Monday, July 1, 2013

Coming Home

I come from a long line of martyrs and food addicts.  If the women in my family were Biblical characters we would have had our last supper and our last dessert before turning ourselves over to the Romans.  I thought for a long time that I had avoided that trait until I realized that women in my family don't really become martyrs until they have children.  For some reason the gene must lay dormant in the uterus until through its expansion it activates this belief that everything we are up to this moment has vanished and we must give ourselves over to our children at the expense of ourselves.

But before I get to here, I have to go back to there.

I was never a chubby kid.  Looking back I looked completely average- right down to the requisite awkward years from 4th-8th grade.  In high school I was never the skinniest.  The hips that would eventually help me bear these children began to take shape, but I never felt terrible about myself.  In college I found myself in an incredibly unhealthy relationship while I struggled to come to terms with my parents' divorce.  When my parents and siblings moved me into my dorm freshman year, it was the last time I saw them all together until I graduated from college 5 years later and all of the residual pain and confusion from that time grew and grew and I allowed it to manifest itself into a body that hid who I was from the world.  Eventually I found myself in a much healthier relationship with a man who actually had a 2 bedroom apartment with 1 bedroom devoted to working out.  He had a TV mounted to the wall, a treadmill, weight bench, the whole nine.  In his own gentle way, he nudged me toward a healthier lifestyle.  

Not too long after we began dating I found a 3 pack of Billy Blanks Tae-Bo VHS tapes that I had purchased in college.  I sat there staring at the toothy grin of Mr. Banks and on a whim put in the first tape and DIED.  That bastard almost killed me!  But dammit if he wasn't incredibly inspiring and charismatic and so I kept going.  I had to drag a kitchen chair into my office where I worked out to support myself while I tried to master those leg lifts.  But eventually, I abandoned the chair, got stronger and because enough time had passed traded in those VHS tapes for DVDs.  Working out became a 5-6 times/week activity.  By the early spring of 2005 I was wearing 5 lb weights on both ankles and 3 lb weights on both wrists as I did my workout.  I lost 56 lbs.  One of my coworkers commented to me that he had run into someone we used to work with that said, "Hey, I heard Nancy got really hot."  "Correction," I said, "I was always really hot."  As funny as this may sound, as the scale went up and down, I always maintained some confidence in myself sandwiched in between self-deprecation. My own form of body dysmorphia, I stood in the mirror overweight and always saw someone thin.  

I liked who I was back then, I liked shopping for clothes in the single digits.  I never dreaded a costume fitting and welcomed photographs.  For 4 years I managed to maintain my weight despite being in a new relationship with a guy named Trevor who had a fully stocked bar in his basement.  He converted an old refrigerator into a kegorator (which we still have) and yet I still kept the weight off.

I got pregnant in the spring of 2010.  At the time I was about 20 lbs more than what I would have liked.  Marriage brings about its own form of the "Freshman 15" once the fear of not fitting into a custom designed wedding dress goes away.

The weight crept up rapidly.  At the time I loved to think that it was all happening to me.  Water retention was happening to me, joint pain was happening to me.  I had become someone helpless to everything that was happening like I was going through an out of body experience.  Breastfeeding did not prove to be the magic bullet of weight loss that celebrities with personal chefs and trainers tell you it will be and guess what?  Chasing your kids around doesn't make you lose weight.  I want to rip the "Body after Baby" sections out of every gossip magazine on this earth.  Seriously People magazine, get an editor who's a mom.

I gained 50 lbs in my pregnancy with Jack.  I lost none of it.  Why I lost none of it would, for quite some time, be blamed on hormones, being too busy to exercise, being insatiably hungry from all the breastfeeding and any other excuse du jour that I could think of.  But the truth is that after Jack was born, I didn't see myself anymore.  If I was really paying attention, I'd see a photograph of me where I thought my eyes sparkled nicely or my hair looked good, but I'd never let my gaze fall below my neck.  How sad looking back on that time.  Everything below my neck had been what both created and sustained a person for over 2 years, first through pregnancy, then through nursing.  But I wanted nothing to do with that part of me.  I resented that part of me and eventually I just stopped seeing it.

That blindness allowed me to get pregnant for a second time before being as healthy as I should have been.  Where my first pregnancy was relatively smooth and illness free, the second one was plagued with problems.  I gained 50 lbs in my first pregnancy and gained 8 in my second.  8 lbs.  This was mostly due to the fact that nausea made me lose weight early on and kept me from eating much for over half of my pregnancy.  It certainly wasn't due to the fact that I was any better about diet or exercise.

Coming home from the hospital with Will, I felt like a truck had run over me.  The out of shape body I brought with me to the hospital had valiantly delivered this baby but had nothing left for me.  And that's why women in my family are mama martyrs.  Once our babies were out of our bodies we lost all love for our stomachs, hips, legs and arms despite all that they had given us.  We stop seeing ourselves after our children are born.  I saw it happening to me and it scared the hell out of me.  After weeks of pain and the somber realization that I don't have enough energy to raise 2 boys I made some changes.

10 years after discovering those Tae-Bo tapes, exercise still hurts, but I'm doing it.  I have decided that I'd rather get a hug from my son than from a cupcake so I joined Weight Watchers.  Trevor and I started the Couch to 5K running program.  I feel my body starting to come back.  On June 14th, Trevor and I set off for Week 1, Day 1 of Couch to 5K.  90 seconds of running felt like torture and I was taken back to my old apartment 10 years ago when I had to use a kitchen chair to get through a simple leg lift.  If a senior citizen mall-walking brigade had come through my neighborhood they would have lapped me for sure, but when we got back to the driveway after that first day, I didn't care, I was so happy to have done it.  As for Billy Blanks, we'll catch up again soon.  I have missed that sweaty bastard.

Day 1 with my little running companion

He's proud of me, I just know it
Tonight I took full advantage of a breezy, cool night to complete Week 3, Day 2 of the program.  90 seconds of walking, 90 seconds of running, 3 minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running and repeat.  The great gift that running has given me is that I can't ignore my body anymore.  I feel the earth under my feet as it travels up my legs, into my stomach and out through my arms.  I saw fireflies sail over backyard fences and I breathed in the fruits of my neighbors' beautiful flower gardens.  As I walked the last leg of the program home, I saw our house with the garage lights on.  3 lights.  I imagined that each one represented the person inside of that house for whom I am embarking on this journey.  Those cheerful beacons welcomed me home.  I want to be around for a long time for them.  I want to be around for a long time for me too.  Coming home tonight felt like I was coming home to myself and it felt good.

At my 6 week post-partum checkup, my midwife lifted up my shirt and said "Oh you poor honey."  It was covered in bumps and bruises from the injections and newly formed stretch marks.  "My stomach is a roadmap of motherhood," I told her.  "All those marks tell a story."

The story of how I became a mother is well chronicled in the dozens of blog entries I've written over the years.  The story of how I won't lose me in the process has been told here.

As a footnote, the song that came on my iPod as I started out tonight is one of my most favorites- Warning by Incubus.  No coincidence there, just another wink from God.

Bat your eyes girl. 
Be otherworldly. 
Count your blessings. 
Seduce a stranger. 
What's so wrong with being happy? 
Kudos to those who see through sickness yeah 

She woke in the morning. 
She knew that her life had passed her by 
She called out a warning. 
Don't ever let life pass you by. 

I suggest we 
Learn to love ourselves, 
Before its made illegal 
When will we learn, When will we change 
Just in time to see it all come down 

Those left standing will make millions 
Writing books on the way it should have been 

She woke in the morning. 
She knew that her life had passed her by 
She called out a warning. 
Don't ever let life pass you by. 

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