Photo Credit: courtesy of Aarti Sanan
You are my miracle baby. After three years of countless shots, blood samples, drugs, and tears, I had you. Even when I was pregnant with you, doctors knew you were going to be a small baby. I guess stuffing myself with cookies and ice cream wasn't really helping your weight gain as I thought. You were born an itty bitty 5 pounds 9 ounces, and covered in hair. I first thought you were a monkey. I'm blaming that on the drugs.
Since you were born, my focus has been your weight. It hasn't helped that you decided to exclusively breast feed and reject all other forms of liquid. I've tried to smuggle milk, juice, water in sippy cups and bottles and you think it's fun to bite the spout, fling the bottle or your current favorite -- spray it on me. I have meticulously boiled, steamed and pureed foods for you. Drowned vegetables in butter and heavy cream, cringing inward. You take a few bites and decide you are done. Your weight has been creeping along slowly. I wonder, if I am creating unhealthy food habits for you, with all the high-fat, high-calorie foods, I'm forced to feed you. Then I look at the pathetic pound you gained in all those weeks of buttery meals, and I know I have no choice for now.
Everyone who meets you, comments on how tiny you are. I'm already lying about your age, convincing them you are a little genius for being able to sit up and clap at four months even though you are almost a year old! Not a day goes by when I don't wonder if there is something I could have done differently, or if there is anything I'm missing to help get you into a respectable weight percentile. On the plus side, you can still fit into practically all the clothes I bought you for your first year of life, and I know I would kill to fit into my pre- pregnancy jeans.
Much as I have to obsess about your weight, I hope and pray that you never have to. I don't care if you are skinny or fat, I just want you to be happy and healthy and comfortable with who you are. My one consolation is despite your being tiny, you have been in good health, and I secretly hope I'm doing something right. Hey, I haven't slept in 11 months and I still wake up twice a night to breastfeed you. I'm hoping in 16 years you remember that, although I know you won't.
I was very lucky to be a skinny teenager, and despite unhealthy food habits (Desserts after every meal!), I never gained an ounce. Alas, when my metabolism slowed down, and the bad food habits stayed, the pounds added up and I wish I knew how to live a healthier lifestyle. I know I have had to make smarter food choices and changes in the past few years and all the more now because I want to be around for you.
I wish you lived in a world where you were not judged by your weight or your looks. I wish people would focus on your achievements and your personality. (And we need to work on that too… what was with the temper tantrum this morning?)
Right now you depend on me to protect you. When the bigger kids crawl over you in music class (and yes, everyone is bigger than you, even the 6 month olds) you look at me in distress to come rescue you. I fend off the chunky brats… sometimes dragging them off you pretending not to notice the disapproving looks of their moms. Because I know they can crush you, and their moms don't know that you only weigh 13.6 pounds. I wish I could always be there to protect you, but I know you have to fend for yourself and survive. So forgive me, if I don't come to your rescue until the last minute, I'm secretly hoping you will either get out of the way or push the bully off you. Sadly, there will always be bullies in your life.
Before we both know it, the time will come for me to let you into the real world. People have always commented on your looks. If it isn't your weight gain, it's your super long hair (which I'm not cutting since I'm convinced it must weigh at least 8 ounces). Although you were born in this country, you will always look different. Your skin color, your hair, your culture, everything will seem strange to your peers. Much as we New Yorkers consider ourselves broad-minded and liberal, I know you will come to me with questions about your appearance.
Maybe the other kids will make fun of your facial hair, maybe they will comment on your dark skin, and when they do, I hope I can convince you that it does not matter what you look like, but who you are. I don't want you to feel you have a disadvantage. I want you to be proud of where you come from, because I know I am. I don't want you to be stereotyped into the Asian kid who competes at the science fair, nor do I want you to be dependent on your looks, because I know it can only get you that far.
I hope I can raise you to be kind, respectful and confident. I hope i can give you the right tools to make the right life choices for you. I hope that one day, I can keep you away from butter, sugar, white flour and all the pretty stuff you would never know is bad for you. (If nothing works, I have a before-and-after picture of myself that I can show you). Finally my dear daughter, I hope I can teach you to love yourself, the way I love you.
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