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Cathy: Reconciling differences

supermomThanksgiving weekend was spent with my husband’s extended family, eating, eating and, well, eating. There was one family drama — a big one — but otherwise it was really nice having everyone over here and talking, and hanging around and eating. I took one walk. I battled the cold everyone’s been passing around. Honey and I had a date with the baby in tow at the art museum across the water. At my church on Sunday, we had an after-service Thanksgiving leftovers luncheon, to which I brought my sautéed kale with garlic, raisins and walnuts that my in-laws didn’t eat. They preferred the four kinds of pies and two kinds of sweet potatoes and two kinds of mashed potatoes and two stuffings, etc. The kale was a hit at church, which felt good.

Well, there I was, holding Baby C who kept dropping her juice bottle in experiments in gravity. My nursing top was gaping in an unflattering way, as I kept bending over to pick up her bottle. A very nice man came over to get some pecan pie which was in front of me, and cooed at her, talked baby for a while, and here comes the bomb — wait for it — he added, “and I see you’re having another!”

Now, my Honey said before I left for church that morning that I was getting cuter everyday. This was in response to my looking in the mirror at my lopsided nursing boobs, my still doughy, chunky middle eight months later, and feeling exhausted from another sleepless night of coughing and nursing, and moaning about my appearance. So when the very nice man at church asked if I was having a, no — told me I was having another, it just about crushed me. At the time, I was able to laugh it off, but later, I feel pretty blah.

Isn’t it enough that I’m up and around, beginning to lose the pregnancy weight, while sporting a nursing E-cup on a five-foot-two frame? I’m beginning to get back to yoga, trying to walk the dog when it’s not too cold and wet and when the baby and I aren’t sporting colds. I haven’t slept a solid night’s sleep since July 2007, and I feel pretty yucky. Hey, people, I’m showing up and with an eight-month-old trying to circus dive off my shoulder! I think that’s pretty good in and of itself!

So, keep the commentary to your very nice self, please. It would do a world of good for the esteem of any woman lugging around a baby. We’re not Hollywood moms with a drawer full of Spanx, personal trainers at beck and call, and starvation diets. We’re real moms, with real bellies and real appetites because we’re breastfeeding. And no matter how much formula may be pushed on us, even in this more enlightened age than our parents’, we’re doing what’s best for our babies, and eating for two.

I’m taking the superwoman route after that comment — I am a super woman because I am doing it all, and doing it well, most of the time, anyway.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, I feel for you, Cathy. That was a horrible assumption for that guy to make. And I find after the first baby, it’s much harder for the body to bounce back. Or at least that’s the story I’m sticking to, as I still look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s long lost twin sister.

    And, yes, I think that the fact that you get out of bed every morning and do the best you can every day makes you superwoman. Not everyone can do what you do. And practically no one could go over a year with chronically interrupted sleep. You’re inspiring.

    December 4, 2008
  2. cathy #

    thanks, brittany! and i’ve seen the pictures, you’re no dough girl!

    December 4, 2008
  3. Liz #

    WOO! Go Cathy! Go all of us who sacrifice our bodies (and minds, and art, and hobbies, and aspirations….etc.) to bear children.

    Yes. Thank you. Women don’t just drop the baby weight in 2 months like a celebrity. I HATE THAT. Those b*tches get all this credit for being “awesome moms who take care of themselves, their kids and their careers too!” But what you don’t see is – like you said – crash dieting, personal trainers, plastic surgery, hours in the makeup and hair salon, spanx, altered clothing, and…. wait. Where are the kids that they are so “awesome” at mothering? Certainly not pawing at them, preventing them from drinking their morning cup of coffee (a la If you give a mom a cookie style), screwing up their exercise schedule and, let’s admit it at times – depressing them to the point where all they want to do is sit inside in front of the computer in a robe and fuzzy slippers and give up.

    They have nannies to do that. Then those kids grow up to be on Celebrity Rehab because no one ever gave a crap about them. Being sexy was far more important.

    I gained almost 60 pounds with each kid. It was a year before I was able to pull on my old jeans again. And you know what? I’ve never fit in them the same way since. And that is okay with me. (PS – I had monster boobs too & I’m 5’3″ – totally hear you!)

    And lastly… WHO SAYS THAT TO SOMEONE??? I would never assume (unless she’s like 9 months) anything. We have a friend who had 3 kids in a row. Her oldest is 10 months or so & she still looks 4 months pregnant, but that’s because she had 3 kids in very short succession. You just never know. I am not going to call that guy a jerk, because I’m sure he’s not. But I will mention the word DUH.

    December 4, 2008
  4. cathy #

    liz, great hallelujah chorus!

    i must admit i erred on the side of the bad comment to someone many years ago. but i don’t feel too badly about it since she was an evil visiting partner in the downtown boston international law firm where i was shackled to the reception desk. and one of the associates she gave a particularly hard time had passed my desk shortly before muttering a litany against her which included a highlight of her pregnant belly.

    December 4, 2008
  5. Jen #

    amen, cathy — from one super mom to another! eat for two (and have some more of that yummy kale! mmm!) and big pats on the back for showing up with the little one, being out and about at all! I say BAH to the clueless “nice” guys of the world. they just don’t get it, alas.

    December 4, 2008
  6. Going off on a tangent here… but have you seen the websites where pregnant women post their belly shots? I loved them when I was pregnant because it made me feel good to have something to compare myself to. Air-brushed celebrities in five pounds of make-up do not even remotely resemble the average pregnant woman.

    Where are the post-pregnancy belly shot websites? We women should tear off our uncomfortable undergarments and show the world what a REAL mother looks like. I know Tom, who means well, but oftentims needs sensitivity training, compares my body to what he sees on tv and magazines. He doesn’t know any different. The media tells us if you don’t leave the hosptal in your skinny jeans, you’ve let yourself go and there’s no saving you. He can’t understand why I haven’t lost all the baby weight and points out every woman who has and says “I bet you hate her.”

    I don’t hate thoe women, because I’m sure they have their own body issues. Maybe her chest shrunk or she’s got gigantic purple stretch marks still, or post-partum urinary incontinance every time she sneezes. I don’t think there’s a woman alive whose body is left totally unscathed by pregnancy. Did you see the Oprah special where Kate, of Jon and Kate Plus Eight fame, revealed to the world what her belly looked like after twins and sextuplets? She wore VERY supportive undergarments every day and to look at her, you would’ve thought she’d snapped right back into shape. Since then she’s had a tummy tuck, but only she and her family would ever see the difference. She looked great before and she still looks great.

    But, or someone like me who isn’t measuring up to the media ideal of post-partum beauty, it was nice to know that outward images can be deceiving.

    December 4, 2008
  7. cathy #

    wow, i’m glad my little self-image rant brought on such a great discussion!

    i can’t look at my own belly in the mirror at the moment, don’t think i could handle seeing others. i saw the jon&kate plus eight surgery show. yikes. i also saw his hairplug one. kudos to him for going as evenly on the ante as he could on the appearance gamble!

    but brittany, i like your hutzpah! if you started that website, i’d take a pic of mine, as long as i’m unidentified!

    jen, thanks for joining the cheerleaders! btw, why isn’t your blog listed at right? i miss you! and am too stupid/ sleep deprived these days to remember its name…

    December 4, 2008
  8. Liz — that was exactly what I said to Cathy when I received this blog post: No one should EVER say ANYTHING about anyone’s forthcoming bundle of joy unless she is undeniably eight months pregnant, at least! I’m sure that guy was well intentioned, but are you SERIOUS?

    It’s odd, but as much as I’ve suffered serious body/food issues over the years, now that I’ve had five kids I feel a little bit different about things. My youngest is nearly 7 months, and I definitely have more than just a muffin top. One of my older sons often pats my belly and says “when’s it due?” But he can get away with it, because there’s a twinkle in his eye.

    Brittany, it’s hard not to want to look up your phone number and have a little one-on-one conversation with your husband. He should be your #1 fan and cheerleader. How are you supposed to feel good about getting naked with a guy if he doesn’t make you feel sexy and fabulous? I have plenty of issues in my marriage, but I have to say that my husband has always made it clear that he finds me attractive and that I’m crazy to compare myself to the media version of beauty, because that’s just a fantasy and doesn’t really exist. Every time I talk about wanting to get a boob job (try nursing five kids for 15-19 months each and see what you end up with) or a tummy tuck or whatever, he tells me that he’ll divorce me if I ever get plastic surgery. He doesn’t like makeup and tells me I don’t need it. Importantly, he’s able to make me believe that he really BELIEVES what he’s saying, not that he’s just saying it because he’s supposed to. We know we’re both getting older (both turning 40 in 2009) and our bodies are changing. Sure, my body has more scars from this journey, but it’s a path we’re on together. I know my tummy is hanging out there quite a bit more than I’d like it to, but it doesn’t freak me out like it would have a few years ago. Maybe that’s because I know my husband likes me regardless. If he ever criticized my body I would be utterly crushed.

    My BFF is trying to talk me into running a half marathon this spring. I would like to get back in shape, and I’d like to at least reduce my abdominal bulge, but I feel like my perspective on things is healthy right now, much like Cathy’s. If I do it, it will be for the mental benefits as much as the physical.

    You know what? I have five kids, a job, a husband, a dog, and I’m writing a book, among 84 other things. I’m superwoman too, dammit!

    Thanks for a great post, Cathy.

    December 4, 2008
  9. cathy #

    mir – re: your son patting your belly: my honey and i often joke about when he’s due…he’s got a good 6-monther. 😉 we discuss both of us getting back into regular exercise routines, but only one of us is doing something about it. he’d run if it weren’t for the torn miniscus and acl he won’t go back to the dr about. we also discussed joining the family class at the taekwando dojon s goes to, and dragging k , kicking and screaming to it. nothng quite like a 13 yr old to throw attitude.

    December 4, 2008
  10. cathy #

    hey look what i just stumbled upon in a gossip article online:

    Meanwhile, Nicole’s self-described “little tummy” has landed her on the latest cover of In Touch, which asks “Who’s really pregnant?” and draws a helpful arrow highlighting her “suspiciously round belly.” Kidman recently laughed off speculation that she was expecting again, insisting to a Sydney radio station, “My god, I just had a baby four months ago — give me a break!”

    and she’s d*mned skinny!

    December 4, 2008
  11. Kristine #

    Oh, Cathy. What a horrible thing for that man to say! I don’t even know what else to say except that I’m still shocked. I’m annoyed on your behalf.

    You ARE superwoman, girlfriend, and you are doing a great job.

    I also struggled with the whole weight issue. I gained 50 pounds with my pregnancy, on top of the extra 20 I was carrying around when I got pregnant. I lost a lot of it this year, but my body isn’t the same. I’ve made peace with it…even though those last 10 pounds that refuse to come off still bug the heck out of me.

    Keep your chin up, Cathy. You look and are FABULOUS.

    December 4, 2008
  12. cathy #

    thanks, kristine! i feel much better with all these cheerleaders at my back!

    December 4, 2008
  13. Miranda, I appreciate your desire to talk sense into Tom, and turn him into a sensitive, thoughtful, enlightened version of himself, he is who he is and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. I know he loves me, and that he’d rather be with me than anyone in the world, except for maybe Jennifer Lopez, who is *way* out of his league, and although I am stung by his honesty occassionally, it is one of the things I find so appealing about him. If he thinks I look better 20 lbs lighter, it’s his perogative to admit to it. I don’t think he should have to feed my ego if he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. We have that kind of relationship with each other, neither one of us being very romantic, or inclined to waxing poetic.

    That said, ever since we started dating, we’ve had a tradition we call “mushing” (as in to mush, or be mushy) where we lay in bed and list, until the wee hours of the morning, all the things we like about each other.

    What’s that saying, that you have to hear five good things about yourself to counteract one piece of criticism?

    He thinks I’m a patient mother, funny, do a good job keeping his behind-the-scenes life running smoothly, am a talented writer, and a good cook. And if I thinks I should hit the gym, to be a faster, stronger, healthier version of myself? I can live with that. I agree. 🙂

    December 4, 2008
  14. cathy #

    phew! i was getting worried, too! glad what we’ve heard is more kvetch than as one sided as it sounded!

    December 4, 2008
  15. wow! hot topic here! great post, cathy. i’m amazed you didn’t whack him upside the head. i don’t think i could have held my tongue on that one. i still have a baby belly that i know i’ll never loose. after five years now, i’ve given up! i remember in one of our twins group meetings (jacksonville parents of twins and triplets), our guest speaker was a plastic surgeon. he came to talk about tummy tucks. i remember looking around the room at everyone thinking, why the heck did our leadership bring this guy here!?!?! so what if we have a belly! we carried more than one baby at a time, for pete’s sake! i gained 50 pounds with my twin pregnancy and that was with delivery at 33 weeks. i can’t imagine how big i would have gotten if i went full term. but i’m proud of my baby belly and the giant scar that goes with it.

    it’s funny how people just think that can say crap that like to pregnant or nursing women. i’ll share one comment with you that still irks me to this day. when my girls were born, my dad decided that i needed help and worked up this master schedule that had someone at home helping me for the first month i was home with the girls. early on, his wife (my second step-mother) came. we weren’t that close to begin with so i really didn’t care to have her there anyway but then she says this…. i was having trouble getting the hang of the tandem nursing and was just having a random conversation with her about it when she says, “well you know, back in my day, nursing was a sign of low income” with an aire of snootiness in her voice. OMG!!!!! i was speechless. i just stammered that it was important to me and walked away from her. and yes, she came from a fairly wealthy family. i do not. i still don’t care for her to this day. i think deep down, that comment is probably why.

    December 4, 2008
  16. Kelly, that’s another comment that deserves a whack upside the head! Low income?!? It’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do with your boobs! It’s the soul reason we have them!

    It’s funny, my grandmother and mom wanted to nurse, but couldn’t, and have a very positive view of breastfeeding. But my husband’s family acts like I have a nasty habit. When my in-laws visit, they expect me to leave the room because it makes them uncomfortable, and apparently my grandmother-in-law thought it was so unthinkable to nurse a four month old, that when we went up to visit Sam’s first Christmas, she met me at the door and before saying hello, Merry Christmas, anything(!), said “I hear you’re breastfeeding Sam. How long to you intend to keep that up?” I think I almost gave her a stroke when I shrugged and said, “Oh, another year or two.” 🙂

    December 4, 2008
  17. omg! kelly and brittany, those are def. holy sh** comments!

    i’ve had a few of those in my family, too, back with my first. i think my fav was when a very precocious k at nine mos said, “nurse” and my much older cousin, saying in front of the rest of the extended family, “if he’s old enough to ask for it by name, he’s old enough to quit.” of course this was at the same gathering that an aunt tried to give him some “co-cola”

    December 4, 2008
  18. Jen #

    What a great conversation!!! I too love to see all this cheerleading. Rah Rah Rah!!! There’s a family story in which I like to play the victim, complaining that when I wanted pom-poms when I was seven or eight, I was given ONE pom-pom for my birthday. Or should that be pom. True story. (I know, I know, hardly “victim” material and hardly child abuse, but seriously. Who gives a kid ONE pom?) Maybe that’s why I enjoy virtual cheerleading so much now, huh? So wonderful to see this honest exchange.

    Kelly and Brittany, your comments made me think of another family story: my grandmother is on the record as saying “That’s not what breasts are for!” to my mother when mom was nursing me. I’m so glad my own mom was more supportive of me when it came to breastfeeding my own babes!!!

    Miranda, your frank perspective about a supportive relationship in the face of aging/changing bodies really rang true for me: “Sure, my body has more scars from this journey, but it’s a path we’re on together.” I need to remind myself of that more often. I think DH has done a better job coming to terms with my postpartum bod than I have, in truth. Like many of you, I put on much more weight than I would have liked with my pregnancies: 60 pounds with my first, 50 of which came off by the time I got pregnant with my second (they are 22 months apart; god bless breastfeeding b/c that’s most of my weight loss plan). And then I put back on that 50 with my second pregnancy. I’m now at the same weight I was before I got pregnant with my first, again mostly because of breastfeeding, but it’s all rearranged. And that’s just the way of it.

    Some years back, I went to a kabuki spa up in San Francisco. It was an amazing experience, for many reasons — not the least of which was the opportunity to be surrounded by women in all ages and stages, au naturel. Of course I didn’t gawk, but it was really beautiful to glimpse an entire range of women’s bodies outside the context of the sexualized, airbrushed, skinnie minnie pop/youth culture. Really puts things in perspective.

    Thanks for the warmfuzzies, Cathy. I think that the sidebar list of blogs is reserved for folks who actually contribute posts here at Creative Construction. Isn’t that right, Miranda? FYI My blog is “mama’s magic”: Sorry I’ve been a bit AWOL lately… the holidays were insane, with our own huge family drama (sigh) and I’m just now getting back in the swing of things.

    December 4, 2008
  19. Brittany, thank you so much for the follow-up. Sometimes things can sound very one-sided in a hen party, and it doesn’t take much for the Blog Sisters to get riled up!

    December 5, 2008
  20. cathy #

    jen, your last comment is so on point in several ways! thanks for the blog info, my guess was close, but that only counts in horses and hand grenades according to my fav hs english teacher.

    December 5, 2008
  21. Jen — to address an old question of yours, yes, the blogs sidebar is a list of personal blogs of those who post here — but we’ll get you posting here soon enough 🙂 so I added you anyway!

    December 18, 2008

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