Body

Published on May 19th, 2015 | by Jade Sanchez-Ventura

6

PLEASE DON’T TELL ME I’M CARRYING WELL by Jade Sanchez-Ventura

I am eight-months pregnant and haven’t been called skinny this often since I was disguising my anorexia as just another New York City cleanse. My belly popped early, and when it did, I heard it for the first time.

“You’re carrying so well.”

It means one thing only: Don’t worry, you’re not fat.

jade_detailABSTRACT (1)

Because a pregnant woman’s body is a forum for public discussion, I have heard it an infinite number of times since.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve dismissed it, along with all its sneaky variations. I’d like to think I’m too much of a feminist to care about weight (just like I thought I was too much of a feminist to have an eating disorder) but every time I hear, “You don’t even look pregnant,” or, “From behind you can’t even tell,” I’m being dosed with hits of a drug I put down three years ago and it’s the same illicit thrill as those post-quit cig drags I used to beg off of friends.

I was not a teenager when I began starving myself. I was a twenty-eight-year-old woman with interesting work, wonderful friends and a loving and sexy husband. It began with a holistic diet, meant to repair a parasite-ravaged belly. It was only supposed to last 6-8 weeks. But after the first precipitous weight loss, I was hooked. The list of foods I refused to eat grew to include anything that my body could turn into sugar. Nothing that ended in –ose. No carrots or onions or beets. No beans except mung. No seeds except pumpkin.

And I ran. I ran in the snow; I ran on two hours of sleep; I ran injured; I ran when I did not have time to run; I ran to rid myself of dinner from the night before; I ran because if I did not run, or have a plan for running, I could not eat. Call it a pre-purge.

My husband watched helpless while I ran my fingers over my hips.

“Look,” I said, “at the shape my bones make”

What he could say? He murmured, “You’re beautiful. You’ve always been beautiful.” And I was annoyed that he would not admire it with me; the new self I was carving from the soft, undisciplined folds of the old.

“You’re disappearing,” said my mother.

“You look thin,” said my friends.

“You look French,” said my grandmother, who herself had spent years eating one banana for lunch.

I heard only compliments.

Oh lord, it was glorious. I could not make the world publish my book before I turned 30. I could not ease my grandmother’s pain and extend her life. But I could do this. I could say no to fruit, to bread, to wine and every time I said no when others said yes, it was a surge of sinewy power.

I am lucky. I stopped before it got too dangerous. Somehow a morning came, frigid and brilliantly lit, when I could not bring myself to eat. Starving, frightened, I called my mother. She stayed on the phone with me for an hour until by some grace given, I agreed to eat a bowl of oatmeal. Later that same week, I sought help. It took me another two months to eat a carb with every meal. It took six months for my period to come back. It took me two years to throw away the jeans.

Maternity photo shoot with Jade Midwood studio. april 15th 2015.

I work every day to disconnect the notion of beauty from body size. When I look at other women, this is easy. I see them in a myriad of glorious, stunning shapes but it is much harder when it comes to my own body. And so, I do not weight myself, and have not in three years. The only full-length mirror in my house was taken off our bedroom wall and tucked behind a closet door. I read fashion magazines with caution, and less and less as time passes. I avoid conversations about going paleo, about spinning classes, and the new barre technique. I nod politely and then ease away from juice cleanse debates. I like to say I’ll run the marathon someday, but in all likelihood I can’t risk the training regimen. I know that most women can, just as to every alcoholic there are dozens who can leave a glass of wine unfinished, but when it comes to dieting, I’m the one alone with the bottle at the end of the night.

And now I am pregnant. Gloriously, intensely overwhelmingly pregnant. I’m sad to say that my breasts are still small, but my belly is celestial. My hips have rounded, my face is softer, my skin brighter, my hair thicker. There is simply more of me, more to me; I move slowly. I am substantial. I feel regal. I have become the exact opposite of the anorexic, but it’s not because of the weight gain. To be anorexic, to restrict and measure and obsess, is to seek control. I wanted to be the sculptor; powerful enough to make my body anything I wanted it to be. I fled the huge and uncertain world for the pale, small space of my own shrinking body. But in order to be pregnant, in order to be willing to become pregnant, I have had to relinquish all my illusions of control. I have literally turned over my body to another force; one much greater and more powerful than myself. I am being worked on. I am being shaped once again, but this time I have no say in it. In every way, my world has never been more uncertain and yet I have never been more at peace in it. Most days, my body is a revelation.

But.

It is also true that when my husband told me my body was luxurious there was an old part of my brain that heard “fat.” That I’m battling future stretch marks with tubs of shea butter. That I fear post-nursing breasts as flat and useless as popped water balloons. That I’m scared that after the babe is born I’m going to stand in front of that one full-length mirror clutching at my extra belly and feeling ugly.

It is not a compliment when they tell me I’m carrying well. It is a warning; Careful now. Always be careful. Don’t let there be too much of you. It is a reminder; You’re going to have to lose it too. As soon as this babe is born, the timer will be set, and they’ll be watching to see when I shed my softness, rid myself of the curves they permit me now.

Maternity photo shoot with Jade Midwood studio. april 15th 2015.

It will always beckon. And I could make it sound reasonable. I could make it sound good. A postpartum cleanse. A new yoga leaf. The baby sleeps while I run. It’s how I relax. It helps my digestion. I sleep better. I know how to mask it; I’ve done it before and I could do it again.

This is what I hold on to: the look on my husband’s face the other night when he came into the room while I was taking off my robe. It was evening. The lamps were doing their golden glow. And before I could re-clothe, he came over and ran his hands over my belly, this expansion of us, and he was grinning, and there was no resisting his delight and happiness.

And when the comments come, close behind those measuring glances, I will be polite. I will smile. But I will not say “thank you.”

 

Photos courtesy and (c) of Lizzy Snaps Sullivan (instagram: @lizzysnapssullivan)

Follow MUTHA to read more from Jade Sanchez-Ventura in an ongoing column, Sling City, where she will write about her experiences in the first year and beyond as a working writer with a new baby in New York City.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

Jade Sanchez-Ventura

Jade Sanchez-Ventura is a writer and teacher of writing. She has studied at Hunter College, where she received her MFA, and with the VONA writer’s workshop. Her work has been published by Seal Press, Kweli Journal, Duende Literary Magazine, wherever mag, MUTHA, and on the covers of small town daily newspapers. She is the creator of The Secret Pregnancy, an accounting of the year that began with that first positive pregnancy test. She is completing her first manuscript; a memoir that crosses borders and generations. It’s also a love story. She is presently raising her son and teaching at Brooklyn Free School. Though she has ties to many far-flung countries, she has always made her home in Brooklyn, NY. Find her on twitter @jsv713.



6 Responses to PLEASE DON’T TELL ME I’M CARRYING WELL by Jade Sanchez-Ventura

  1. MalaakHoppie says:

    Wow your a really good writer. Good read. Hope you’re doing well. Everyone at bfs misses you. ❤

  2. This is a beautiful piece and one that I can relate to in so many ways. Congratulations on all the wonderfulness in your life!

  3. B says:

    Thank you, Jade. Though I do not have history of disordered eating I, too, struggle with the emphasis placed on not taking up too much space, on the public spectacle of the pregnant body. You so beautifully stated it here: More of you, Being sculpted. Thank you.

  4. eleanor says:

    Its easy to let people know your body is not open for discussion. 1. change the subject 2. tell them kindly 3. politely decide you need to be someplace else and walk away. Everyone cannot know everyone else struggles with food (or other struggles). People are just trying to be kind. I had two babies and yes, carried well with one. And that did not mean not gain weight, He just was not all out directly in front of me. Made it easier on the back, easier to get around. You put your interpretation on the words. The pregnancy hormones can make everything feel like a big deal. Breathe for a minute when someone comments and consider that maybe they are just making conversation and if you direct the conversation a bit you will show them what you are comfortable talking about. It might be your pregnancy, or it might be the upcoming election or even the weather.

  5. Jamie says:

    I want to thank you for sharing this story. You were able to express almost everything I felt while I was pregnant. When I became pregnant nearly 4 years ago with my first child, I’d been in recovery from bulimia and anorexia for a decade. I say recovery because my behaviors were managed and I had a pretty good handle on silencing the voices that so often insist I should fire the whole thing back up again, even if it’s just for this one day or just this one meal (your analogy about the alcoholic unable to have just one drink is spot on). I was terrified about how I would handle pregnancy. I spent years unable to nourish myself- how could I possibly nourish myself enough to also nourish the growing life inside of me? And how would I deal with the changes in my body, to the specific areas of my body that I’d grown to detest and loathe rapidly expanding with each passing day? How would I deal with doctor’s appointments if there was a focus on weight gain when I literally have not weighed myself in over a decade because knowing the numbers sends me into a death spiral?

    And then the most incredible thing happened. Pregnancy is where I found my salvation. Like I said, I had been recovered for a long time. I knew what to avoid, I knew how to push through the bad feelings to the other side, I knew that my eating disorder was not the totality of my existence. I knew those things. But I don’t think I was living those things until I was pregnant. When I was pregnant, I saw my body expand and become more- and I found a delight that I did not know could accompany those changes. I felt this peace with my body, and this awe with my body, and this wistful yearning to be able to cradle my younger, starving self and tell her that she had always been enough. Not too much. Enough.

    And that’s not to say that, for all of my kumbaya inner reckonings, that people all around me, well intentioned, unaware people, didn’t try to zap me out of my pregnancy bliss. “Wow! You’re 5 months already? You don’t even look like you’re pregnant!” (Does that mean I’m so fat that I’m just not showing????) “Wow! You reallly carry so well!” (Am I putting on the “right” kind of pregnancy weight???”) “How much weight have you gained???? (Uhhhh…I don’t know, I have to ask the nurse not to tell me the number every time I step on the scale so I don’t freak out).

    And then after I was pregnant, I had to come to terms with my body, this body that just created another person inside of it. This body that nourished a healthy baby for nine months and then provided nourishment via breastmilk for many months after that. How could I hate that body, my body, after all that it has done for me? For my daughter? When I asked myself those questions, I felt the last whispers of my eating disorder float away. And I allowed myself to open up to the notion that maybe, just maybe, my body is the way it is supposed to be. Maybe, if every time I stop starving or purging, or exercising for the wrong reasons, my body always gravitates to just about the same place…it’s because that how it’s supposed to be. I’m how I am supposed to be.

    So again, thank you for sharing your story 🙂

Leave a Reply to Sheila Hageman Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We love comments, feedback and critique but mean or snarky comments will not be published. MUTHA staff (of one) is away through June 27th - please leave your comments but moderation/posting may delayed. We'll be back soon!
 

Back to Top ↑