From my mid-teens on, I have been a thin person; I am used to picking Size XS or 0 off the racks, and I am used to people referring to me as "little," or "skinny," or sometimes even "bony." (Size 0, by the way, makes no sense to me. What does it mean? That I don't exist at all?) That said, in the last couple of weeks, I have very suddenly become very, very skinny indeed. My iliac crests stand out like knives, rubbing palpably into the thick fabric of the high-waisted jeans that are my current mommy uniform; making love in the living room during the baby's nap, my sacrum digs insistently through my dwindling back-flesh into the floor. As I have noted elsewhere, I used to have a cute round ass, but the tiny bit that was left after pregnancy has now disappeared entirely, leaving me to shift uncomfortably from sitz bone to sitz bone whenever I am seated on unpadded surfaces. All in all, I have become unstylishly, Olive-Oylishly stickish from top to bottom, with the exception of my startlingly round, milk-filled breasts and the large, blue, Iggyesque chest vein that has popped up between them.
I assume that the reasons for this effacement of my flesh are the same reasons for everything else in my life right now (the mess, for example, and the exhaustion):
1) Back at work.
2) Busy. Three paying jobs plus doula and writing and family and household.
3) Broke. Not that I can't afford food - I can - but that it's stressful, you know?
4) Big damn baby to feed and haul around.
I am not exactly conscious of eating less than I did before, but it is inevitable that, snack machine notwithstanding, one eats less and less frequently when busy in the workplace than one does when ruminating at home. I am also not conscious of putting out more physical effort, but the truth is that my non-walking baby is upstream from 22 pounds now, while I'm downstream from 115, and this is not good news for my calorie retention.
I really hate the feeling of getting skinnier. There is a sense of cold, dry wasting away that I find to be intensely unpleasant, not to mention seriously anxiety-producing. I had a similar problem during my pregnancy when my midwife told me week after week that I wasn't gaining enough weight and that I was dehydrated and undernourished. Just being told this, just knowing that one is not in the robust, plumpy, red-cheeky condition one ought to be in - this knowledge in and of itself makes one feel less robust, less plump, more papery-sallow. I remember, in my last trimester, frantically packing little stashes of nuts and mini-cheeses into my pockets and bags, eating as much as I possibly could during each free period at school. Sometimes my midwife would weigh me to find I had gained half a pound, sometimes not. "Couldn't it be stress?" I asked her, thinking of my 150 clamoring eighth graders and my binder full of painstakingly documented disciplinary issues. "NO," she said, and I left it at that, because when I was pregnant, and when I was in labor, too, I just left everything at that, sometimes not even realizing that I had one more thought, one more question, one more feeling. I was in labor for 70 hours and I didn't think the entire time to tell anyone at all - not my husband, not my doula, not my midwife - that I was sometimes confused, that I was sometimes frightened, and towards the end, that I thought I was doing a really bad job. My transfer from an OB to a midwife around my 7th month used up all the stores of self-advocacy that I could muster - from that point forward, I fell silent, even though I secretly ached to, among other things, take one more step and secure myself a home birth.
It is the middle of December now; at this time last year, I was two weeks from my due date, and I had finally begun my maternity leave by walking out of the school abruptly in the middle of the day, racked by coughs from a cold that wouldn't give up, leaking pee and pulling my chest and back muscles with each spasm. I don't know if the people around me understood the intensity with which I had been suffering; I don't know what they could have done if they did. After I began my leave, my cough slowly eased, although it didn't disappear entirely until a month postpartum, when a doctor finally realized that it was a resurgence of my childhood asthma and treated it accordingly.
I don't know if most of these things I have said about last year are true - whether I really had those thoughts and feelings. It is simply impossible for me to tell anymore, not at this distance. It seems now that that is how things went; if I had recounted these events yesterday, in a different mood, I might have said something different, and I might say something different again if I were to speak of it tomorrow. I do know for sure, though, that around this time last year, I went on maternity leave. For the last two weeks of 2007, I shook my cold, I cleaned my apartment, I gained a little weight, and I got ready for my baby.
Now, as then, there is no magic to what I need to resurrect my health. I need to stay home, I need to rest more, and I need to eat a lot. However, deep as I may be into maternity and all things maternal, there is no more maternity leave in the offing for me. I will go to work this week and the week after that, and I will keep going to work until summer vacation, when I will need to find different work to go to. There is no real resolution to be had here; this is the way of our modern lives. Winter will pass, as it always does, and by Spring, I will probably have forgotten that I was distressed about my weight at all, either because I will have gained it back or because I will have become used to being this little bit skinnier than I was before. My baby will be walking, and maybe talking, and I will have other things to worry about.