The Newborn Diet

Penelope Cruz arrives at the 82nd Academy Awar...

Image via Wikipedia

“Has your weight changed in the last six months? If so, please explain.” Oh, life insurance companies, how I long to answer your intrusive questions, as I apply for your services.

But since I would like life insurance to protect my daughter should the worst ever happen (puh, puh, Evil Eye!), yes, my weight has changed significantly over the past six months. I gained 36 pounds while pregnant, and since giving birth three-plus months ago, I’ve been shedding them. Slooowly.

I don’t recall anyone telling me that losing baby weight would be so sluggish, before I became pregnant. All the images we see in the media are of celebrities with incredible post-baby bodies shortly after giving birth. For example, did you see Penelope Cruz at the Academy Awards a month after giving birth to her baby earlier this year? She credits her transformation to ballet.

In February, I thought, great, I’ll do that too. After all, who wants to keep all that baby weight? It’s better handled like a library book – given back as soon as you’re done with it. I didn’t realize I might end up in a struggle with my body, which has been less keen to part with its newer turf.

As a woman, I’ve wanted to win this tug-of-war quickly. As a Jew though, it’s been a more nuanced internal monologue. In the same way I keep kosher to maintain bodily purity as I commune with G-d, I have tried to respect my postpartum body, including its needs and limitations. After all, this body, like all others, was created in G-d’s image – which is not to say that it comes with an instruction manual.

The tough part is, losing weight post-baby isn’t like losing weight pre-baby. Sure, you still need to exercise and eat right, but you now need to do both while accounting for the erratic schedule and never-ending needs of your newborn.

I always had a solid exercise routine. That didn’t change during pregnancy, when I typically managed to use the elliptical five times a week. Life was so luxurious in those days. I got on the elliptical whenever I wanted and stayed on as long as I liked. I was fit and fabulous, while growing increasingly large and in-charge in the right place.

These days, if I want to use the elliptical, I need to wait for my husband to return from work. Theoretically, I could try to work out during the day, but I’m the only one home with Lila. Her naps still aren’t predictable, and I don’t like to leave her to cry. So, my exercise waits. I typically get in an hour around 9pm, after which I have to shower and snarf my dinner in advance of our bedtime routine and final feeding.

But the duration and course of my workout are always unpredictable. I never know what distractions might arise. Will there be a meltdown? Or, will I need to pause to direct Daddy to the newest pumped milk, so we can stall the final feeding just long enough for me to finish my workout?

The exercise I can count on is the weight lifting I do raising and carrying my 14-pound baby. There’s the bouncing, rocking, and dancing I do to calm or entertain Lila. And when naps align, we have early evening walks; I wear Lila in her baby carrier, and she does some combination of napping and taking in the neighborhood with intense, quiet study. Whenever Lila fusses on our walks, I have dance-walked with her down the street, as WFUV, my favorite New York radio station, plays on my phone. But this is the easy part.

Postpartum eating is a more complex. I have experience both eating for one and eating for two, but I now have to walk the fine line of eating enough for breastfeeding me, and that means finding a new happy medium between the two. Because the last thing I want is to make history as the first Jewish mother to starve her child.

Finding this elusive midpoint might be easier if I had time to eat leisurely. I used to be one of the slowest eaters around. Now, I’m on the Newborn Diet. I try to eat in between Lila’s needing things, whether that means eating, burping, or changing. This can require me to eat incredibly quickly, as if I were in a Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. However, if I lack time even for that – because Lila and I simultaneously decide we’re starving – I grab food I can eat one-handed, like trail mix, and double-decker eat, meaning that I try to aim the food in my mouth, while Lila breastfeeds directly below.

Dinner is its own experience. My husband and I eat at different times, or if we get take-out, we eat in shifts. This means my meal is typically lukewarm by the time I eat it. By extension, many times this summer, my mid-afternoon snack has been ice cream soup; I have served myself a scoop just before Lila cried out for a nap, and settling down to sleep is almost never lightning fast.

So, I do what I can. The weight is coming off slowly, slowly, and sometimes I just have to laugh, like when I recently felt adventurous and tried to dance and snack, while also holding Lila. This resulted in chocolate ice cream on my shirt, as Lila flailed her arms, apparently also wanting to dance.

I also try to keep in mind comments like Sarah Jessica Parker’s, who said, “Everyone you’re reading about has money for a trainer and a chef. That doesn’t make it realistic.” It’s true, I have neither a trainer nor a chef. And she’s right, is there anything more gritty and real than being a new mother?

A version of this article, which was written in August 2011, recently appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: