Feminist Figure Girl: Well Hissy Fit, complaining about motherhood is absolutely forbidden, especially to those who have healthy, happy infants. So are you ready to break a social taboo and piss off a lot of people?
Hissy Fit: Bring it.
FFG: First of all, motherhood makes you fatter and more sedentary. I gained about 55 pounds while pregnant, despite (mostly) eating well and training almost every day until right before giving birth. I have now lost 40 and am having difficulty shedding the last 15 pounds. Having an active baby is not helping much because I am forced to sit down at regular intervals. As indicated by new research “sitting is the new smoking,” terrible for our health. The average person sits most of the day, rising to perform tasks for only 3 minutes out of every hour. I used to have a lot of energy, moving throughout the day to defy this statistic. Yet by having a baby glued to one of my breasts for about 6 hours every day, I have become truly sedentary. Breastfeeding doubtlessly offers amazing benefits to the child, but I am less convinced about its value to mothers. I expect push back on this statement because breastfeeding is supposed to be either a maternal duty or spiritual exercise. All I can say is: bullshit.
HF: Fatter. Check. I gained 40 pounds while pregnant and, 8 months postpartum, have lost about 20. Being sedentary plays a big part. So does exhaustion. My baby goes to part-time daycare. For the remaining hours, he needs almost constant attention. Parenting doesn’t stop at night, people. My baby will occasionally “sleep through the night.” Much more often, he wakes every 3 hours to check in and see where Mommy and Daddy are. Once satisfied, he wants to nurse.
What does this have to do with getting fat? Sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. I physically cannot go 36 hours without sleeping without stimulating my body in some way. Caffeine does part of the trick. Sugar does the other part. When my gut is too rotten for coffee, in goes the sugar. I am not proud.
FFG: I hear you Hissy Fit. Licorice is calling my name right now. For me another unpleasant effect of breastfeeding is suddenly having gigantic boobs. I am now close to a D-cup, and have to wear two sports bras while doing cardio. My cumbersome sacks are in the way when I attempt T-bar rows and machine bicep curls, among other things. Should I tuck them under or flatten them on top of the preacher curl machine? This is a burning question in my mind. Both options are uncomfortable. I complained about my large bosoms the other day while skipping with my trainer, DYT, who has naturally voluptuous breasts. “I know,” she exclaimed, “large breasts are such a nuisance!” Why on earth would anyone pay to have these things artificially sewn into their chests? If you want some cleavage to display in public, just make do with a nice push-up bra. Anyway, you will not be surprised to learn that my LSP is less than sympathetic when I complain about what he considers to be a physical improvement. “How would you like to have massive testicles strapped to your torso?” I asked, hoping to make a strong point. “I would love that,” he exclaimed, probably in all honesty. Since I refuse to buy clothes, these new appendages visibly burst from my old tank tops at the gym. I imagine certain gym people seeing me there and thinking something like: “Hey that tired old lady has a nice set of jugs.” Yet their admiration offers me little solace. By the way, I started this collaborative post at 4 am and not because my baby woke up; I was forced to pump my swollen breasts and currently sit with a bizarre, rhythmic machine attached to my body. Sigh.
HF: Oh yea. Every day, on goes the massive sports bra, the only thing I own that will tame these suckers. One day, my sister asked me how large my breasts possibly were. I have no idea, because I’ve no time for bra shopping. Back in my mind, I also think bra shopping is a waste of money, because one day I will again slip into my small lacy things. “Ha,” says a good friend and mother of two. “Might as well just give them away while they’re still in style.” The bras, she means. Large breasts will always be popular.
Another funny thing. My lactating gazongas are now stretchy. They can be pushed, pulled, bitten, and smooshed. None of this hurts, because after 8 months of nursing, my breasts are tough as nails. Generally, this is good, particularly since I have a rambunctious baby. But sometimes, I look down at my stretchy, tough breasts, and think: why is one nipple riding high, and the other riding low? And then I think: I don’t care.
FFG: I am just getting started Hissy Fit! Motherhood messes with your innards. “This entire area is a nightmare,” I recently said to my LSP, using my hand to make a circular motion over my abdomen and vulva. In a way, my vagina was spared by the caesarean operation that rather suddenly and surprisingly produced my son. I am pleased that I will not be subject to the inevitable and permanent stretching effects of a natural birth. On the other hand, my scar still hurts, a full 15 weeks after the surgery. The area remains swollen and I am just recovering from what commonly follows childbirth: a bladder infection and a yeast infection. Apparently, the hormones produced by breastfeeding make it very difficult to cure a yeast infection. This is bad news for many reasons, and teaching spin classes is not among the top three.
HF: Sorry to break the news, but at 8 months postpartum, my caesarean scar still hurts. As to yeast infections, I have one word: skirts.
FFG: I believe that I have already complained about the restricted diet and sore back that breastfeeding also necessitates?
HF: Yes, but they are worth emphasizing. Just when you think your back is all good and healed, another all-night nursing marathon occurs, and wham. You’re walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame again.
FFG: And yet Hissy Fit, I have never been happier, and I am at heart a contended person. I was happy as a clam before I had a baby. Now things are even better. I must admit that in many ways motherhood is good for your health. It is very fulfilling if you are lucky enough to have both support and financial security. It has provided me with many emotionally rich experiences with my partner and has allowed me to revisit childhood games and songs. What joy to play “Guess Who Farted” “Name that Stain” (i.e. is that mustard or baby poo on your work shirt?), and “Find the Barf” (it gets into the darndest places). Hearing your baby laugh out loud for the first time is sheer bliss. Plus singing merrily about death, head injuries, and maggoty butter cannot be matched.
HF: Yes and yes. I am more sleep deprived than ever before, but I am also surprisingly okay. It is funny that you mention singing. That happens now in our household too. It has been good for my mental health, as has the energy required to take care of a little one. What I mean is, I no longer have time to brood. Just this week, I came down with stomach flu. I allowed myself a brief bed-ridden barf-and-pity fest, but then I hauled myself out of it to nurse, play, change diapers, etc. This would have never happened pre-baby. And you know what? I was fine.
FFG: Another positive health effect of motherhood is that it favours natural foods. Given my son’s gas issues, I have finally removed all artificial sugars from my diet. I used to have the odd diet soda or protein bar as a treat, though I had always avoided gum flavoured with sorbitol, as this sweetener will literally send me to the hospital with the worst cramps in the world. Hope you are enjoying your Dentyne Fire, for it is forbidden fruit to me. What’s more, I have stopped drinking coffee, a change which is supposedly good for my health, if not particularly beneficial for my state of mind. I also drink more water than ever before, though I suppose that is because breastfeeding is draining the life essence from my body.
HF: Ha! I have been fortunate in that my diet does not affect my son. Unfortunately this means I often choose convenience foods over healthy ones. In my tired state, I simply Cannot. Fathom. Cooking. These lowered standards have obviously been key to my weight gain. Sometimes this bothers me. Most of the time it does not. Some cynics may see this as “letting myself go.” Some may also suggest – a la Maria Kang – that my wilful indulgence is harming the nation. I see it differently. I see it as being more kind toward myself. Right now my body is tired and worn out and sore. It is also – in places – mushy and jiggly. [Aside: my son loves this, particularly in the belly area. Just yesterday, he was laughing as he pushed his tiny fists into my abdomen.] But I have to be honest with you. It doesn’t really bother me. I am still ticking, that’s the main thing.
FFG: I hereby challenge you to a belly jiggling contest. I smell victory.