Every November there is a challenge offered to everyone in the world from NaNoWriMo. November is National novel Writing Month (hence the name NaNoWriMo), but I’m a teacher. November is not the month for me to dedicate to writing 50,000 words while also prepping for the holidays and teaching. Fortunately for me, NaNoWriMo offers an alternative for people like me who just can’t do it in November. Camp NaNoWriMo is basically the same thing, just with a camp theme, smack in the middle of teacher-friendly July! You may have already guessed that I’m knee deep in process of my novel.
I often get told that I should write a book. I always wonder at the reality of that- who would ever want to read a whole book written by me? I’m not a terrible writer, but blogging really suits me. It’s so informal, the rules are made by me and the casual nature of it makes me not flip out over grammar and typos, unlike a published book. But then I realized that Camp NaNoWriMo allows for that too- anonymous authorship without risk. I do want to write a book. I’m not sure if it’s worthy of publishing or selling, but it’s just a thing I feel like I have to do- like finish college, lose weight, get married, be a mom, run a distance that feels outside of my ability, grow my hair long once… YOLO. It’s true. So here I am, embarking on my novel.
What does this have to do with my blog? Guess what I’m writing about? I’m writing the story of Tamara Shazam in detail. So far it meanders all over and has bird walks as I through-write my story, but I’ve decided to share it here during this month.
I realized that when I found Katie from Runs For Cookies that I felt mildly discouraged that she was already ‘done’ with her project. She was maintaining her weight, she was an accomplished runner and her blog was incredibly inspiring, but I found myself having to dig deep through her archives to uncover her greater story and get closer to the genesis of her project. My blog is a few years old now. People might be having the same issue with me- sure, she’s exercising and struggling with losing and gaining right around the 200 mark, but she’s already looking good! (I actually have had people ask me why I’m continuing since I already look good, but it’s that inside goal that is important, now.). I’ve decided to share excerpts from my story this month as kind of a primer for who I am and where I’ve come from. It’s not going to be perfect, mind you it is a draft and it is for personal use on my part, but I’m also happy to share it with anyone who wants to read it.
Click through to jump to the story:
I was a new mom with a beautiful baby girl. I also happened to weigh in at a startling 340 pounds and couldn’t move a whole lot. I’d spent the day before with my sweet little baby crawling all over me, I was on my back on the floor. I felt like a mountain as my daughter used me like a piece of furniture, cruising around me. When I laid my head back, I could feel my weight pressing down on my chest and my neck, constricting my breathing. I noticed things that made me feel nervous and tried to brush them away, but right then my size just didn’t feel right. I shouldn’t dread getting up off the floor and look at it like an Olympic feat- I should just be able to get up.
That night, asleep, my subconscious spoke to me through a nightmare. I was working late at the mall and was carrying my daughter back to the car with me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man on a motorcycle pulled up and snatched her from me. I tried to hang onto her, but he was able to wrestle her from my arms and he ran away while I laid on the cement parking lot, again, marooned by my own gravity. Unable to get up quickly enough, he put her into the milk crate he had bungeed to the back of his motorcycle, my daughter was screaming and crying, wailing for her mama, wailing because this strange man had here wailing because her little world was rough and scary right then. I managed to get on my knees by the time he got back on his motorcycle and I started running toward my daughter and the man on his bike, so all I could do was watch her gorgeous little crying face, looking right at me as she faded away into the darkness.
I stood there, alone in the dark parking lot, crying,wondering what I could do now and immediately thought of how I could have prevented this. If I were stronger, faster and more capable I wouldn’t have lost her. Perhaps I would have still, but I could have fought harder and hung on a little more. Perhaps I could have disabled the man, but I could have done something more than what I was able. Now I was without my daughter and who knew how long it would take to get her back, if ever.
I woke up in a sweat, scared. My daughter was sleeping quietly next to me in her bassinet, her little breaths soothing me as I considered the greater message in the dream that my subconscious was screaming at me. This whole living thing wasn’t just my battle anymore. My job had grown to include a daughter and she needed me. She needed more than just my ability to serve food and more than a lap to sit on and more than lips to kiss. She needed a mama who could protect her. She needed a mama could get off the floor easily to play. She needed a mama who could run after bad guys without losing her balance and tipping over. She needed a mama who would live long enough to see her as an adult. A mama who would do everything in her power to see her get married, to see her graduate to be there to hold her babies and her hand, if she ever needed it, as she walked through life. I realized that I wanted to see as much of her story as possible.
As I laid there that night I was terrified. Not of just what happened in the dream or my realization that my health was impacting my family life, but also at the prospect of the project that sat in front of me. I knew I was a big lady. I wore a size 28, the biggest size they carried at Lane Bryant, and those shirts and pants were starting to feel a little snug. I had started needing to order my clothes through catalogues and online because the clothes at the mall stores were getting too small for me. I ate anything I wanted and my exercise was limited to frequent, little walks through the woods nearby. I never wanted to go down a hill because it meant I had to climb back up it. I considered family outings based on how well I would fit into the facility and how much effort it would take. I was always tired and was on diabetic medication for insulin resistance- I wasn’t diabetic- YET. I weighed well over 300 pounds and had just kind of accepted that I was naturally pretty heavy, just like my hardy, German blood full of bakers scripted I should be. But I knew I needed to do something about it. I wanted to live- for my daughter.
I did give it an earnest try after that. I went on a very restrictive diet that lasted about six weeks. I lost an initial five or so pounds that buoyed me for the next few weeks, but as I continued to diet, avoid working out and not lose any weight I got discouraged and let the old habits creep back in. Again, I was convinced that my body, genetically, just wanted to be heavy, and resumed life as it was before the dream. But I wasn’t as comfortable with my status as a heavy girl as before. Something was just not sitting with me right.
I’ve had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) since going through puberty. I was a skinny kid all along, but as soon as those womanly hormones began rushing my system at age ten I started packing on the pounds. PCOS is a syndrome that presents in a variety of ways. What it really means is that when my ovaries are trying to release eggs, my hormones couldn’t surge enough to actually release the egg. I would develop the bubble around the egg as it grew, I would go through a regular cycle but the egg could never escape, make it’s way down my Fallopian tube to implant in my uterus to start menstruation. The result is a messy hormonal issue that has external symptoms like seemingly uncontrollable weight gain, hirsutism, darker skin patches and less visible issues like a lack of period, no ovulation, infertility and insulin issues that, for me, just made me into an exceptional fat making machine. Because I don’t process sugar as fuel as easily, my body just turns it right into fat. It was a viscous cycle. I’d eat something and feel hungry or tired within an hour so I’d eat more. And more. And more. I’d dial back my food to small portions, and my body would desperately hang onto the calories as fat as though I were starving and I’d actually gain weight. I was stuck and didn’t know what to do, so I just kept up the status quo and continued to live, eat and exercise as always.
Once we had our daughter and we knew we could actually conceive with the help of the infertility drug called com I’d, we wanted to get started again right away. Gigi took four years to get in my belly and she arrived 16 days before my 30th birthday. My best fertility days were behind me so I didn’t have time to waste, already having infertility issues. I started taking the same medication as I took before, expecting baby number two to make his or her presence known any day, but nothing happened. My doctor tried one thing, another and still more, but nothing was happening. I took a job teaching 70 miles from home and stayed with my husband’s family, away from my daughter and husband for most of the year. Just like other hard times in my life I found food to be a great friend in absence of my family. That year I discovered Trader Joe’s health food, full of organic and natural snacks, juices, chocolates. Health food is healthy, but junk food can masquerade at a healthy choice. I bought lots, ate it all and got really big. I maxed out at 340, still perplexed as to why I couldn’t get pregnant. I got pregnant the first time weighing in at 320, why couldn’t I conceive now?
My wonderful doctor finally sat me down and told me two things. One, that I was in my thirties now and things change. He confirmed that my most fertile days were behind me, my eggs were getting old, my equipment wasn’t as youthful and vibrant and it’s simply harder to conceive the older a woman gets. I was shocked that, at 33, I was already looking down the barrel of old age! The next was harder for him to say but was the most important thing I’d ever heard a doctor tell me. He said my weight was a contributing factor. That if I could lose just 5-10% of my weight that I might just spontaneously get pregnant. This was sobering news. It’s funny to think that through all of this mess, I had read about weight being a contributing factor to infertility, but because no doctors had ever mentioned it and I had managed to have one healthy baby I was in denial that it was a problem. Finally, though, there it was, straight from the doctor’s mouth. My fatness was preventing me from completing my family circle.
My husband was really happy with just the one kid. He loved her and felt very happy with just one kid, so it was really up to me. How bad did I want another baby? How hard was I willing to work to have another baby? It was a really hard decision, quite honestly. We were already a family. We were really happy. If this was our outcome in life, to be a family of three, it suited us just fine. My husband prefers a real woman’s body with curves and softness, did I really need to lose weight?
Knowing myself, though, I knew that I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t at least try.