Like Mother, Unlike Daughter

My daughter was born at 5 lbs, 13 oz.  She was little and we didn’t expect it, as both my partner and I had been average-to-above-average weight as babies.  She was so little newborn clothes hung off of her until she was about 1 month old.  She was gorgeous, but I did worry about her size at the time.  Someone that small seemed even more vulnerable.

So I fed her every three hours, sometimes every two hours, and on really difficult days, every hour.  I myself started to shed weight quickly, so quickly in fact I fit into jeans I had when I was using eating disordered behaviors.  I thought I had a thyroid problem, as I ate nonstop and gained nothing.  I recently was informed by my PCP that it was probably the 700-1000 extra calories I was using up to feed my daughter daily.  Whatever it was, it messed with my mind.

Immediately I started to get the external validation.  “You look amazing!  How did you do it?  You seriously had a baby one week ago?  You look better now that you’re a mother!”  (Everything short of, hey, you’re a bitch.)  I know that these comments were well-meaning and honestly, they felt great and got me through work days when I had no sleep the night before.  But my old thoughts began to creep in.  “Once you stop breastfeeding, you’ll be invisible and worthless again…”  And the voice has gotten louder now that I’ve gained a much-needed 10 pounds.  It’s gotten louder, but it hasn’t won.  I really don’t think it ever will again.

(People are *obsessed* with appearance.  I just had to get that out.  Never has been more evident.)

Anyway, flash forward to my daughter’s 4 month check up.  Looking at her that day, you would never have guessed it was the same baby.  Round cheeks replace an angular face.  Beautiful plump legs instead of her tiny “chicken legs” we joked about when she was born.  She had no problem eating and gaining weight.  It was so freeing to see an unbridled appetite.

“You can stop worrying about helping her to gain weight now.”  My daughter’s pediatrician delivered this statement with a wary tone and a furrowed brow after her weigh-in.  “In fact, she has a little belly.”

I am assuming he meant the second part in a cutesy way, but a part of me thinks he was worried.

I know, I know, obesity is an epidemic, a serious one, and that’s probably what he’s worried about.  But don’t you all get it??  It’s the hyperfocus on it that makes the problem worse.  If you are repeatedly on a kid about losing weight and shaming him with merely a tone, he’s going to emotionally eat more.  If you tell a kid, “Don’t eat donuts!”  The kid is going to eat donuts.  If you introduce a variety of foods to your child, and teach him to respect his appetite, his weight will balance out where it’s supposed to after puberty.  Like mine would have, if I didn’t intercept it with anorexia.  Both my partner and I were overweight kids who grew up to be slim teenagers.

I just didn’t think the obsession started at 4 months old.

Have you all noticed that the more media focuses on the obesity epidemic, the worse it becomes?  Back in the dark ages, when people ate meat and potatoes, how big was the obesity epidemic then?  Yes, money and lots of other things play into it, but I sincerely believe mind obsession (especially for people with addictive personalities) plays a huge part in it.  And it’s no coinki-dink that substance abuse is on the rise either.  We live in an empty society today.

Babies aren’t supposed to be perfect.  Rather, they are perfect because they’re chubby and loud and have big tempers and listen to their cues better than us adults could ever dream of doing.  If you respond to their cues, even if the cue is a big appetite, they will grow up to be happy and healthy, physically and emotionally.  If you don’t, they will fear their appetite, their voice, and their presence.  And you all know that’s the last thing I want for my child.

Poor doctor, he doesn’t know what he ran into.

4 thoughts on “Like Mother, Unlike Daughter

  1. I am trying SO hard not to focus on eating disorder preventing, raising three girls in a house with a husband who is SO concerned with body size that he is worried our 3yo is “too fat” – she is the same weight as her twins sister, and less than an inch shorter. I have had to scream at him sometimes when all he focuses on is appearance when it comes to me, and our oldest daughter. It is truly an uphill battle but I swear I will NOT let him destroy their self image with his careless words. I’m just not sure how to go about doing that.

    1. Lori,

      I’m so sorry that is going on; that sounds so hard. If it was me, I would be an insane woman trying to change his behavior or increase his awareness of what he’s doing. And ugh, if he’s saying it to you that is so not ok! You know what I think? (and this is just my experience, so feel free to throw it out the window) The biggest influence on my body image was my mother. While I love her, she didn’t love her body that much and it def affected the way I saw mine. So keep loving your fricking awesome self, and your girls will love themselves too. Sending good energy to you, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. All of my 3 babies where born average weight, but ended up on the lower end of the weight chart as they grew. From my experience, it seemed Americans want babies to be big and children & teenagers to be skinny. I wanted a fat & chubby baby because it seemed people equated this with good health. I didn’t like the comments, “Wow, your baby is so tiny!” I felt like I was doing something wrong. During one pediatrician visit, the nurse pretty much berated us because my son (9 months) was so small. She pretty much accused us of starving him. Believe me, we’d feed him as much as he would eat. We never withheld food from him. The focus shouldn’t have been on his weight, but on his health. He was a healthy baby & still is. All my children are average size now. All children grow differently. Your doc shouldn’t have made you feel bad for having a healthy growing baby.

    1. Same goes for you! What the nurses said to you sounded awful. Thanks for the comment re: the doc – we have a different one now, thank God. (Who, incidentally, is a woman and called Fiona “perfectly proportional.” Love it.) You bring up a great point about the other end of the spectrum being an issue as well – seems as if nothing pleases them! Hearing the same comment over and over again about your children is so hard.

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