Friday, June 02, 2006

I want to be overweight!

Now, how many people can say that?

Apparently, about sixty million Americans share my goal, because we are obese. Being merely "overweight" would be an improvement in my condition.

"Obese" is such an ugly word to me. I think it's because it rhymes with grease. Have you ever seen one of those infomercials for the next best thing in weight loss, where the evangelical and oh-so-thin host holds up a jar containing a pound of chicken fat? Or then there's the fact that my total weight loss goal of 53 pounds means I need to lose an eight-year-old child off my body. Imagine that childbirth! I think I'd endure it though, in preference to a year of hovering starvation. There's a reason why the word "diet" contains the word "die."

I did not know I counted as "obese" until I tried a body mass calculator, which assigned me a BMI of 30 and gave me the dread news. Luckily, if I lose just 5 more pounds, I will drop into the "Overweight" category.

My body and I have always been at war. I became a plump child when my parents divorced: When you look at a series of school pictures, you can see the exact year when I blimped up. And because of the cruelty of children, my avoirdupois branded me an outcast in gradeschool, the classic last-pick-for-kickball. At thirteen I decided that weight loss was my ticket to social acceptability. This plan did not work out as I'd hoped, but I did acquire anorexia nervosa. I survived, but became bulimic, and that condition lasted well into my twenties. After that I became a serial Weight Watchers member, cycling through the same fifty pounds. I was thin when I got married, but infertility and its associated stress eating put me at the high end when I conceived Madelyn.

To my horror, last week while searching for some information for Maddy, I found links like this one that make me fear my obesity and gestational diabetes are the cause of Madelyn's spina bifida. I have not cried so hard since long before her birth, and I'm heartbroken that I didn't know of this link before trying my donor cycle. It is new research.

My obstetrician and I had talked about the health risks of being overweight during pregnancy (I did not realize that I was "obese" even then) and I worked hard to keep my weight gain low. I had a net gain of only 12 pounds or so during pregnancy and after I delivered, I was 10 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. Yet I developed gestational diabetes anyway. And now I find that my gluttony and lack of discipline may have harmed my child.

There are lots of women far heavier than me delivering healthy babies. I am short; on a taller woman, my extra pounds would not qualify as obesity. I can still (barely) shop in regular stores for clothes. And yet the more I learn about the risk factors for spina bifida, the more I realize that I unwittingly brought many of them with me into my pregnancy. Besides obesity, there is drinking tea, which I did -- one cup a day, with the permission of my doctor. That one has been challenged, but there is new work going on to indicate that compounds in tea might interfere with the metabolism of folic acid. There is even the fact that I am of Irish extraction: "Our epidemiologists, in studies in Ireland where the prevalence of spina bifida is particularly high, have identified a specific gene defect that predisposes women to bear children with spina bifida, especiallly if their diets are low in folate."

And then there is the torturous fact that I can't know for sure whether I took my prenantal vitamin every day. For anyone still reading this blog who wants to do a donor cycle, I highly advise that you make a little "X" on your calendar every time you take your vitamin. That way, if spina bifida should befall your child, you will not have the folic acid question to reproach yourself with.

All of this has made me so sorrowful for Madelyn. She is the sweetest, happiest little being who has no idea as yet of what's ahead of her, and now when I look at her, sometimes my eyes fill with tears and I have only these words: "I'm so sorry, my dear one." I do not yet know how I will live my way through this intense guilt. I have made tentative inquiries of the few spina bifida moms that I know, but no one seems to be suffering as much as I am -- or, they don't want to share it. Every doctor, every friend and family member, and certainly my husband, have been telling me: "It's not your fault." But I know in my heart that I did not do my best for Madelyn. I'll never really know what caused her condition, but I suspect it is simple: Me.

Feeling this, the most attractive option available is to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. I don't deserve to be Madelyn's mother. And yet, such as I am, I am what she's been given. I have to do my best for her now, even if I failed in pregnancy. I must lose this hated weight, once and for all. I owe it to Madelyn, both as expiation and more importantly, for her health. Obesity is a particular risk for spina bifida children because mobility and thus exercise are difficult for them, and it's well known that obese parents have obese children. How can I ask Maddy to control her weight when I'm a living example of someone who does not?

And I want to lose it quickly, or at least more quickly than the plodding one to one-and-a-half pounds a week that I used to lose on Weight Watchers. My babysitter has had much success with a low-carb diet, but I am frustrated with it. After the initial drop most people get from a new diet, I crept down 8 pounds and have stuck there. The diet is hard for me to follow because if I could, I'd eat only carbohydrates; I was ovolacto-vegetarian for years. The only thing I like better about this diet that Weight Watchers is that I'm hardly ever hungry.

This week I'm going to try to drink a lot more water and start some mild exercise, and see if that will "goose" my system into losing weight. Madelyn is a far better motivation than a new wardrobe or the compliments one gets for being thin. I want to do this for her. And for myself.

But mostly for her.


Anonymous said...

Oh Bee, please stop being so hard on yourself. We lost a baby to a NTD more serious than Spina Bifida. NTD's occur at about 6 weeks gestation. Taking vitamins or not, tea, etc. didn't make any difference after that. I know you took very good care of yourself and the baby. As for the Irish descent, yes there is a genetic connection. I don't remember where you live, but once families are in the U.S. for a few generations, the rates become the same as everyone else. Maybe you should consider seeing a genetic counselor? She was a huge help to us, we learned so much, and it relieved the guilt. Jill

Leah said...

Lurker here. One to one-and-a-half pounds is a great weight loss, and I'd hate to see you shoot for more. The slower you take off the weight, the longer you'll keep it off. The best example for your beautiful daughter will be a mother who is not only thin, but has a healthy relationship with food. No wacky diet will give you that relationship. I love WW, and would encourage you to go back - the point system has really helped me. I gave birth to my beautiful 9-month old at 200 pounds, and am now 145. My goal is the same as yours - show my son how to be healthy by being that way myself. Healthy isn't just thin, it's making good choices. Wanting to lose more than is healthy each week might not be such a great choice. You know? I know you can do this, the way you've handled everything else that's come your way.


Anonymous said...

You have so much on your plate right now. You have to give yourself a break. Beating yourself up right now helps no one, especially you. You have to go with intent. You did your best. You are not perfect, no one is. Forgive yourself, for Maddy, so that she can have a Mom who loves herself.

butterfly cocoon said...

From a mom of a daughter who has a syndrome, and who I know 1. that I will have to bury one day and 2. that the reason she has this syndrome is that I carry a recessive gene for it, I can relate to your words.
I am two years further down the road than you, and let me express how little blame will do for you. As unwittingly as I passed an unknown, recessive gene, ANY part you MAY have played in your daughters condition is n.o.t. y.o.u.r. f.a.u.l.t.
Please, you have to get to where you believe this.
Let me also tell you that putting this on yourself, will depress you and make you less of the mom that that baby deserves, because your heart will be so heavy with grief.
Not only that, but how do you expect to do something wonderful for yourself like weightloss and healthy living if you carry this guilt around in your heart that you carelessly damaged your child?? It won't work.
You didn't do this. You didn't do it.
It's not your fault.
It isn't my fault that chance fell the way it did and my daughter is sick and suffers, will suffer, I will have to watch her die and suffer.
Even though it's been proven it came from my body, it's not my fault.
I had to get this too, and when I finally did.....THEN I could mother my daughter. I could really be present for her then in ways that I know will mean less regret later.
Sorry this got so long, and sorry if it's preachy. Your words effected me and I felt compelled to respond.
Prayers and Best Wishes

carolinagirl79 said...

Please don't torture yourself. Studies are not always correct. Look at the birth control studies, first they were horribly dangerous, then they were not, then...We can only do the best we can with what we know now. Tomorrow something else will turn out to be dangerous. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Delurking to say please try not to beat yourself up. You are NOT a bad mother! You love Madelyn with your whole heart and continue to advocate for her through all the medical stuff she has to deal with. How would she be better off without you? That's nuts. Clueless is right, studies change all the time. Put your baby to sleep on its stomach, no wait, on its back. Remember that one?

And I know what it's like to want the quick weight loss, but in my experience it will come back unless you find something that you can do forever, something simple like stop eating crap and move your body a little bit every day. Of course, that is JMO. I'm back at WW for the third time (sigh) but I'm now down 21 lbs since Valentine's Day. I'm finally content to let it be slowly but surely.

I'm sorry you're feeling so bad, I hope things look up soon for you. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Anonymous said...

Hi -

I'm usually just a lurker but I wanted to say congratulations on your beautiful daughter.

I too have struggled with my weight for years (history of eating disorders the whole bit). I have had really great luck with the South Beach diet. It isn't low carb (it it does limit higher GI and processed carbs) but it is particularly good for someone who has had blood sugar issues in the past and the goal is to make you feel satisfied rather than deprived. I have heard good things about the WW core plan which is very similar. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian and have been doing really well on it so far and have no desire at all to quit like I have on other plans.

This support board is really good as well if you need some primers or guidance getting started.

Sorry I hate to sound like an advertisement but it is really the first plan that has ever worked for me and it has really transformed my relationship with food in a good way. The weight loss has been slow for me (as any sustainable weight loss should be unfortunately) but I feel truely healthy and good for the first time in a long time.

I'm sorry you are having a rough time right now. I hope you are feeling better soon so you can focus on enjoying that sweet girl of yours. Hang in there.

Fiona said...

Bee, I've just found your website. First of all, don't beat yourself up over the weight - slow and steady wins the race. I have PCOS and am having some success with the South Beach diet.

I also wonder if you would be willing to be interviewed for my Fertility News newsletter that goes out to my coaching clients. I am doing a series of interviews with women and I would love to iterview you about the decision to use donor eggs. You would have final say over the interview before it is published. To learn more, go to

I look forward to hearing from you and good luck!


Anonymous said...

I am only a lurker, interested in trying DE to concieve. I am mom to 2 boys who are special needs (because of my genes). Please don't blame yourself for Maddy's Spina Bifida. Just because a study says there may be a link doesn't mean there is one. You can do everything right and have a sick baby & you can do everything wrong and have a perfect one. I wish I could reach thru and hug you. I too have been the hurting mom. Lose the weight for you & to have energy for Maddy. Sincerely-Sarah

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I am a first time visitor to your site so I feel i must get straight to the point with no sugarcoating it.... I think you are still eating disordered, having morphed from anorexia to bulimia and now to overeating. Plus you are hard on yourself and that's pretty much a clue. I mean, unless you have been through 7 years of active recovery with a team who dismissed you as physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, then that pretty much assures you that you have an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia, Edn-os, compulsive overeating and binge eating are mental illnesses that you can't snap out of or grow out of. You have to actively work hard through an eating disorder recovery In order to get recovered.

Think about it. Go to and take the questionnaire.

Be well. God bless.

Beth Gray said...

No arguments, Anon -- I am definitely still eating disordered. I weigh more now than I did two-some years ago when I wrote that post *sigh* Funny you commented just now, because just this morning I got up early and got on the treadmill for the first time in years. I need to get the weight off, it's a health issue now. Wish me not just luck, but also determination.