Category Archives: Life, the Universe, and Everything

The Last Time I Worried About My Weight

About two years ago, I sat my husband down on the couch, the one I dyed purple because it made both of us happy to have a purple couch, and I told him that I was fat.  That I had been fat for years.  That I was tired of trying and failing to do anything about it.  And so I was going to be fat for years to come.  What did he think about it?

I wasn’t asking for his approval.  We never have thought that we required the other’s approval for things like this, and he didn’t mistake my question for a request for it.  And in many ways, this felt a little redundant to even be talking about.  He lives with me.  He sees me naked almost every day.  Surely the state of my body was not a surprise to him in any way.

Except that he sort of flipped out.

I was a little shocked.  My husband has always, clearly and unmistakably, found me attractive.  He has never cared about the current mainstream beauty standards and how closely I matched them.  He thinks that I am wondrous and amazing when I am happy and content with myself, and he loves what my body can do for me and us.  No longer fighting to fit my body into molds made to sell clothing and self-hatred and and thereby making me deeply unhappy should be a good thing.  So what was going on?

It turned out, after some conversation and going around in circles, that his definition of the word ‘fat’ included being unable to do things.  That ‘fat’ was a limiting condition that kept people from participating in activities, caused severe health issues, and that got in the way of living the life that people wanted to live.

Let’s be clear about a few things.  First, I am not going to argue about the relevance of those connotations for anyone else.  I am not writing about anyone else.  I do not live in other people’s bodies, I am not married to other people, and so we’re going to skip right over whether my husband was right or wrong to define fat in such a way.  Not the discussion at hand.

Second, this would be the point where I offer up the justifications of how I’m not really all *that* fat, how I’m really just a bit more than average, right?  And perhaps a long paragraph or two about the things that I have done to try to lose weight and excuses about why they didn’t work for me.  Well, I’m skipping it.  I’m fat, the details are not relevant to anyone except me and the medical professionals of my choice (although apparently terribly important to a wide variety of people who don’t know me and never will get a chance to after they open their mouths), and doing so would just reinforce the idea that this is something to be justified anyway.  Instead of what it is: a fact.

Once we had both figured out what he was reacting to, we spent some time cuddling and calming down, and then started to unpack his reaction.  What was he afraid of?  How did our lived experience of my body match or differ from his fears?  Were there things about his fears that rang true for me?  What did we want to do, if anything, about the situation?

Some things were easy to refute.  My weight did not keep me from doing the things that I and we wanted me to be able to do.  There have been people in his life for whom this was not true, and I understand that this fed his fears.  But it was not the case for me.  Yes, being fat is statistically likely to increase health issues.  So is growing older.  So are depression and stress, and being depressed about my weight and stressed trying to lose weight didn’t seem like the better alternative.

Finally, what life did we want to live?  I didn’t want to compete in body building competition, or win Mrs. America.  We liked the life we were living, and I could do all of it, and he could do all of it, and so who cared about the things where my weight, or his, might be an issue?  We were not inhabiting those spaces, not spending time with those people, and – until I’d decided to bring this up explicitly – it hadn’t bothered us.  So we decided to let it coast.  See what happened.  Keep an eye on my health, and his health (he still eats like a teenager), and make sure that we were still doing the things that we wanted to do.

And it worked for about a year and a half.  Until there was a medical reason to do otherwise.

During that time, we achieved pregnancy and then lost the baby just before three months.  That story is told elsewhere, and not the point here.  About five months after the miscarriage, I asked my doctor when we could talk to fertility doctors if we decided to go that route.  She said we had to show that we’d been trying to get pregnant for a year after the last proven sign of fertility, and a miscarriage counted as a sign of fertility.  I didn’t dare ask how many miscarriages we’d have to have before they no longer counted.  My doctor also said that the fertility doctors were likely to have more options for me if I lost a bit of weight, and she named a number that seemed very achievable in seven months.  So I set off to do it.

And along the way, achieved pregnancy again.

The diet I picked explicitly stated that women who were using hormonal birth control might be wise to also use barrier methods until they were at the maintenance stage of the diet.  I didn’t mention that this was an attraction for me . . . and a mere two months later called up the diet support person to explain that I was going to stop the diet, since dieting and pregnancy are frowned on at the same time.

Separate-entity baby is still about three months off at this point, but I haven’t looked at a scale in months.  I have no idea how much I weigh.  I am very clearly pregnant to other people, in addition to being fat.  I eat the things I need to for the baby, and don’t worry about my weight.

I went to the doctor the other day, and was asked to step on the scale.  I politely declined.  The nurse moved onto taking my blood pressure with no comment.  It was lovely, and unstressful.

I will need to let them take my weight as I approach the end of pregnancy, to watch for water retention, but as soon as that’s done, I expect to go back to ignoring the scale.  Not ignoring my health, not ignoring my levels of exercise and food intake.  But the scale can’t tell me anything useful about my health, and I refuse to use it as a substitute any longer.

Is this the right choice for anyone else?  I don’t know.  I’m not a medical professional providing care to someone concerned about their weight.  And chances are reasonably good that neither are you!


Leave a comment

Filed under children, Life, the Universe, and Everything

When someone you know has a miscarriage

Warning: graphic imagery

When someone you know tells you they or their partner miscarried, don’t try to fix it.  It’s unfixable.

I asked my boyfriend to spend the rest of his life with me the day we stopped talking about IF we were going to have children and started talking about WHEN.  We were 21, juniors in college, and had been together for two years.  Roughly six years later, I married him.  His joke is that he married me so I’d do his taxes, but we were mostly thinking that maybe it was finally time to have children.  As a friend pointed out, I was keeping him, I wasn’t going to marry any one else, and many things are a little easier (paperwork and so on) if you are married to the other parent of your child.  Except, even as we were planning the wedding, I was applying to grad school, and then my new job started the same week as I got accepted into grad school, and it seemed like a good idea to wait a little longer.  My poor dad was so confused.  Should he be happy and proud that I was going to grad school?  Or sad that the promised grandbabies weren’t happening yet?

About nine months ago, we just got sick of waiting.  It had been eight years since that long car ride home from school when he agreed to spend the rest of his life with me.  We wanted babies now.  We both had good jobs, the end of grad school was in sight, and the only housemates we had were two cats.  So we planned and went on vacation over the holidays, scheduled a tonsillectomy for me in February (if I needed any proof that he was good at taking care of helpless people, I got it over my two weeks of recovery; tonsillectomies hurt), and had my doctor take my IUD out in March.  We waited through one menstrual cycle to reestablish my body’s cycle, and then started having unprotected sex.  There were color-coded excel charts involved.

It turns out, I am as fertile as family lore said I should be.  Four days after my next period failed to show up, the pregnancy test was positive.  Two weeks later, three days after my thirtieth birthday, my doctor’s office had me pee in a cup and confirmed the pregnancy.  Two weeks after that, I had eight doctor’s appointments in one week, all related to the pregnancy.  Some of them very interesting, some not so much.  The family planner and I started out with the fact that I already done the planning, very carefully, in fact, and so we skipped several sections of her planned speech.  The social worker and I agreed that we earned too much money for food stamps, WIC, and section 8 housing.  I lectured the nurse about toxoplasmosis and why it probably wasn’t an issue for me, but I still didn’t mind letting Himself change the litter box for the next several months.

We came up with names for girls and for boys, and talked to midwives.

We told everyone at about the two and a half month mark.

On Father’s Day (and I have no idea why the techs were working on a Sunday), we had the first ultrasound.  The next day, Monday, my doctor called me from her vacation with the results of the ultrasound.  I wasn’t pregnant after all.

Diagnoses have all kinds of names.  Some have useful names, some not so much.  Recently, the worse diagnostic name I can think of is the one for what I had.  Blighted ovum.  Also called anembryonic pregnancy.  In other words, pregnancy without an embryo.  My body had grown an amniotic sac and filled it with fluid, but the fertilized egg had failed to grow.  My doctor said that there was no way she or anyone else could have known before the ultrasound that this was happening.  She said that I had all the signs of pregnancy, and she wanted to be really clear that I hadn’t been making this up.  She said this would have no impact on my ability to carry a future pregnancy to term.  She told me that I would shortly start to pass the issue, or I could take medical steps to ensure that everything was expelled.  But there was not going to be a baby at this time.

We spent the next day or so in a kind of a daze.  In retrospect, I am extremely grateful that my doctor called when she did, because it meant that when I started to bleed on Tuesday, I knew what was happening.  On Wednesday, when I started to expel tissue, I didn’t go to the ER in a panic.  I just sat at home and cried with Him.  We cried a lot those first few days.

The rabbit hole of the internet says that ten to twenty percent of confirmed pregnancies miscarry before the end of the first trimester.  In other words, one to two of every ten pregnancies don’t make it to the second trimester.  Most women who have had a miscarriage have no difficulty getting pregnant when they try again.  This fact is only marginally comforting when you are part of that ten to twenty percent and the miscarriage just happened.

Nothing is official until you post it to Facebook, right?  About a week after I started bleeding, I posted a note to Facebook explaining that I was no longer pregnant, and that we didn’t want hugs or sympathy unless we started the conversation.  Almost everyone went along and talked about other things around us, meaning that I could control when and on whom I cried.  I’m not sure who He cried on aside from me.  He’s never cried as easily as I have, but I know this hurt him almost as much as me.  I say almost because he didn’t have to deal with the cramps from expelling tissue.

Talking about it with other people was, and remains, one of the hardest parts.  The cramping and bleeding trailed off, and three weeks out, I am no longer bursting into tears every time I stop thinking about something else.  Every time a parent walks by with a new baby.  Every time a pregnant woman walks by.  Every time an ad featuring babies pops up on a website.  And we’ve been talking to people.  Our parents and sisters.  My therapist.  And friends.  Almost all of our friends have let me cry if I need to.  One of them took Him to the zoo.  At least two have taken me out for supper.  One of them took the time to think about His point of view and suggest things to me about what He might be dealing with that I hadn’t been able to see past my own pain.

I wish that people would stop telling us “you can always have another.”  We want another baby.  We will try to have another.  But we wanted this one, too.  We wanted this baby who we planned for so carefully.  We’re still planning on using the same name if we have a girl next time so I’m not going to share that here, but we wanted little maybe-Alexander.  We wanted the dreams and the hopes that we thought we were going to get to realized.  The next one will be wonderful.  But right now, this one hurts.  Telling me that I can always have another dismisses this one, makes it irrelevant.  This one mattered.  If I carried the pregnancy to full-term, and then our baby died, would people tell us we could always try again?  I don’t think they would.  But somehow, because we only had three months dreaming about this possibility, it’s okay to skip right ahead to the next one?

I would be happy to never hear another variation on “but this one wasn’t really there” when I go into the details of what happened.  No, this one wasn’t really there after all.  There wasn’t an embryo that I lost.  But we didn’t know that.  We built three months of hopes and dreams on the completely reasonable assumption that it was there, and just because it turned out there wasn’t anything growing doesn’t change what we hoped for.  It feels like people are trying to explain to me why I shouldn’t grieve.  I might even call it a benevolent form of gaslighting, an attempt to rewrite my experience and my reality.  I do believe the people who have said this to me mean well.  But arguing someone out of grieving is a terrible thing to do to your friends.  It’s a convenience to the person I am talking to, so they don’t have to deal with my pain.  It doesn’t help us, the people who are hurting, at all.

I appreciate the people who tell me “I’m sorry.  That sucks.  Do you want a hug?” and then take no for an answer.  I appreciate the people who offer distractions, but are fine with me not being up for it.  I’m glad for the ones who offer supper plans, and then talk about books, or knitting, or plans for the summer.  And I’m desperately grateful for the ones who let me interrupt those discussions with tears and trying to articulate how much it hurts, how angry I am about everything, and how scared I am for when we try again.  I cannot adequately express how much it means to me when people don’t try to fix the situation, but let us be sad and unhappy.  It’s a sad and unhappy situation, and it hurts, and the people who acknowledge that and hold our hands without trying to fix it make things a little better.

When someone you know tells you they or their partner miscarried:

  • Assume that you know nothing about the situation.
  • Assume that no matter how uncomfortable you are with this person’s pain, you cannot fix it.  You cannot make it better.  You cannot wish it away.
  • Assume that you have no idea how to help.
  • Sit in silence with them or let them talk or discuss the latest article you read if they need a distraction.
  • Cry on someone else.  They might cry on you, and if they do, you can cry, too; but take your pain from the situation elsewhere.  They are not the right person to listen to your fears or the reasons why you think the pregnancy might not have progressed.
  • Tell them you’re sorry for their loss.  Ask if they need a hug.  Don’t take it personally if they say no.
  • Be there.  A hand if they need it, a shoulder if they can cry, an ear if they need to talk.  Someone to tuck them under the blanket on the couch and walk away if they need to be alone.
  • Don’t try to fix it.  It’s unfixable.

1 Comment

Filed under children, Life, the Universe, and Everything