21 October 2009

Weight up

We all know motherhood is everyone's excuse for not fitting into her wedding dress, which is often true and a fine rationale as far as I'm concerned. But there are some for whom parturition and its environs have the opposite effect. After a few months of nursing the chub down, I haven't had trouble getting into any dress I've worn in the past 10+ years. Lest your VBA alarm begin sounding, let me assure you that this does not mean I look at all good. If a blushing maiden is a slender birch and a fruitful matron is a shapely linden, I'm Charlie Brown's Christmas tree once the baby hits about 6 months. Which, at 30, is just the look I was going for.

I think this skirt really helps.

The strange workings of this cellular mass I've been issued (heretofore, anyway--every time I'm pregnant I think, well, this is the time I'll chunk up, so watch this space) have brought to my attention a fertility issue that doesn't get as much press, because most health care providers spend their time lecturing us about how terribly terrible it is to be overweight. As someone who puts on a lot of weight during pregnancy, I'm quite familiar with this too. But having very low body fat can be an impediment to conception. I'm an idiot and know nothing about medicine, chiro, magnetism, Brewer's yeast, or your health care belief system of choice, but I've read that having one's convenient health proxy known as BMI in the 19 or lower range can put a girl in problem territory in terms of fertility.

The preachy hobbyhorse I'm getting at for CSPP types is this: a woman of childbearing age should think very carefully before she decides to train for the Iron Man. 12% body fat may be what we see on the cover of Shape, but that is not a good shape for a mother in her fertile years.

Being physically fit is not, for us, about looking great on the beach or running a marathon or holding our own on the tennis court or fitting into our wedding dresses or getting back to a certain weight. It is about maintaining the healthy body necessary for the nurturing of a new life--which is probably rounder and definitely softer than what we've been hypnotized into considering attractive.

Most moms can benefit from taking a walk when they get a chance. For some people that walk wisely replaces a listless hour on the couch, and for others it wisely replaces a sweaty, panting hour in the gym. It's either ignorant or disingenuous for those who don't need to take off a few pounds to say, "If I get pregnant while I train for my marathon, I'll just quit." Training itself may well put the body out of commission for pregnancy.

I feel pretty!

Physical fitness is a vain god of our time, and as grotesque a caricature of the ideal it imitates as any vain god. Resisting the temptation to fitness excess (whether through exercise or starvation) has direct and quantifiable consequences for the ongoing work of mothers.


Ewe said...

I have the opposite problem-I have a terrible time putting on weight while I'm pregnant. It is difficult for me to gain back pounds after all I lose during morning sickness. Once the baby is out, even with breastfeeding, I do just fine putting on weight!
Good to address this topic in this post-I don't think women think about this after they are bombarded by the media to try to look thin.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the anon status, but this is not something I prefer to have attached to my name.

I was very surprised to see this topic up for discussion because the usual complaint is weight gain and getting it off...not encouragement for being proud of a matronly figure.

I began disordered eating in 8th grade. When I was 20 and getting married it was a way of life. It was a couple months after my wedding that I got pregnant and found myself "cured" from this lifestyle of obsession that wasnt even about looks anymore so much as it was about control and an outlet for any other pain I experienced.

But pregnancy gave me a greater cause, and, as with you, it all melted off so quickly after birth that I ended up less than prepregnancy each time!

I am now pregnant again a few kids down the road and for the first time since my first pregnancy, old thoughts have tempted and attacked me into missing long hours at the gym and the control I had to abstain from my love affair with sweets.

Thank you so much for the reminder that I can pride myself in working for a more nurturing profile for the sake of God's blessings.

Rebekah said...

Anon, thanks for your comment. It takes all kinds to make every woman in the world crazy (as Ewe also demonstrates!). :P

Untamed Shrew said...

[Joy gnaws on her mousepad with envy.]

Reb. Mary said...

But I miss my abs and my triceps. I miss being crazy hard core. I even miss sweating :P

I'm twistedly thankful that our family's logistics make it downright difficult for me to maintain any kind of rigorous exercise schedule. (Even though I miss it.) Otherwise I think the balance between healthy-for-this-moment-of-life and overly fit (and wasting too much time on getting that way) would be difficult for me to maintain. As it is, I'm just unbalanced. Ha.

An hour's walk! *wistful sigh*

Melrose said...

mmm, I miss it too. Back in the day I ran cross country and there's nothing like the burning in your chest and sweat pouring off of you and mixing with dirt from the trail as you attack a hill on mile 8.

Then in college I suffered some wicked stress fractures and havent been able to run since...must be God's way of protecting the little ones inside of me ;) Not shaken OR stirred :)

Rebekah said...

Hey, at least mousepads are low-cal. :D

lisa said...

As a gym-hater (well, maybe just disliker) I enjoyed this post :O) At first I totally thought you were going here though -> Prov.5:18+19

A TOAST, to mommies and the bodies they sacrifice on the altar of Matronly Nurture!

(Not that I had a Vogue cover lined up or anything pre-pregnancy :)

Pam said...

Well, I assume you had no one in particular in mind with this post, Rebekah... but...

Knowing I am one on the other end of the spectrum, who was *not at all* fit and still managed to support the development and growth of eight healthy kiddos (supporting the ninth at the moment), and knowing some of you are aware of my 12 week transformation prior to the conception of current blessing...

I am really glad to read this, as most assuredly the skinny on being underweight rarely crosses my eyes, let alone my mind. It is important to be happy with the body which nurtures little lives, and the most wonderful feeling is knowing their father is most attracted to that very physique. Mama curves are something to love, not hate!

On the other hand, I will attest to shooting for the happy medium, and yes I mean that in all senses of the word "happy." Speaking for myself, I do not spend long hours at the gym and the burning chest Melrose described sounds horrible to me. ;o)

But as labor and delivery, functioning through sleep deprivation, and muddling through the more overwhelming days of raising stair-step kiddos require more of us physically than I daresay we are feeling able to give, so the exercise that helped me get out of my fat and depressed slump demanded more of me than I felt able to give. But it was exactly what I needed, and even after a two-month hiatus because of the insanity around here when we started school, I have so missed my workouts that I am back at it again.

One hour from the time I leave the house to the time I get back (17 minute one-way commute), at least six days a week, and it's what I need to be able to cope.

Yup, that's right, no superwoman miracle here. If I weren't going to swim and strenth train, I would have found myself in the throes of another breakdown. It's one of the things that keeps me SANE, and gives me the energy to keep up with the day. You wouldn't guess it I'm sure, if you saw the filthy environs hereabouts of late. But my kids all have clothes on every day, and they eat four to five times a day.

Oh yeah, and I wear clothes and eat too. ;o)

Rebekah said...

Pam, as always the person I had in mind when I posted was myself. I don't care to go into the details of my personal failings in terms of attractiveness, but let's just say that freak fit/skinny is the only acceptable cultural alternative to freak curvy or even just plain curvy, and unlike the latter can be attained without surgery. Have fun swimming; I wish I could join you. (Except that I'd have to wear a swimming suit--a miserable experience at any size. :P )

Gauntlets said...

Pam! I was thinking about you this very morning, wondering how you're doing. :) Nice to hear from you.

The following is me rambling like I like to ramble and is directed at no one's written comment or inner dialogue: I think "weight" is another one of those subjects wherein there is nothing much to say but, "My, isn't the weather charming around here?" Because weight is too subjective, both to the bearer and the beholder. Every time someone intones "I'm just so big; I wish I could lose a few pounds!" I always think, "Huh. OK. But you look fine to me."

We're all going to wind up looking like our mothers or grandmothers, anyway. Might as well enjoy the ride, whatever that might mean. Runners, run! Swimmers, swim! Bloggers, blog! And God speed to you all.

Our figures start their downhill (so called) trek on our 25th birthdays. That means we are left with 75 years (DV, give or take) to loath our aging bodies and fight endlessly toward affecting youth. 75 years is a long, long time. Heck, ten years is a long time, if the time is wasted. Why, why, why do we want so desperately to look 25 all our lives?

The struggle to be "hot" (gag me) is fueled by profiteers, anyway, not (in most cases) husbands and others who Love Us. How we look; it just doesn't freaking matter. Let the 25-year-olds look their age, and God bless them. Today, I'm going to look 32 AND (look out) I'm going to dress in whatever number happens to fit today AND just leave me alone, America, because you make me sad and sick. Furthermore, who brought the chips to this party? I'm getting hungry.

Dakotapam said...

I have trouble putting on weight while pregnant, at 26 weeks with twins, I've finally put on 6 pounds...I lost many while being violently ill for 18 weeks. BUT I am not slender by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, according to some of my research in to why I have been blessed with not one, but two babies, my weight is a factor. I am tall and overweight, and OLD...and it seems that God deems me fit to tend to two blessings. Kind of fun, really, now that I'm only tired and not sick and tired.

I'll never lose this weight though, but my kids like me all snuggly...and I suspect my husband does as well.

Rebekah said...

Whoever brings the chips, make sure to grab some that are coated with that orange sawdust.

Dakotapam, I've already put on enough weight for both of us, no joke. :P