Two days before my son was born, I ran my fastest pace ever of an 8:50 mile. I was shocked seeing that pace on my running app on my phone. Several years previous, I was struggling just to run a mile non-stop without gasping for air. Now, I was running without thinking about running. A run became my time to meditate in a way and think about things going on in my life. Many crises were solved and conquered during those three-six miles every other day.
Thanks to Pilates and dance, I actually had abs. I was 43 years old and I was proud to expose my belly as a danced in front of a crowd. My body was leaner than ever. As the chubby girl throughout my teenage years and well into my 20s and 30s, I was so happy about finding the strength to redefine my body and have self confidence for once in my life.
Then, it happened. My boy appeared. Suddenly the desire to spend so much time a day taking care of myself was replaced with a serious lack of sleep, comfort food and no exercise. After my eight-week maternity leave, I had gained nine pounds. My weight gain now is more than that but I am terrified of my bathroom scale. My pre-mom clothes are not fitting. Weekends are spent in forgiving yoga pants. Getting dressed to go to work is traumatic.
My reaction to this occurrence changes daily. Most days, I don’t have time to worry about it. My son and my job demand the majority of my attention and energy. If I can find something clean with a forgiving waistband, I wear it. Sometimes, I look at those photos of me before my son arrived and I feel guilty. How is this happening? Whose body is this?
Before my son, I ate very healthy things, lots of lean protein, veggies and some fruit. I consumed very little alcohol. After my son appeared, food appeared in my kitchen from friends mainly in the form of comfort food. Macaroni and cheese, crackers, bread and cake were living in my kitchen. They were exiled before him.
I am still searching for my new relationship with my body as a mother. My household will contain foods that I should not consume, but my son loves them so they must be here. Goldfish and graham crackers top the list. Right now, they are my go-to food for him if I can’t make dinner fast enough for him. Cheese is also his favorite, but before I typically stayed away from dairy. Wheat and dairy have a love-hate relationship with my body. My mouth loves them, the rest of me especially my stomach dislike them.
When you don’t sleep a lot consistently, you find yourself making bad choices. This bad choices happen the most at work. In the world of academia, there are donuts, pastry, cupcakes, pie or cookies lurking in someone’s office somewhere at all times. If I needed a sugar fix, my nose could lead me to their hideouts. Just go to Facebook and see who at work was having a birthday for some clues. About 3pm in the afternoon, my empty stomach and tired soul often took solace in the arms of something sweet that I did not need. My mouth was often chewing something before I even realized what had happened.
Let me confess here as well, that money was super tight nowadays. My son and pets were always fed and never skipped a meal, but I would often skip meals. My dinner was often what my son did not finish on his chair tray. Skipping meals has a way of backfiring on you. For instance, on Sundays, I would eat only once during my family’s regular brunch gathering. My next meal would be Monday morning at my desk. Between brunch and Monday am, I would take my son on a long stroller ride, run on my treadmill, and complete twenty minutes on the elliptical machine for twenty minutes before work. By 8am Monday, I was starving so I would eat anything and everything.
Exercise is present, but never to the intensity of before my son. By the time my son goes to bed, the day has worn me out and there was not a lot of energy left in my muscles. I always gave it my best, but sometimes my workouts were just a joke. If we do something outside our routine like go to the grocery store on the way home from work, exercise is not going to happen. My toddler son fights the confines of the grocery cart seat. Shopping means holding his twenty-five pound body on my hip while pushing the cart around the store. By the time I get home and distract him enough so that I can unpack the car, I want to go to bed.
Sleep is a huge factor in my demise. Some nights I get 8 hours IN A ROW. Other nights, I get 8 minutes IN A ROW. If he is teething, cold or not feeling well, he is not sleep well. If I pull him into my bed, then I no longer sleep well. I wake constantly thanks to his punches, kicks and moans. Instead, I lie there listening to him snore and my cats yawn as they sleep and worry about having the ability to wake up in time for work in the morning. In case you didn’t know, your body releases chemicals into your system when you lack enough sleep that inspires weight gain.
I don’t know how this story is going to end. There is always hope that I get inspired to turn away food that is not good for me that is at my fingertips, so far, I have not been successful. My aunts and cousin talk about how when they were mothers of toddlers that they were the most fit state in their lives. Instead, my scale is going in the other direction.
Single Parent - Death by Pride
I hate writing this story, but I would be dishonest if I didn’t. Right now, I am sitting in my three-bedroom, one bath house with a strong roof over my head. It’s sleeting outside since this winter is refusing to end. It’s March, the month of Madness, St. Paddy’s Day, my property tax due dates, my son’s January hospital bill is due and the time to make good on past gas and electric bills.
Most months, I am fine. I pay our bills, shop for bargains at the grocery store and stay close to home on the weekends. None of my clothes are new. I drink only water, tea and coffee. The thermostat stays lower than most houses and we wear extra clothes. Still, I have finally reached the month where I can’t pay our bills. Close friends have loaned me money to make sure that his daycare bill was paid. Thanks to a salary advance loan from my credit union, I managed to pay the car payment. Now, I have forty dollars in my checking account and ¼ of a tank of gas in the car. There are 14 days until my next paycheck. I keep asking myself, how did I get here?
Becoming a parent has put me in debt that will take me several years to recover. From the first delivery of sperm from the sperm bank to the last payment to my adoption lawyer, I have spent over $60,000 trying to become a mother. It was worth every penny, I don’t regret it but tonight, I am scared. Yes, I can beg someone else for money. My tax refund is late since I claimed the adoption tax credit and the IRS seems to be taken aback by this revelation. It’s frustrating since I know that any day I will have the funds to pay all of my bills, but right now, I am not sure how I will buy groceries for my son until that day comes.
What makes this more painful is that as a child, I watched my mother struggle to feed us after the divorce. There was several nights where my mother made a can of tomato soup feed all four of us kids dinner. To this day, I can’t eat tomato soup because it reminds me of those times. As a child, I wondered why my mother didn’t reach out for more help so that we could eat more than a ¼ of a can a soup at night. It was pride, adults having to admit that they are unable to do something as simple as pay their bills. Now, here I am full of pride dreading the moments where I will have to ask for help.
My son is 14 months old right now and he has no clue about the worry that is going on in my brain. Instead, he is growing out of clothes left and right. During nap time, we wet himself and they had to resort to back-up clothes. When I picked him up, I discovered a cute little boy in a jumpsuit one size too small. Tonight, he was entertained by pushing a box and our laundry basket around the living with his favorite stuffed animal, his rabbit, along for the ride. His giggles made it difficult to stay sad. So glad that he was unaware that his dinner offering was lean and that his mother skipped dinner since I may need that meal later in the week.
Parts of my house and life are falling apart around me. My refrigerator moans like an old man. The tile in my bathroom is cracked from one side to the other. The furnace is old and will need replacing in the near future. My cats are very overdue for a visit to the vet. I just canceled my babysitter for tomorrow night. Tuesday night was my only night each week where I do one thing for myself - workout with a Pilates class then a dance class, but I can’t spend what little I have left on myself when this forty dollars may be my old way to buy groceries and milk for my son.
I have a Master’s degree and a good job, but let’s face it, in these trying times, everyone is one paycheck away from not paying their bills. This is happening for a reason. It’s a time for lessons as I learn to rely on others for assistance. Right now though, I am willing to wait it out a few more days to see if my return magically appears in the mail. My son eats most of his meals at day care anyway. My car gets good gas mileage and I could stand to skip a few meals with beach season just around the corner. Eventually though, I will find my breaking point. The moment I can’t feed my son or the gas gets turned off, all bets are off. Please, oh please universe don’t push us to such limits.