New Mom Dispatch: Weighing In
Learning the parenthood ropes one month at a time
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
When Fiona was born, she clocked in at a healthy 8 pounds, 3 ounces. The OB finally cracked her no-nonsense veneer to excitedly exclaim, “Get her on the scale!” before turning to me to say, “So that’s why it took so long.”
She — and I and everyone else — was surprised because I had measured small the whole pregnancy, so much so that she ordered an extra ultrasound at 38 weeks. So I felt relieved about, and proud of, Fiona’s pudgy cheeks and doughy, creased arms that when bent resembled little croissants.
A few days later we had our first pediatrician appointment. The scale read 7 pounds. I knew that all babies lose weight initially, but such a precipitous drop brought tears to my tired eyes. And though nothing compares to that initial, intense effort to pack on ounces with round-the-clock feedings, her weight has been at the back of my and my husband’s minds ever since.
In the vast sea of unknowables that is having a baby, weight is one of the few concrete metrics by which his or her progress — and implicitly, our success as parents — is measured. More is good; less is bad. Of course, I know it has much less to do with parents than it does with genetics and body type. But especially once the percentile charts get involved — oh, ye dreaded percentile charts — it’s hard not to feel like your baby is being sized up against other babies. Because, well, she is.
More important, it strikes a nerve because feeding our children is our primary job. The job. Now, as parents of an 18-month-old, this job has taken on new dimensions. During Fi’s first year, she was generally an enthusiastic, open-minded eater. Then around 13 or 14 months, just as the books predicted, she started to become more, shall we say, discerning. She remains a relatively good, if mercurial eater; it’s just gotten more complex. Or is it completely random? Who knows. Right now she’s liking cheese, eggs and sausage. Combined into convenient little quiches? No thanks. Except for yesterday, when after four bites of chili, she snarfled up the quiche in three bites. “No” to bibs, “no” to high-chair seat belt, “yes” to standing in high chair and terrifying her parents at every opportunity.
Before having kids, I would regard the parent-versus-kid mealtime tug-of-war with the notion, “If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. End of story.” I still feel this way. I really do. But back then, I didn’t appreciate the work that went into making (ideally healthy) food for a small, capricious person at every meal, every single day. And to see this work tossed so casually (or cantankerously) on the floor again and again can be maddening.
And then we waltz into the doctor’s office for her most recent checkup and find that she’s plummeted from the 10th down to the 4th percentile in weight. I think I know why — steady back-to-back-to-back colds since early December have slashed her appetite. And now she’s a sturdy, if slender, toddler who also grew 2 inches in three months. I was a skinny kid, too. But at the same time, that old early-days concern creeps ever so slightly back in and every rejected food item takes on that much more weight.