Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Deadbaby mama body image

It was the development of boobs that sparked my body "issues".  The budding bosom went unnoticed by 11 year old me until a snotty little girl pointed them out.  24 years later I am well versed with disliking parts of my body.  Those boobs that started so early ended up being quite small, my ass is some kind of fat magnet, my skin is permanently traumatized from teenage hormones. Toss some sexual abuse into the mix and my body became more distant and uglier. 

And this is a pervasive problem; how many of you are reciting your mental list of the flaws you think your body has right now?

And then my body couldn't make a healthy baby.  Suddenly clear skin and cellulite free thighs disappeared as worries.  I stopped looking at my body.  I stopped yoga.  Stopped dancing.  I hated my body for killing the baby; sometimes I am still so angry with this flesh that failed so badly.  Along with emotional grieving, this body also mourned: the aches from an utterly empty uterus, the breasts that swelled with milk and then never returned to normal since I never lost weight, arms that needed to hold a baby so badly that they clenched and throbbed and then disappeared.  It's like mind, arms, womb, breasts, voice all separated, dissociating to grieve privately, unable to also feel the pain of the other parts.

My doctors told me over and over that one can't do anything to cause bilateral renal agenesis and that it wasn't my fault, but then who's to blame?  The undeveloped organs were caused by something happening or not happening and I know exactly where Toren was for his entire life so this wasn't something that occurred when he was outside of my care.

* * * * *

My stages of grief work went like this:
1.  Shock and numbness
2.  Get through each day
3.  Get through each day sober

And now it's time to gather the body parts together to re-integrate as a whole person.  Before attempting a subsequent family (new partner and perhaps a pregnancy that may turn into a take-home baby) I want to feel whole, strong, capable, and ready.  This may sound weird but it's like my pregnancy with Toren has not ended yet.  Where a mother's body is concerned, pregnancy should go like this: pregnancy weight gain, huge belly, lose weight with delivery, lose more weight breastfeeding, and finally going on a diet to get back to one's pre-pregnancy weight.  Toren's pregnancy stalled out at the pregnancy weight gain step.  I'm still hanging on to him, still waiting for the outcome that was "supposed" to happen.

Defeated uterus, tired brain, futile breasts, and painfully empty arms ... being well indoctrinated that the cure to most physical annoyances is to lose weight, going on a diet was my automatic first solution.  Can a diet make a deadbaby mama whole?  Where are the magazine articles addressing this body image problem?  I don't think weight loss itself is the key, however the healthy behaviors that often lead to weight loss, such as exercise and a nutritious diet, could be beneficial.  Even so a weight loss ticker has been added off to the right.

Here's how these extra 28 pounds came to be:
  1. 8 pounds from writing my thesis (no exercise + take out for 3 months)
  2. 12 pounds of pregnancy weigh gain (which is mysterious and embarrassing since Toren was so tiny and there was no amniotic fluid)
  3. 8 pounds from consuming impressive quantities of wine for 2 years

Changes made so far:
  1. Only occasional drinking (2-4 drinks per week), tapering down to wondrously sparse alcohol consumption.
  2. Making a salad or sandwich for lunch instead of bringing a microwave meal.  
  3. Personal training - however my gym use has been limited due to my broken patella - bah!
Anyway, I may write out weekly health goals here.  If anyone would like to become healthier with me I will set up a McLinky and every week we can post our goals.


* * * * *
Now for a "you-simply-can't-stop-being-annoyingly-pregnant-can-you?" blurb.

Yesterday I asked my pregnant colleague who talks about all the stuff she needs me to do while she is on maternity leave in December how her dr's appointment was (because it is polite to ask).  The answer was that she waited for an hour to see the dr for 2 minutes and that prenatal visits are a waste of time, however she did get to hear the heartbeat.  Either she really finds pregnancy boring because she's already successfully carried a pregnancy to the end or she is minimizing her excitement for my benefit so I won't think that being pregnant is anything to write home about.

Can you believe that?  She told me that prenatal visits were a waste of time - like I had never been to one and would never want to go to one now!

Prenatal visits were anything but a waste of time for me.  The first 2 were normal and exciting but after the heavy bleeding starting at week 13 the visits were more frequent and I held my breath each time until the doppler picked up Toren's heartbeat.  Then of course there was the anatomy visit and boy do I ever wish that were a boring day rather than the day that began years of agonizing sorrow.

She's planning a c-section, which I have no issue with, but the reason she told me was that when she was induced for her last delivery she waited for 20 hours (boring) and then had a c-section.  I didn't say that it took 72 hours from the time my induction began to when Toren was delivered, but it didn't feel like a long time because there were so many emotions to process and fears to conquer.  I was in no rush to leave the hospital without him.

This is all really bitchy but it illustrates the different perspectives on simple things that come along with a deadbaby.

9 comments:

cgd said...

I know this so so well (well sort of). My baby was lost at 15 weeks. I had gained 6 lbs and 2 bra sizes. I was not wearing maternity clothes b/c I refused to buy them since we already knew that this baby was not going to make it. I took to wearing big sweater coats and leggings all the time. Not a pretty look. After, I was on a mission to lose weight. It was not really in a good way. It felt like I was punishing myself and my body for the loss and for having so much trouble getting pregnant in the first place. I was angry. The first month, I tortured myself, nothing happened, I imagine b/c my hormones were a disaster. By month 2, I did lose the weight but I am not so sure it made me feel better. As you said, dead baby body image is not really about your size. It is about you and your relationship with yourself. I may fit back into my clothes, but I am stil working on my relationship with me, we have a long way to go.
I long for "boring" prenatal visits for us both. Mine sucks, all around. Especially from week 11 on. I think I still have flash backs from my nuchal test it was traumatic for me.
I think it is great that you are setting these goals for yourself. Wishing you healing in body and in spirit.

Reba said...

our bodies were the homes for our little ones. they kept them safe and warm and happy for as long as they could. now, we have an extra softness around our middle. our boobs were already too small, now they sag too. these are our battle scars and though i am sometimes sad about them, i am always also proud of them. (((hugs)))

AnnaMarie said...

Reba, you have a wonderful perspective on post-natal body image!

I wonder if that is part of it too; one some level have I enjoyed the extra weight because it makes me feel maternal?

Catherine W said...

That's lovely Reba. Your comment has got me thinking AnnaMarie.

I'm quite a 'big' person. Not that I'm immensely fat but before I fell pregnant I was 5ft8 and about nine and a half stone. So above average size for a woman I guess. Not petite anyhow. And I was finally so proud of my body. I thought that my size meant I would be able to carry the twins, that I was good for something at last.

But I couldn't and I hated myself and my body for it.

I lost all my pregnancy weight after G died and whilst J was in the NICU. THEN I put it all back on again. I completely identify with the mysterious and embarrassing nature of this as I'm sure people must wonder how I became so much fatter when my children were so small. When J came home and it all kind of kicked in, that this had truly happened, I couldn't stop eating. I just wanted comfort so desperately I think.

Maybe I wanted the maternal shape you describe? Maybe I just wanted my pregnancy back? For a while there, I did show quite some determination to eat myself into a representation of a full term twin pregnancy. But then, I stopped. I'm carrying about an extra eight or nine pounds. I think I'm alright with that.

And ick, that pregnant colleague. I surely wish that everyone had such boring prenatal visits.

Quiet Dreams said...

To paraphrase a book about body image/food issues that I love, bad thoughts about our bodies are about so much more than our bodies.

I, for one, have gained quite a bit of weight in the last couple of years. I think I keep it on as some kind of "armor"--it definitely feels like my excuse for not participating more in life (dating, etc.).

Hugs.

angelseashore said...

Wow.. I'm gone for 2 weeks and so much has happened in your life. How exciting!

I gained 6 lbs. during my pregnancy and 30 lbs after my loss due to major depression and emotional eating. I never really lost my baby weight either. I'm actually starting my healthy eating/exercise tomorrow so I would love to be your buddy. Let me know how McLinky works.

My boobs will never be the same but I don't care b/c losing my daughter has given me a deeper perspective on life. Saggy boobs are the least of my worries as far as I'm concerned and that's awesome. Our bodies are truly a reminder of the babies we once carried..

angelseashore said...

Wow.. I'm gone for 2 weeks and so much has happened in your life. How exciting!

I gained 6 lbs. during my pregnancy and 30 lbs after my loss due to major depression and emotional eating. I never really lost my baby weight either. I'm actually starting my healthy eating/exercise tomorrow so I would love to be your buddy. Let me know how McLinky works.

My boobs will never be the same but I don't care b/c losing my daughter has given me a deeper perspective on life. Saggy boobs are the least of my worries as far as I'm concerned and that's awesome. Our bodies are truly a reminder of the babies we once carried..

Akul's mama said...

I find myself talking less and less to people who get pregnant...I cannot handle it!!!

vera kate said...

For awhile I honestly didn't want to lose the weight; it was the first time in my life that I was sad to see the pounds melt away, because of what it meant.