having kids, and that's partly true. I'm ambivalent because we live a pretty relaxed sort of life, and that would all change with kids. But it's only partly true, which I only realised today when my sister asked "taking away all the intellectual stuff, how do you FEEL?", and I burst into tears, because, yes, I do. One, anyway. No more than two, but at least one.

But here's the thing: I am very, very scared about it. I'm scared because I would probably get a lot of shit from doctors about being so fat and trying to have a baby. I'm scared because my period has been all fucked up for some years, and it might be related to my weight (I never had a problem till I got this fat, and that apparently can affect your hormones). I'm scared because I don't know how to model a healthy relationship with food or exercise, because I don't have one. I'm scared - and I'm ashamed that I'm scared - because I'm fat and my husband is fat, and that makes me think that our baby would be fat (although I suppose it's not necessarily a given - three quarters of our parents and all of our siblings are thin, and neither of us was actually that fat until well into adulthood), and I've been a fat person and it's pretty shit and part of me isn't sure I want to give that to another person. (Please note: this is not a judgement on any fat parents out there, I've never thought of this in conjunction with anyone else, it's just part of my package of fear.)

I'm scared because my weight has consumed so much of my life, and I am terrified that I'll be overinvolved or underinvolved, that I'll end up creating the same thing in my child that my mother, all unknowing, created in me.

So I decided to go with what I've been working on - I went and lay down and really went with it, and cried a lot, and breathed, and cried some more, and breathed some more, and... it wasn't as big when I got right into it.

It's still there, don't get me wrong. I do feel that before we should even try to start getting pregnant we have some work, physical and financial, to do. But it wasn't quite as big or quite as painful as I thought it might be.

But I'd be a good mother, fat, eating disordered, financially challenged or not. I would love my child and listen to them and support them. There are millions of shitty, neglectful, abusive parents in the world, and I'd beat all of them hollow, even if I was twice as fat.

And more, even if we had a fat baby who was a fat child and a fat adult, that doesn't mean their life wouldn't be worth living, that they wouldn't be deeply loved. And even if we had a thin baby, that wouldn't guarantee that their life was easy.

I think this is a fear I'll need to keep going back to for awhile, inviting it in and just letting it be what it is, if only so that I don't keep putting things off while I'm crushing it down and telling myself I don't mind.

And I have to take some action, not for the purpose of any changes in my body (though it'd be great if it would stop my feet hurting), but just so I'm getting in touch with how my body is feeling and what it wants, and so maybe some of the hormonal patterns get sorted out, and so I'm up for actual pregnancy and birth and parenting and all the rest of it.


Limor said...

I commend you on how brave you are to post this. It's not an easy subject to talk about. I had lots of fears about being a bad role model, when I was pregnant with my daughter. It was before I became involved in FA, and I was convinced that as a fat woman, I would model bad behavior. Over time, and with more reading and involvement in FA, I came to the realization that my weight would not affect my parenting. I have a thin mother, always did, and I had a messed up relationship with food and my body. You are aware of the pitfalls and obstacles, which automatically make you more prepared to be a good role model.

As for the actual getting pregnant part, my periods have always been messed up too. I was on the pill almost as long as I've had my period, but I got pregnant as soon as I went off it. Your weight is not neccesarily the determining factor in your fertility. Just remember to take care of yourself, and know that you're going to be a wonderful mother.

cggirl said...


I am in the midst of trying to make a movie that deals with these sorts of fears and dilemmas. Though in my movie i haven't really gotten into the issue of fat and fat acceptance (not yet anyway), i DO find a lot of this familiar, how it's so scary so it's easier not to really think about sometimes...

Good for you for confronting it AND sharing it.

(p.s. i keep trying to post this so if it accidentally posts more than once i apologize, please feel free delete the duplicates...)

naomival said...

Maddie, what a courageous, insightful post. I think that many of us who are fat - and who have had a few years to think about motherhood - have the fears that you do. When I was facing some of the same questions you mentioned, I used several different approaches, which lead me to make the following recommendations:

* Choose information from sources who don't have a built-in systemic bias against fat women. This rules out much of the medical profession, sadly. It also may rule out many of your relatives and friends. But there are many wonderful fat mothers who are glad to talk to you about their experiences. An extremely useful site is the Plus-Size Pregnancy Website, which is full of well-researched medical information and stories from many, many mothers.

*If you have a choice, choose your medical caregiver after much research and thought. I asked all the people I was considering how their treatment of someone of my size would be different from someone of average size. Their responses were very telling. I ultimately chose home birth (lay) midwives and was very satisfied with my choice, but I'm not advocating any one choice for everyone. Even if you're not contemplating getting pregnant for a while, though, you might talk to a lay midwife or two - being outside the traditional medical system, they tend to be a little more flexible with their time, and can sometimes give you a consult for a small fee. I didn't have this opportunity myself; rather, ten years before I had my first child, an "alternative" practice nurse told me - basically - I was too fat to have children. I wish I'd talked to someone else.

Remember, there is no reason you should not have a healthy, straightforward pregnancy and birth just because of your body size. I found that pregnancy in some ways actually made me more comfortable in my body - because I could see and feel myself doing something physical, and doing it well. Although it's hardly a reason to become pregnant, pregnancy can be a good, positive time to work through body issues.

* Finally, for getting in touch with your body in a way that has nothing to do with weight or size, I highly recommend the Billings Ovulation Method, a fertility control and awareness method that teaches charting fertile and infertile days by observing your cervical mucus. I used Billings to conceive my second child (bingo on first try!), but more than that, I was surprised to discover how little I knew about my own body - and I consider myself an educated person. Billings doesn't use any fancy tools or expensive supplies, although you can pay to take a class to learn the method.

I hope some of this is helpful to you. I don't know that I feel like a wonderful mother all the time, but I also know that my shortcomings have much more to do with the limits of my patience, not my body size or shape. Best of luck to you.

Maddie said...

Limor - thank you. To be honest, I hadn't thought of this post as particularly brave, just rambly, but everyone seems to, so yay me. :)

And you're right - I have a thin mother too, and really, all my eating problems stem, not from her own habits, but from her obsession with trying to make me as thin as she was. Whereas any child of mine is going to get me, and I'm fat, but I'm a lot more self-aware, and aware of cause and effect than my mother.

What you say about your periods gives me some hope too. Mine have only really been messed up for the past four and a half years, starting from when I went back on hormonal birth control at the beginning of my relationship with my husband. They were like clockwork then, but have been kind of crazy ever since.

CGGirl...Thanks for the comment, it seems to have only showed up once. It really is a lot easier to just keep pushing things to the backburner than confronting how you feel about them. This is kind of my mission at the moment - getting everything off the backburner and actually seeing what's going on there. I will be fascinated to see your movie, so I hope it gets made.

Naomival - yeah, I think the "few years to think" thing is definitely part of the problem. Your suggestions are great and much appreciated. I will be checking them out. Thank you. :)