About two months ago, we had a one-week visit from my mother, and then a short break, and then a two-week visit by my mother-in-law. Oh, it was amazing. For the first time since Liam was born, Dan and I were both(!) able to go back to sleep in the mornings. We’d get up with the baby in the night, of course, but in the early mornings, we’d come out with a wiggly, beaming Liam and find a similarly beaming grandparent with open arms. We’d pass him off and shuffle back to bed, sleep a bit longer, and wake up feeling more like the lively people we used to be.
Not only that, but I sometimes took naps during the day, as well, to catch up on my sleep deficit, or I would retreat to my room for a bit in the afternoon to read a book or surf the web a bit. So much about caring for a little infant isn’t the interrupted sleep, but the endless attention he requires. And the grandmas were perfectly willing to lavish him with attention while I took some for myself.
During their visits, Dan went back to work full-time (he had been on part-time paternity leave before), but our lives got so much easier during their visits that we moved from thrilled-but-just-surviving mode into goal-setting mode. In the rush of getting Liam, I had eaten very poorly since his birth. Dan’s kryptonite (in more than one way) is sugar, and he had poured it down his gullet. We were both looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying to the other, “I have got to lose . . .” Just before Dan’s mom left, I put a set of goals to check off daily on the fridge: Eat six servings of vegetables! Limit sugar to four teaspoons a day! Walk five miles a day! Etc. I checked off all my goals three days in a row.
You might be able to guess what happened.
Dan’s mom went home, and it was just us again. Only this time, it was just us with Dan back at work full-time, in a particularly crazy time at his office.
I valiantly tried to keep up my list. I managed to check everything off on my goal sheet one more time, a few days later. Then after a while, I stopped even looking at the goal sheet. It mocked me. I was having a mostly great time with my baby boy, but everything else was falling off my to-do list.
About a week ago, while I grocery-shopped, I intensively mulled the various ways that I might get myself under control–that’s literally how I thought about it, ‘get myself under control.’ Problem was, I couldn’t figure out where to get the energy or time to do any of the available options right now. When I got home, I stripped down, weighed myself on our bathroom scale, pulled my clothes back on, and came into the living room. I sat down on the couch next to my husband and son, and I burst into tears. I had seen the highest number on the scale that I had seen in three or four years.
I felt panicky. I sobbed as I told my husband that I couldn’t keep going on this way, but that I also didn’t know what to do. For the past few years, I’ve fallen somewhere in a 1o-pound range. The lowest part of that 10-pound range is 10-15 pounds higher than where I’d like to be, but it’s not a horrible range. But lately, I usually really hate myself in photos. To get on the scale and see that I’d bumped myself out of the upper end of that range . . . it really hurt. It scared me. I’ve been really overweight before. When you’ve been really overweight before, I think that spectre of your former self always haunts you a bit.
Dan pulled me to him and held me and Liam together. He reminded me that he thinks I am lovely and delicious at any size. And then he pointed out, very gently, that the times I have been best at weight management are the times when I have been best able to manage my stress. Perhaps, he suggested, I should
a) tear up my strict list on the fridge,
b) stop thinking all the time about what I’m eating and what I’m weighing, and
c) start focusing on the things I know how to do to make life feel more manageable overall?
Well, I knew I married this man for a reason.
You remember that whole self-care thing? It’s not about self-control. It’s about my whole life, about being gentle and loving and generous with myself and seeing where that gets me. And in the past, it’s gotten me below a worrisome weight into a happily middling one, as well as having lots of other, probably (okay definitely) way more important life benefits.
So that is what I’m working to do right now. I started blogging here, originally, because I knew there had to be a better way than the self-control-attempting self-hatred I spewed at myself, silently, in my head, a way instead to live joyfully within certain restrictions as a way of practicing loving self-care.
I can’t say I’m not feeling the weight panic come shooting up my throat, regularly, or that I don’t occasionally look at online diet articles that pop up, trying to find the magic bullet that we all know doesn’t really exist. But I’m spending more of that time and energy thinking about what makes me happy, fulfilled, calm, rested—and how to get those things in my life in the midst of raising our sweet baby boy . . . who just woke up from his nap. Well, I got this post out, anyway!