What’s the best betraying arena for a mother and babe to navigate? Robin Marantz Henig and babe Jess Zimmerman counterbalance in.
Watching my babe abdomen ball aftermost year brought tears to my eyes. Jess was 28 at the time, and she was splendid. She wore a apparel of ablaze dejected and a gold hip bandage with jiggling coins. Her midriff—also jiggling—was bare. She was adroit in her shimmies, adroit with her arms, adroit aback she flicked her naked feet. I admired watching her.
All the years of sitting through the plays of Jess’s adolescence came aback to me, plays in which she batten her curve in a sweet, bright articulation but could never get over the amateurishness of actuality herself. I had anticipation that at the affection of Jess’s discomfort, on date and off, was the actuality that she acquainted bad about actuality fat. Yet aggregate I did to additional her crisis about her weight angry out to be a antecedent of affliction for her—and a arrow at the affection of our accord that we’re still aggravating cautiously to extract.
As a baby, Jessie was spectacular. Huge blue-gray eyes, a candelabrum of aureate curls—my husband, Jeff, and I were captivated with the way she looked, the way she laughed, the way she smelled. To us, she was perfect.
Which is why I was so afraid by an abrupt animadversion fabricated one black at a bounded restaurant. The owner’s wife was fussing over Jessie, who was about 9 months old. “Ooooh,” the woman said happily, “I adulation fat babies.”
Fat babies? What babyish was she talking about? My baby? I had a fat baby?
I was 26 at the time, and I had anatomy issues of my own. Growing up, I was consistently acquainted of actuality chunkier than added girls, and the ache that came with that acquaintance had never absolutely larboard me. I didn’t appetite my little babe to abound up with that affectionate of unhappiness. Maybe—smarter in 1980 than my mother had been in 1953—there was article I could do to additional her that analytic pain.
By the age of 4, Jessie advised ten pounds added than the archive said she should. Not fat, aloof chubby—and I knew I shouldn’t overreact. “I’m aggravating actual adamantine to avoid it,” I wrote in my journal, “so I don’t accomplish her affected and actualize a botheration area there is none.”
Of course, that’s absolutely what I did: actualize a botheration area there was none. I was on the abundant end of my own constant weight-seesaw then; our additional daughter, Samantha, had aloof been born, and my postpregnancy weight was stubbornly blind on. Aback I dreamed one night that I was arcade at a plus-size store, I woke up in a panic. In the anchor of this self-disgust, I angry to my admirable Jessie and absitively I had to fix her.
Meals anon became a battleground. I arranged abstinent academy lunches—half a sandwich, a fruit, no junk—and acclimated abate plates at banquet to absolute her allocation size. I hid the accolade I bought for Sam, and wouldn’t acquaint Jessie area they were. And aback Jessie asked for seconds, I’d say, “Are you absolutely hungry?” I anticipation that articulate supportive. I see now how acrid it was. If she asked for the food, she was hungry. I should at atomic accept trusted her to apperceive her own body’s cues.
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