Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Post Cards from Postpartum: Chow!

One day while breast feeding I lost it.

As one who likes to keep moving through the day (because I will fall into utter laziness if I don't) I find sitting down to nurse my baby is a practice in self control. 

Sit here and feed your baby, I have to tell myself.

Don't get up to pick pieces off the carpet.

Don't get up to pour more sippy substance for Ever.

Stay put in this spot for twenty minutes even if the kitchen should catch fire and the bacon burns.

But one day as I was sitting down I started to feel lumpy and post-birthy. 

Not pretty.

And I recognized these feelings as a trail back to my former self when I thought my body was weak if it shifted, changed shape or became fleshier than usual.

So I texted Janna, my unpaid therapist.

Janna, I am feeling fat.

And she replied,

Fat is not a feeling.

Right. Right. Sometime I ago I realized I only felt two emotions: happy or fat. I didn't have bad days. I only had fat days. Feeling fat masked what I was really feeling--lonely, loser-ish, angry, small voiced--because I believed being fat was worse than the sum of all negative parts.

And that theory was dead wrong.

So I sat there, sat and nursed and asked myself,

What ARE you feeling?

I thought about the night before. Lisa had brought us a huge meal of Indian-spiced chicken, rice, feta salad and chocolate chip cookies. I sat down to eat and the baby started crying. WHY DO ALL MY BABIES ALWAYS CRY WHEN I WANT TO EAT?

I calmed the baby and sat down again.

The Chief needed more drink and when I got up to help him, Ever spilled hers. It slowly puddled over the table and started an annoying drip, drip, drip. I got up to clean it, sat down again and was only minutes in until the next need erupted.

When the kids were finally put down to bed that night and the baby was stuffed into sleep by the weight of my arms, I fled back into the kitchen. I pulled out all the Tupperware, ripped off the rubber lids and desperately ate right out of the container like I had just come home from Starving Camp.

I ate and ate and ate until I could actually feel food in my stomach.

Then I felt awful. Not physically awful but emotionally awful. Why did I need to eat so much? Two dinner meals? Was I consuming some stress? Was I devouring my feelings? But at that point I was too tired for a dessert topped with analytical self-exploration so I went to bed.

And here I was sitting, not able to move a muscle, forced to think. I thought and thought and thought until I finally realized what was going on.

I was hungry.

It's like trying to eat in a monkey cage around here--and I've got to eat for my baby and for myself. With the distractions flying at me at the same speed as my baby wants to consume, if I am not determined, I get almost no calories in my body at all.

I wasn't depressed, sunk, spent. Overwhelmed, frustrated, fat. Losing, lumpy, frumpy and weak I WAS HUNGRY.

And most likely I was hungry after The Chief was born and I was hungry after Ever was born but instead of listening to myself, I did what I always do when I feel fat, I restricted calories. I had never really educated myself on hunger as a means to an end, but I had spent years seeing hunger as a depressed, unvoiced emotional need. For most of my life hunger was not a desire to eat, it was a sign of intelligent deficiency and deprivation of honesty.

This was a small, obvious break through for me, but so important.

Janna texted me back offering,  

Are you feeling unhappy about your body shape?

No, I replied, I just realized, I'm hungry.

And I've been eating ever since.

Pictures of Erin from Wendy of Blue Lily Photography.