I do this thing where I talk to my baby girl even though she’s too young to talk back. Plus, she’s not real.
I mean, she’s real to me, but I can’t seem to convince my body the same. So I wait for her, month after month.
Daughter, I tell her, you are so, so wanted. Sometimes I am sure – absolutely sure – that this is it, I have you with me – but then it turns out to be nothing. I spend $14.99 to pee on a stick that tells me nausea was just nausea. A headache was just a headache. A constellation of symptoms that add up to more waiting as my body struggles to remember how to even have a cycle.
It’s strange – for women, the goal for much of our lives is to NOT get pregnant. We warn teenage girls “don’t be sexually active!”
Well, I went one further and avoided being socially active. At the end of my very first date at age 18, I intercepted the poor guy as he went in for a hug, shaking his hand instead. Shockingly, he did not call again.
Daughter, I was so shy. I hated my body, and I simultaneously wanted attention and to just disappear.
When I was 19 I started running. Then I stopped eating. For the first time people called me things like “delicate” and “frail.” I thought that meant I looked great. What they actually meant was that they couldn’t tear their eyes away from the mess I’d made out of my body.
When a woman’s body fat dips too low, her reproductive system shuts down. Your ovaries take one look at the food situation, snort, and say, “Yeah, right – eat a burger and then let’s talk about ovulating.”
Daughter, I want you to grow up in a house where no foods are off limits. I want us to go to lunch and eat whatever we want and not make excuses or call ourselves pigs or promise to go run a few extra miles the next day to burn off the excess calories.
When I was younger I knew missing my period for one month, three months, a year, was a problem. But I’d be lying if I said I was upset about losing my fertility back them. I associated having my cycle with being a healthy weight, and for me, that would be the most upsetting thing.
Except now I’d give anything to see evidence that my body still works – that you’re still possible, daughter.
For the longest time I didn’t even know I wanted to be a mother. For eight years I toed the line between a healthy and unhealthy weight. In that time I received my bachelor’s degree, went on for my master’s at Harvard, started a Ph.D. program, and I met and married your father.
And then I got hit smack in the uterus with an urgent, insistent desire to have you.
Marrying your dad was the first major catalyst for me to make a sustained effort at recovering. I believed him when he told me that he preferred me at a healthy weight. He wanted a wife who had energy to do activities with him – go hiking, eat cake on our birthdays, start a family together….
Daughter, I knew I wanted you after only a few months of marriage. I went from wanting kids the theoretical “someday” to wanting you as soon as possible.
I restored weight over the next 18 months, up to a number I don’t know and don’t care to know. I eat more, but am still irrationally afraid of some foods versus others. Would you believe I’m fine with eating bacon, but an apple freaks me out? Too much sugar. But now I eat them anyway, like somehow an apple a day will keep infertility away.
Some days I go run because it’s so beautiful outside and I want to enjoy the sunshine. And some days I go run in pouring rain because there is a voice in my head ordering me to move, DON’T BE LAZY!
Daughter, I want you to love moving and being lazy. I want to have a pajama day where we never get dressed and watch movies and you’ll help me bake cookies and I’ll even eat one with you.
Everybody tells me that you can’t get here until I eat more, especially healthy fats. That even though I’m at a safe weight, my body is still not convinced I have enough fuel to carry you. Part of me agrees — yes, I will eat more. Egg yolks and ice cream galore!
Then another voice in my head reminds me, but not too much, ok? The negotiations begin: an egg yolk a day is ok, but only one. And ice cream should be swapped for avocado. And seriously, don’t eat too much more.
Daughter, I hope for their own safety I never hear anybody commenting on your weight and putting these miserable voices in your own precious head.
When I realize how long I’ve been waiting for you, I get frustrated. I get sad. But I am also hopeful. As your father has pointed out, maybe we don’t have you yet for reason. Maybe I need more time to become healthier in both body and mind, so I can be the best mother to you possible.
Daughter, is it also possible that you are waiting on me? If so, I’m working on it. I’m getting there as fast as I can. Wait for me.
Jessica Roberts is a writer, Higher Education Consultant, and director of Aim High Writing College Consulting. She lives in Tacoma, WA with her husband and baby girl. You can find more of her work at www.absurdshewrote.com and www.aimhighwriting.com.