When my daughter was nineteen weeks pregnant with her first baby, she asked me to accompany her to the obstetrician’s office for her checkup. Thank God I brought enough food and water to last a week on a deserted island because the waiting room was PACKED.
I was surrounded by young women in various stages of pregnancy, and as I sat there sweating through a hot flash and fanning myself with a wrinkled baby magazine, I realized I was the only fossil in the room. The medical assistants behind the reception desk gave me a few funny looks like, “What’s the old lady doing here? Giving birth to a dinosaur egg?”
I self-consciously rubbed my stomach and remembered the good ol’ days when there was actually a baby in there taking up space, causing my belly to expand like a distorted Stretch Armstrong doll. Now the only thing growing in there is my food baby.
That’s right. A food baby. You know what I’m talking about. Men have them, too, but theirs are called beer bellies. For women, it’s food babies: an accumulation of every nacho, every corn dog, and every glass of chardonnay that was sipped between bites of chocolate we went to great lengths to hide from our children.
It’s God’s little joke on women, all because Eve had to take a bite out of that damn apple. Unless you have the metabolism of Speedy Gonzales or a body like a Disney Princess, most middle-aged females I know have what my mother fondly refers to as “the pouch” after your babies are born. We are not marsupials—we do not need these pouches to carry our young, so what gives?
I’ve been carrying around my food baby for years, so I can’t imagine giving birth any time soon. What I can imagine is this: sitting on a park bench next to several women my age. The conversation would go something like this:
How far along are you?
Oh, we started Junior back in 1986.
So when are you due?
Well, I’m not too sure … maybe when I start the South Beach Diet.
I don’t think mine wants to be born at all.
What kind of baby are you having?
Mine is a sausage pepperoni pizza baby.
Mine is taco dip and cheese enchiladas.
We’re going to be the proud parents of cheese fries.
Mine is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream … I think I’m having twins!
Thinking about food babies while sitting in the obstetrician’s waiting room reminded me that I needed to feed mine, so I nibbled on a breakfast bar and read an article about diaper rashes, diarrhea, and colic. I smiled. My daughter had no idea what she’d gotten herself into.
An hour and three breakfast bars later, I had a front row seat to the gynecological show when my daughter put her feet up into the stirrups on the examining table. I looked anywhere else in the room except at THAT.
Hearing my future grandchild’s heartbeat for the first time brought back a flood of memories. My last pregnancy was eighteen years ago (feels more like sixty in dog years). Time has (thankfully) dulled my memories of labor pains and C-sections, and yet, I distinctly recall simple things like my favorite blue polka-dotted maternity outfit, the circus clown lantern in the nursery, and how incredibly good a Reuben sandwich tasted after a solid week of intense pregnancy cravings.
Sleepless nights, panicky calls to the pediatrician at all hours, fold-up umbrella strollers, bulky baby car seats, lost bottles, tears, pacifiers, and the smell of baby powder … these things have all passed by in a blur. My daughter was once that tiny baby swaddled in pink in the nursery, and there she was, pregnant with one of her own.
I thought of how my own body had changed over the past few years, how menopause had slowly crept in and stolen my fertility. Some women view menopause as a thief who steals their youth, while others experience a greater sense of freedom. Menopause should not define who we are; it’s a time of change and enlightenment. How we adapt to the changes is what determines who we are now.
Even though I felt older than dirt that morning in the obstetrician’s office among young, fresh-faced mothers, I took stock of my past and who I am today. Yes, I’m more tired, more impatient, more emotional, and my body aches most mornings before my feet hit the floor.
I’m a happy but sometimes grumpy woman because I’m hot-flashing in elevators, denying myself that last slice of chocolate cake I so desperately crave or wasting precious time searching the house for things my kids “borrowed” but never returned.
I wear many hats these days: cook, dishwasher, maid, chauffeur, tutor, therapist, budget planner, dog walker, party planner, hostess, and family organizer. But above all else, I am a mother and a grandmother. And after last night, the proud parent of a beef and bean burrito food baby!
Read more from Marcia Kester Doyle on her blog, Menopausal Mother