Mon 26 Apr 2010
I bend over to gather a freshly pulled string of ivy off the lawn and toss it into the yard waste bin. I breath easy. Last year at this time, I was pregnant and stubbornly trying to physically do what I always did. But bending over caused a strange sensation in my belly, a protection, a slight inhale of air that left me winded. “Aw, I can’t even clean up ivy?” I thought, plucking another strand off the scrappy fence in the side yard. The act of rising, of bending and then standing was compromising.
As the summer months wore on, I trudged out to the garden with my watering hose, desperately trying to convince my tomatoes to turn red. (I should have cut them back in August but my brain was like a sieve). The seat of my jeans grew dusty as I found myself time and time again plopping down on the dirt instead of squatting down to garden. Picking herbs from my little collection of herb pots on the back porch seemed like a huge trek from the kitchen. As the weather (which was gorgeous last summer) gave way to an ideal garden season, I found my appetite constantly changing. Salad greens seemed paltry, not enough sustenance for someone growing another human being. They quickly sprouted flowers and became stringy. The peas I grew were unappealing and ended up going to another pea-loving individual (my sister). The tomatillo plant I bought in May grew into an enormous, fence eating, creature that hung heavy with small green fruit. Its shell was like a lamp shade, crinkly and folded around a tiny tomatillo. I finally harvested the plant in October, stuffing as many of the tomatillos into plastic bags as I could before Josh hauled off and uprooted the outrageous plant. I cracked open their papery skins and plucked out the sticky green globes one afternoon and made pork tomatillo soup. This was one of the last bits of cooking I could manage before the weight and burden of pregnancy left me lethargic on the couch. After the baby was born I looked longingly at the bag of rotting tomatillos in my fridge. Such promise! Such a harvest! Such a waste as I tossed them into my yard waste bin.
Similar to my garden, I began growing that summer. I felt myself expanding, widening, my body developing a thick shell. By Fall, the quiet of the leaves and the early onset of dusk matched my behemoth self. “I’m huge,” I would think every week and then only get bigger. Items littered the floor–too much work to bend down and grab them. I tried to avoid looking at myself in a store front window when walking by–an action I normally enjoyed. My neck had meshed with my chin in the way I knew it would; Italian women tend to have weak chins when they put on weight.
After the baby, after a few months, my body began to streamline again. The thickness began to evaporate, the weight of my feet began to lighten, my clothes, thankfully, fit again. Perhaps I can blame it on breastfeeding, on the voracious appetite of my son, but I was lucky and my girth disappeared. My chin re-emerged and no longer matched my neck.
Sleep deprivation has caused me to feel fragile…sometimes paper thin. Lying in bed unable to sleep while soft breathing is all around me, I find myself feeling two dimensional…flat. My body shrinks as it makes way for the enormity of raising a child. I feel small and transparent–a whisper of a person. There are times when I rise out of bed at 4am and think: “I’m just not ready for this world, I haven’t spent enough time in the Land of Sleep…I want a break from the real dimension, the weight of life, the peace of not being awake.” When I actually get a large chunk of sleep, (say 6 hours), my mind dreams furiously, churning out images large and loosely unprocessed due to lack of R.E.M.. I wake up exhausted but sated, an actual break from the Real World!
When I was heavy, I was full and thick with night time sleep. My body soaked everything up and clung to it…hair, nails, everything stayed long and thick. Now I feel like a strand, a string, a line. My pants hang in a different way on my new body. The belt loops are hard to pull up when I’m holding a child. Food is sometimes hard to pencil in when I’m factoring in my son’s every need. At restaurants I barely taste what I am eating, so wrapped up in my kid’s every whim that I don’t have to time to savor my food. (Why focus on my Ali Goba when my son just ate his first Indian food off my plate!)
What a relief it is, despite my growing invisibility, to roam the garden again. Unrestrained by weight, my body deftly moves above the trimmed branches of an errant tree. Nature seems brighter then last year, more clear. As my husband and I spread gravel across the alley way on a Saturday morning, our son plays happily in his bouncy chair. It is chilly and we are all dressed in layers. The Chihuahuas start barking at us through the fence, a crow family starts to caw, someone fires up a lawn mower next door…the many dimensions of my life begin to form and pad my body as I silently shovel. This year we have a garden bed and free compost from the city. I’m making baby food and freezing it. Many wonderful women who share the experience of being a parent have entered my life. And I have my body back…