My mother was hit and killed by the side of the road on her way to the dog races in Daytona Beach, FL a month before my 4th birthday. I was placed in an orphanage in Toledo, OH and was separated from my siblings and from everyone that I knew, loved and trusted in life.
My adoptive parents always felt the need to remind me how fat my deceased biological mother was. This wasn’t told to me to cause emotional pain, this was just plain ignorance of parenting with a lack of knowledge on how to raise a child with high self-esteem. If I was eating an extra serving of something my adoptive father would say, “You know, your mother was 300 pounds when she died, she was a big girl, you are going to end up as big as your mother if you keep eating like that. You know you really need to pay attention so you are not fat like she was, you don’t want to be a two-ton tussy do you?”. Two ton tussy? Is that what my mother was? I learned early on that being “fat” was not acceptable and I made the decision while I was very young that I was not going to be “fat”.
I can never once recall being able to just go into my parent’s kitchen and grab something to snack on if I was hungry, I was always required to ask. When I got married and I was allowed to eat anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted, I felt like a rebel! It was such a wonderful feeling to know that at 11:00 p.m. I could just head to the fridge and dig out 4 heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream and conceal the inner contents of the bowl by submerging the top with chocolate sauce AND NOBODY WAS GOING TO TELL ME HOW DAMN FAT MY MOTHER WAS!
I was a very young eighteen and size 7/9 when I slipped into my beautiful beaded, satin white wedding gown. Sure I guess I could have lost a few pounds but I was one of those people who looked better with a little more added weight rather than the skinny, thin waif-look and I carried my weight well.
My wedding day was a snowy February 14, 1987 and the day was perfect and my life would be perfect…
Turning back the hands of time twenty-four years and gazing at that young, energetic bright, humorous girl who lived in the moment. I really don’t believe that as an 18-year-old girl that I peered more than a few years into the future, hell, honestly I am not certain if I was truly able to peer more than a few days. There, at the exact moment, that I said, “I do.” I believed everything in my life would simply fall into place. Well isn’t that the funniest thing! If you have ever been married and divorced or been in a relationship that went sour, feel free to laugh with me.
Within 3 months of the wedding our joy increased; we were expecting our first child. Everything that I had ever imagined, minus the palace and servants, was blossoming right before me and I was elated. It was decided that I would be a stay at home mom to give our child the best possible start in life. When our beautiful baby daughter was born I was eager to be a great mom and I was more than prepared. I had read every parenting book that I could get my hands on and could recite the greatest authorities on parenting and motherhood. I was ready! Now, if you have ever had a child or have provided long-term care for a child, once again, feel free to laugh with me.
What an absolute mind-blowing reality check I was about to receive! When my daughter was born, it was truly the happiest moment of my life. It knocked the 300 guest/14 person wedding party wedding into second place and erased almost every other joyful moment out of my memory – I was whole. When I looked into my baby daughter’s eyes I knew I would move mountains, part seas and lay my life down for this tiny life. What I didn’t know is that within the first year my unconscious depression and lack of exercise would cause my first 50 lb weight gain. No worries here, just a little post-pregnancy weight. No problem!
No one prepares you for a colicky baby. I think I spent more time crying than my daughter did. We tried everything to soothe our precious daughter and we spent less time soothing each other. Everyone talks about how cute and wonderful these tiny beings are but no one talks about the challenging times that make you question your sanity! Of course when you are that far out of your mind, why not have two right? Two years and four months after the birth of our first daughter, we brought our second daughter into the world. This child left me with constant anxiety because I was certain she was not ok; she rarely cried. This is NOT normal right?! We found ourselves checking on this little one often to make certain she was breathing.
While the kids were gaining, so was I, and I must admit, I was clueless as to what to do about it. I grew up in a meat and potatoes household where good fried chicken was the ultimate life achievement. I knew absolutely nothing about portion size or healthy eating. When I grew up you sat at the dinner table until you ate ever single bite off of your plate because dammit there were people starving in other parts of the world. What??? “Ok…but you know I am just going to end up looking as fat as my deceased mother!” I lived in a world of mixed messages.
Our path in life brought us away from our families and relocated us on the opposite side of the country. At first this seemed so incredibly adventurous and I was excited to see what else was out there but it wasn’t long before the pangs of loneliness set in. I was on the phone daily to my family and friends and unfortunately this was before life-altering unlimited long distance. Our phone bills were as enormous as I was and I was quickly putting us in the poor-house clinging to every last shred of what was familiar.
Life is full of surprises and two years and two months after our daughter was born, we completed our family with the birth of a much welcomed baby boy. Little did I know what was creeping around the corner was going to reverberate shock waves through our world and change the course of my life forever.
At 5 1/2 months our helpless baby was diagnosed with severe hemophilia A and it was my fault. I am adopted and had no knowledge of my biological father’s medical history. I carried the hemophilia A gene and had passed hemophilia to my son, later I would find that I also passed the gene to my second daughter who is a symptomatic carrier. While logically I knew in my mind I had no way of knowing this, in my heart, I blamed myself for every moment of pain he suffered. Every time my son cried out in pain because he was bleeding into one of his joints, I felt such a deep sense of guilt. I also felt inside that subconsciously my husband blamed me, too. He had such high hopes of watching his son grow up to play high school football, as he once did, and my genetic code had robbed him of that.
I was a size 18-20 when I decided I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror and seeing a fat stranger staring back at me; I began taking herbal supplements to lose weight. It is amazing what dropping some weight will do to your self-esteem. I remember going to my husband’s company Christmas party in a tiny black dress and feeling on top of the world! One of my husband’s co-workers leaned in next to me and said, “You look amazing!” It had been ages since I had received that much attention and I loved it. What I didn’t know is that there were another set of eyes upon me that evening as well, but I wouldn’t find that out until a few years later. My husband even seemed more interested in what I had to say. But once again, pound by pound a bit of weight creeped back onto my body.
Within a year or two of the sexy black dress things began to go downhill and my marriage began to crumble. The ugly terrible truth was pouring out. My husband “had married too young”, “hadn’t loved me for years”, I “made him miserable”, I “had let myself go”, he was “no longer attracted to me sexually”. He wanted the divorce and yet the rage that came spewing from this man left wounds that I have not been able to heal even after 14 years. It was as if his words went deep inside my core and branded my very soul. I had loved him from the day I first saw him when I was 15 years old and I was almost certain I would die from the pain.
During the divorce process we could not agree on a parenting plan for our children and there were many delays. I unintentionally delayed the divorce even further by getting pregnant. I know, you are wondering if it was my soon to be ex-husband’s baby and the answer is no, it was not. Remember a few paragraphs back at the mention of another set of eyes upon me….
My self-esteem teetered between two worlds. In my new world I was told daily how beautiful and sexy I was and in the old world where my ex would show up and say “Did you get a new lipstick, it doesn’t look good on you.” It was a painful chapter in my life that took three years before I could begin to feel that there was some healing but my self-esteem still hasn’t caught on that it is ok to be me.
When I was six months pregnant my self-esteem took another critical blow. My fiance’s mother took me out to “get to know me”. I was so excited to have this one on one “girl’s time” with her and looked forward to building a relationship with my future mother-in-law. I will never forget how we were seated at a local restaurant and she looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “We were surprised when he brought you home because he has never been interested in overweight women before.” Followed by an additional comment of “It is only you and I here, would you mind telling me whose child it is that you are really carrying?” Her unkind words wounded me deeply, they would stay between our relationship for a very long time.
The birth of my fourth child, a son, was one of the most terrifying moments of my life and the first moment I have ever had to face the possibility of the death of my own child. My son was born with a Tracheal Esophageal Fistula (His esophagus was attached to his trachea instead of his stomach and he was drowning at birth). I had just come out of surgery from a hysterectomy when the news came and for that split moment I could not even process what was happening. My son was whisked off by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Seattle and I was unable to go with him. I took my son’s father by the hand and I told him to go with our son, if he were going to die that I didn’t want him to die alone; we held each other and sobbed. I was left alone in the hospital room to face my personal demons and two drug injections didn’t knock me out; I was in hell. This, by far, was the longest night of my entire life. The hands on the clock crawled across its face mocking my anxiety. First thing in the morning I had my doctor front and center telling him, “Get me out of here now!” He nodded and agreed to release me so I could get to my son’s side for his surgery; I could barely walk.
Upon arriving at the Neonatal intensive care unit I took one look at my son with all of the I.V.’s and tubes coming out of his tiny body and I began vomiting. How could life be this cruel? Was my helpless baby going to be taken from me, too? We were left at the mercy of Children’s Hospital. The first hurdle was to wait for the test results to see if this child also carried the hemophilia gene which would greatly complicate an already very serious situation. When the test came back negative we were so relieved – on to the next challenge. The surgery went perfect, in fact, the doctor said he had never seen such a perfect situation for the repair. Ten days in the hospital and our little man was home in our arms.
The year of his birth his father and I married and my weight gain really began…
According to my mother-in-law, I didn’t bathe the baby often enough, I wasn’t feeding the baby enough, the baby wasn’t gaining enough weight…you name it, I wasn’t doing it right. I felt emotionally beat up constantly and again, my husband said very little. My bitterness grew and so did I.
At age 10 my oldest son was diagnosed with a generalized seizure disorder. I had dealt with port-a-cathode infections, new port insertions, joint bleeds, kidney bleeds, severe ADHD and asthma. My life was a constant state of dealing with medical issues and I was completely worn out. At this time his own father and step-mother were in complete denial of dealing with his medical issues and I was constantly battling with them for proper care for my son. Now a seizure disorder? Was any of this ever going to end? You have got to be kidding me…somebody order a pizza for crying out loud, a combo with everything. Hell, just throw in the bread sticks, too! It just never seemed to end.
At my oldest daughter’s Sweet 16 Birthday I had shot up to 265 pounds and was almost into a size 26; I was in misery. I was really beginning to notice that I was struggling with depression. Over the years my in-laws had many unkind things to say to me and I had no support of my second husband. He would privately agree with me that his parents were wrong to treat me with disrespect but he had no backbone against his overbearing Filipino mother and his hurtful step-father. I had really build up resentment against my husband for this, but the reality is I allowed it to continue. I screamed, I cried, I ranted, I raved but I allowed it to continue by staying.
If life wasn’t challenging enough, cancer struck my husband in 2006. Twice he nearly died and the stress level was pushed to the highest yet. My husband was in and out of the hospital constantly and there was a continuous worry that perhaps he would die. We were fortunate that his cancer was cured but it left him with ITP an autoimmune disorder which destroys his platelets. It has been an ongoing battle for 4 years to keep his platelets up to a safe level. During this 4-5 year process, my husband was detaching emotionally from everyone and everything.
I was really packing on the pounds through this whole nightmare. The strange thing here is although I was putting weight on like there was no tomorrow, I was sick all the time, food went through me like a sieve. In fact, even in high school the doctors diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel, I realize now that may not have been the primary issue. It reached a point that I couldn’t even go shopping if I ate a meal before I left the house and I never wanted to eat out for fear that I would not make it home before needing a restroom. I have lived this way my whole life. It was a co-worker who suggested I cut out gluten. Gluten? I love pizza and bread, however I was desperate for relief and in just a few months I dropped 60 pounds; my stomach stopped hurting for the first time ever. I know now that I am gluten intolerant.
Two years after I dropped 60 pounds I packed 20 back on and I found myself crying alone and feeling quite defeated. I had promised myself that I would never gain the weight back and I had put 20 of it back on quickly. Once again, I looked at myself and hated the ugly fat girl that I saw in the mirror.
So here I am now. What has changed? I am taking charge of my own life and I am recognizing that I can not change the past, I can not change the hateful things people say, I can not change my in-laws and their previous bad manners. I can not change the fact that my first husband lost interest in me as his overweight wife, it reflects on him, not me. I can not fix my husband’s detachment, I can only support his counseling journey and hope that he finds his way back to his family before it is too late. I am accountable for me and what I do and say, not for the unkindness of others. I am worthy of love, I am beautiful and I am NOT GOING TO BE MY FAT DECEASED MOTHER.
Recipe for the makings of a fat chick:
- 1 bright young, humorous, energetic girl
- 1 failed marriage
- 1 unsupportive, emotionally detached, controlling second husband
- 1 set of uneducated adoptive parents
- Several difficult medical conditions to deal with
- Several cruel, hurtful remarks
- An abundance of low-self esteem
- The genetics of a “two-ton tussy”
Blend together until girl feels nothing but loneliness and emptiness inside and finds the comfort in the warmth of a pizza.