Saturday, June 28, 2008

Baby Weight.

No, this post is not about losing th pregnancy weight...that's a topic I'm highly unqualified to discuss. It's about babies, and what they weigh.

Odd topic? Maybe, but one that every pregnant woman and mom will find herself obsessing over at one point or another. When you're pregnant, people are forever guessing at baby's size. I heard more than a bajillion times, "That's going to be a BIG baby!". Mostly, this was said by people who took in me (5'8") and then looked over to my husband, who at 6'5" and 275 pounds, dwarves most mere mortals. On top of this, my mom had 4 kids, and 3 of us were well over 8 pounds. So, from early in my pregnancy, I was resigned to a 'big baby', but I tried not to let it bother. The way I figured...AND head coming out of that part of a woman's body hurts...whether it's attached to a 6 pound body or a 9 pound one.

Well, wouldn't you know it? I ended up with a skinny baby, tipping the scales at a mere 6 lbs, 7 oz. She was lonf (21") and lean, with a small head (in the 25th %). And you KNOW I heard ALL ABOUT IT from everyone...people I knew, people I loved, people at stores and restaurants and everywhere we went. The most common question we got was, "Is she a preemie?" She was not. In fact, she was born right on time, and in spite of the odds, she was just a little bird.

Now, when you're a new, first-time mom and you're trying to figure out breastfeeding, and the media and pop culture inundate you with picture and stories starring fat, bald babies, you start to wonder. You read baby magazines, filled with chubby, pink and camel skinned cherubs, their thigh rolls yummy and looking like little spilling vats of pudding. Their TOES are chubby, for shit's sake!

And there's your baby....your little, thin, bird-legged baby. And you worry. And you stress. And you wonder if breastfeeding really is the right thing to do. And, of course, you take it personally. You start thinking of witty comebacks to all those invasive questions about your baby's size and weight. Offhanded smartass remarks like, "She's only small because of all the meth I did in pregnancy!", "Small? No, no, no! You're just so used to seeing fatasses like yourself everywhere you go, so you don't recognize a normal kid.", "She's on a diet. We'd appreciate if you wouldn't mention her weight...she's really sensitive about it!"

But, of course, I never dared. I just smiled and endured conversations like the one I had at the mall one day:

Saleslady: "She's precious! How old?"
Me: (cringing because I KNOW she thinks my kid is a matter of days old, and she's almost 3 months) "Almost 3 months."
S: "Oh. OH! She was a preemie then?"
M: "Nope. Right on time. Just a skinny little bean."
S: "Don't worry honey. My grandkids were preemie twins, and they caught up. She'll catch up too."
M: "Oh, um...she's not a preemie. Just skinny."
S: "Yeah, preemies can be so hard. Don't worry. She's get chubby soon."

Ummmmmm.....what conversation was that woman in? How many ways can I say "She's not a preemie." before I lose my fucking mind?!?!?

I eventually developed my own pat answer to these sorts of inquiries. One that was honest, slightly passive agressive, and made most people stop haranguing me: "She's not a preemie. She's just long and skinny. We should ALL be so lucky, right?"

Anyhow, as Luca grew, it turned out my instinct that she wasn't 'too small' was right. Turns out, she was just right for Luca. Every Pediatrician appointment brought a weight check, and then a visit with the growth chart.

A word on bay growth charts: 99% of Pediatricians use a chart based on formula fed babies. And, studies show, formula fed babies not only tend to start out chubbier, they tend to stay chubbier into adulthood. So when your breastfed baby is being compared to a formula fed one, it's not an even contest at all.

Anyhow, when she was a newborn, we'd go in and those words "She's 5th % for weight..." would crush me. I could feel the unspoken, "So what are you doing wrong???" hanging in the room, whether or not her Dr was actually thinking it. People would ask me what she weighed, and I'd cringe, then answer, then watch the shock register on their faces. Nine times out of ten, these were other moms asking, and 9 times out of ten, I'd get a response like, "WOW. Really? Was she a preemie? MY son weighed 6 pounds more than that at her age!"

Now, this would be followed by me looking into the stroller to see a kid who was so fat his little shorts were being sucked up into his thigh fat, and he had neck cheese spilling out onto his shirt.


Now, far be it for me to judge chubby kids. I envied them, really, because while we all know that obesity is on the rise in America, chubbiness is still considered the 'norm'. People run around declaring with glee, "He's in the 99th percentile for weight!", and no one bats a lash. Imagine me, running around bragging about my baby: "She's in the 3rd percentile for weight!!!". How do you think THAT would have gone over?

Anyhow, our latest appointment was for Luca's 12 months. She weighed in and, to our surprise, had jumped up a few rungs on those famous weight charts. She was a healthy 18 pounds, 6 ounces, landing her a spot in the presitgious 10th percentile for weight. Her height was (has always been) in about the 75th percentile. So how did I feel about being 7 percentage points close to 'average'? Relieved. Not that she had gained weight, but that I could STOP HAVING TO ANSWER THE AGE OLD "WHAT PERCENTILE IS SHE IN?" WITH "THIRD.".

It was only after her appointment that I stopped and realized something: Luca's 12 month appointment was done almost 3 weeks late, but her little weight dot was plotted on a chart with ther 12 month olds. We cheated the system by 3 weeks....and I wonder how many percentage points?


Mere said...

i like the photo choices.

Am I as fat as the thinnest girl in the fat girl line up?

mpoggie said...

(here's how I read your blog:"I wonder what's new on Katie's blog...oh, look at the archival suggestions at the bottom, this one looks interesting..." and on and on like that for an hour.)

This is exactly what we're going through right now. At her 9 month, the nurse FREAKED because she was in the 3rd. The Dr., bless him, was all, "I can see fat, right there, on her leg. She's only in the third because kids today are obese and that's messed up the average." Then he promptly retired. The Doc that replaced him? First words out of her mouth: "I'm really concerned about her weight. Let's talk about some ways to get some meat on her bones..." Next time I'm putting my thumb on the scale.


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