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A what? A Luteal Phase Defect? Um, a what?

Three days before my period is due and I feel that warm sensation in my belly that always inevitably turns into cramps. Any hope I had when I felt wetness, when I looked it up and learned it could be a sign of pregnancy, when I was so sure we had perfectly timed everything this cycle—is washed away with one cramp. I feel defeated and sad, like my body is working against me. I feel old and shattered and wonder if this is the end of my chance to bring another life into our family. I feel selfish because I already made one life and she is a blessed, gorgeous life that I don’t even deserve. I should just be happy because so many women don’t get an opportunity to create one life. Who says two or three or four lives are superior to one? Who decided that?

Part I of my blood has already been given away to the gyno and I’ve been instructed to return on the 21st day of my cycle to give away Part II.

A Luteal Phase Defect.

What a beautiful name for a stupid thing.

All of a sudden, I am the moon, or a portion of it? A crumb? My limp body is being pulled and poked by its highness the moon, like a submissive tide? The moon isn’t supposed to get things wrong. It isn’t supposed to only provide 8 days in between ovulation and menstruation. That, my friends, isn’t enough time to conceive.

Idiot moon.

In every place on planet Earth, you’re considered young, gyno told me when I visited her a few months ago. Except here.

Remind me why I didn’t have children when I was 24? Oh yeah, that apartment in Williamsburg was pretty, pretty fun, that’s why.

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What the hell are you going to do when your daughter asks about thigh gaps?

Last night my husband informed me that I have a thigh gap.

“A what? What the hell is that?” (frantically feeling up my thighs)

“A thigh gap. All the girls want one. I just read about it.”

“Let me guess. New York Times Style section?”

“No. But everywhere else.”

He’s right. A quick Google search for “thigh gap” yielded about 10,000,000 results, including countless Tumblr accounts that serve as “thinspiration” for girls who want to gaze at photos of Victoria’s Secret angels and ordinary teens with long, coltish legs and post remarks about how their fat asses will never stick to a diet long enough to earn those legs.

For those of you who are as clueless as I am when it comes to the desires and pursuits of anyone under 25, let me fill you in on the ugly details: a thigh gap is just what is sounds like—a space between the inner thighs that most prominently shows when one stands still. Beyonce, one of the most beautiful women on the planet, has had her legs photoshopped to achieve the look, while one gorgeous 20-something coworker informed me that a thigh gap was “an unfortunate thing” that she “unfortunately wanted bad.”

To achieve this gap you must either be a recovering anorexic who eats healthfully and exercises but takes little joy in food and will forever be a bore at restaurants (ding, ding, ding, I win that prize), an actual active anorexic, or a naturally slender person barely out of her teens.

And yet young women are starving themselves in order to achieve this latest (and most bizarre) sign of female perfection.

As mothers of young girls, isn’t it enough that we can anticipate the heartache our daughters will experience when they don’t get the boobs they so desperately want? Or when they can fill a DD bra at age 13 and want to hide the boobs everyone else so desperately wants? We already expect that there will be stupid diets at 16 and that, at age 17, she will pull her skirt down and almost rip the hemline because she wants to hide her “fat thighs.” She will either abhor her belly and pull at it or reveal her belly every chance she gets because she hates her breasts and wants to compensate for them.

It is going to be a trial, for sure.

And now we have to worry about fucking thigh gaps.

And why? Because adult women like me won’t order dessert at restaurants. Because adult women I work with spend $400 on Isagenix to lose 10 pounds and then believe no one wants to speak with them because we are all jealous they lost weight (reality: we don’t want to speak with you because all you talk about is Isagenix).

Can we please all man up, read a newspaper, and talk about anything—anything outside of ourselves? At this point, I would even take something as trivial as Tebow or your many, many sexual pursuits.

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10 things I don’t do now that I’m a mom

1. Look up Gig Alerts on NPR after I hear a snippet from a band I like on their early morning radio program. My post-baby take on music is that it’s kind of like that portentous lighter that follows Don throughout Season 6 Episode 1 of “Mad Men.” If it belongs in your life it will come back to you.

2. Find bands I like through any avenue other than National Public Radio.

3. Use the bakeware I purchased when becoming a new mom for no other reason than because moms are supposed to own bakeware.

4. Wear ironic T-shirts featuring cartoon characters. With a kid in tow I’ll just look like I’m an ardent fan of Grover. Which I am.

5. Eat tons of nonfat foods that are loaded with sugar. Spend Saturday mornings with my face stuck in a bowl of Frosted Flakes in chocolate milk with a sprinkle of Lucky Charms marshmallows (but just the marshmallows) on top. Part of my mom duty is to be a model of health. Plus, this baby thinks nothing of stealing my food.

6. Roll my eyes when babies cry in restaurants. Though I will roll my eyes when my baby cries in a restaurant.

7. Consider my night completely over once I put K to sleep. Anything…anything could happen between 8 pm and 8 am.

8. Cross streets without looking both ways. I did this up until I was 32 and it always worked for me.

9. Finish novels entitled “Anna Karenina.” It’s been a year since I began reading this literary masterpiece and I’ve been stuck on page 320 for at least six months. I start and stop, start and stop, ask myself why I am torturing myself, answer to myself that it’s “Anna Karenina” and I can’t die without having read it, and then start and stop the book again.

10. Worry and wonder whether pregnancy will destroy my body. A few things will change. Many more will stay the same. But now that the great pregnancy mystery is over I can assure you: take care of yourself and pregnancy will not destroy your body.

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Getting your daughter to like her body when you aren’t nuts about yours

As the mom of a little girl, I’ve been thinking a lot about body image lately. It seems every woman with whom I work–from already lithe blondes to women who could, maybe, lose six pounds at most–are replacing actual food with Isagenix shakes. Everywhere I turn I bump into big plastic containers filled with rock-colored goo. To be fair, I know very little about this product, other than that it costs something like $400 for a 30-day supply, requires that you consume substantially fewer calories than the average tween, and–apparently–works insanely well. When I say “works,” I mean lose-10-pounds-in-9-days works. Crazy works.

But this is all besides the point.

I hate thinking that one day my K will walk into the lunchroom at her high school, or the break room at her job, and sit down with a group of women, expecting to engage in some friendly banter. That one woman will innocently ask, “Ooh, what are you eating?” That K will answer, “Chicken cutlets,” and that two women will jump in and remark, “Oh, if I eat anything breaded I’ll blow up like a balloon.” K will then be expected to say something back (lest she be thought of as the “bitch”)–something like, “But you’re so skinny. You can eat anything.” Then one of the women will reply, “Please. My stomach looks like an accordion. It’s disgusting.” And then…I suppose K will have to say something back and change the subject? How exactly do we escape the vortex of negative body talk?

Even if K grows up to become the most confident woman on earth, exchanges like these will pollute her mind. They will fill her with ideas about how thighs should look and about the benefits of scraping breadcrumbs off of her chicken.

Allison Tate, who recently penned this amazing Huffington Post article about body image and raising a daughter, really hit home when she wrote: “How do I raise my baby girl to love — or, at the very least, not to hate — the same features I have picked apart for so long?”

I haven’t spoken aloud about this in about 10 years to anyone but my husband, but as a little girl, I was told by my mother, aunts, and one or two psychologists, that I had an eating disorder. I was never hospitalized and my lowest weight (at 5’7) was about 103 pounds–not the stuff of Lifetime Movies. But I wasted an obscene amount of time preoccupied with my body and willing to do anything to avoid eating. While my mother and father worked, I would take the meals my mom left, smear their oils on a plate and leave the soiled plate in the sink unwashed. Then I’d either flush the food down the toilet or (scared that it might come back up) dash down the block to stuff it down the sewer. I became a habitual dabber–dabbing all foods with paper towels until they were dry enough to pick at. I ate frozen peas from a bag when I was hungry because the cold killed my appetite. I had dreams and nightmares about food. I’d take dishes out of the fridge, smell them, and put them back. One night I felt my heart slow down and I lay on my bed and promised god I would eat if he would make my heart normal again.

And I haven’t had a full piece of my own birthday cake since I was, maybe, 13. That last admission scares me most because it means some part of me is still trapped in before. And my daughter is going to pick up on it. One day, she’s going to refuse her birthday cake, and when that happens, it’s going to be the saddest day of both of our lives.

So what do we do? Do we sit with the boys at work? (who were discussing the death of Margaret Thatcher while the aforementioned conversation took place–how ironic). Do we throw out enough positivity to combat all negative body image conversations in the hope that we women will finally believe what we’re hearing and saying? (because, to be truthful, I still don’t always believe the positive things when I say them).

Is it enough to just eat our own damn birthday cake?

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Pregnancy/Post Baby Workout (a.k.a. Ront de jambe)

Full disclosure #1: I’m not a doctor. I Google health problems, which I think makes me a doctor’s number one enemy. So please (especially if you’re pregnant) don’t read this and run and do it and then wake up tomorrow angry and ready to sue me because your spinal cord has become detached from your body. I’m sure you have a really nice spinal cord and I don’t want anything bad to happen to it.

Full disclosure #2: I’ve always been naturally thin. I eat healthy foods. I like quinoa. Writing that actually makes me wonder if I am naturally thin or just achingly dull.

I don’t believe in Astrology, but according to the results of a fitness quiz I once took, I have a Gemini personality when it comes to exercise. I will try anything. I will not stick with anything. With that said, lots of women asked me how I only gained 20 pounds during pregnancy and how I then lost 22 pounds within 3 months of giving birth. As I said, I am a boring eater. I am also not fond of gyms. I just don’t have three hours to put on workout clothes, walk to the gym, use a bunch of machines without really knowing if I’m doing anything right, and then rush home to cook, feed K, etc.

Anyway, here are some of the home workouts I tried either during or after pregnancy…followed by the number one workout I recommend to all new moms–the one workout that I have been faithful to for a few months now (a record for me)..

Jillian Michaels “The Biggest Winner”

Verdict: Decent abs workout. More back and arms than I think I need..not enough legs. Also, she seems super mean. Can’t deal with that kind of tough love after pregnancy.

Mari Windsor’s “Cardio Pilates”

Verdict: I love pilates because it builds long, lean muscle without adding bulk. I really appreciate the way this DVD consists of three workouts, including a 25 minute “pilates express workout,” 12-minute “Quick Fix Pilates” and 13-minute “Lower Body Workout.” Perfect for days when you are pressed for time but want to feel like you’ve put in some work.

“Pilates During Pregnancy,” with Niece Pecenka

Verdict: Niece appears to be about six months pregnancy as she powers her way through simple, but effective lower body, side legs, and abdominal work. The woman is so zen she actually takes the time during the workout to teach you how to breathe properly, which she stresses will be important during labor (you can say that again). I was addicted to this DVD throughout my pregnancy. Couldn’t recommend it more.

“Supreme 90 Day System,” Hosted by Tom Holland

Verdict: I have a love/hate relationship with this 10 DVD set. I know I’m supposed to value my arm muscles more than I do, but I just can’t get behind all of the exercises dedicated to my bi’s, tri’s, di’s, pi’s, etc. I find the Cardio Challenge and Tabata Inferno keep my heart rate elevated and give me a boost of energy that lasts for hours afterward. I even think host Tom Holland–at his most bulldog moments–is nothing short of enviably compact and adorable in his “Karate Kid” tank top. But one DVD dedicated to the legs and butt isn’t enough, in my opinion. So, unfortunately, this set doesn’t satisfy my needs.

“Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout,” with Mary Helen Bowers

Verdict: This is the workout to (almost) end all workouts. Ballerina Mary Helen Bowers trained Natalie Portman for her role in “Black Swan”, so her credentials are obviously top-notch. She’s also so sleek and beautiful that she needn’t speak or bark orders at you–her appearance serves as plenty of motivation. It’s like being sweetly cajoled by a Disney Princess to put down that Snickers bar and assume first position. Mary Helen uses what I think are classic ballet warmup moves designed to lengthen and tone your muscles and build flexibility. The DVD is broken up into six segments and you can mix and match sessions as you wish: bridge (amazing butt and lower body exercises), abs, inner thigh, outer thigh (brutal the first few times), arms, and standing (fun as hell–this grown woman embraced the opportunity to Plié). You needn’t own a set of weights and the fact that you can customize your workouts really helps when you’re pressed for time. The one and only fault I find with this workout is that it contains very little cardio–though I hear Mary Helen is working on it.

So that’s that. You can’t starve yourself when you have a child because, you know, you’re a role model now so please don’t, and babies are way too expensive to go dropping a lot of money on cleansers and shakes and all that jazz. All you need is a $10 DVD and a mat or rug. And quinoa. Quinoa doesn’t hurt.