Monday, April 26, 2010

Dear Jillian, Have a Baby.

Celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels was quoted earlier this week telling Women’s Health Magazine that she plans to adopt instead of birthing her own children because, in her own words, “I can’t handle doing that to my body.” Appalled on behalf of mothers everywhere, I decided to write her a letter.

Dear Jillian,

You would think your decision to adopt a child so to spare your body from pregnancy wouldn't surprise me considering you're part of a high-profile, celebrity world that worships image and, moreover, that you're famous for guiding people to better bodies on the hit show The Biggest Loser. But with today's celebrities bearing more than a few children, looking great and cherishing motherhood, your comments do stand out.

You say "that" like pregnancy is some horrific, unnatural and purposeless procedure foreign to womanhoodYou say you can't handle doing "that" to your body. You say "that" like pregnancy is some horrific, unnatural and purposeless procedure foreign to womanhood. I know you're a successful gym superstar, but can you really be so vain?

No mom is going to fight the notion that bearing children takes its toll on the body. A human being comes out of you - your body changes. Duh. But, as a fitness guru, you of all people should know best the body's ability to bounce back after surgery, weight gain and certainly pregnancy. And you're obviously capable! I mean, come on, look at you – every mother would love to snap her fingers and have your body, let alone your commitment and energy for fitness.

Who are you to fear the physical ramifications of pregnancy? There's no doubt you'd be one of those super celebrity moms who strut about town showing off a flat belly days after birth. Come on, Jill (can I call you that?). You can do it. I believe in you.

Obviously, your sentiments stem from your all-consuming commitment to your perfectly trim and toned body. Your body is your career, and you don't want to sacrifice that. But as a woman, your body has a calling of its own. Everything from our wide hips to our womb within beseeches us to birth children.

But your comments are insensitive to more than your own female body, but to the countless women in the world who can't handle not doing "that" to their body; women who suffer from the painful reality of infertility. They would wreck their bodies a million times over to bare a healthy child. They would take acne and obesity any day over their childless existence. And you? You're actually willing to forego the gift of motherhood--all for a six pack you can easily rebuild post-partum. And worse, you're not afraid to admit it.

You're actually willing to forego the gift of motherhood--all for a six pack you can easily rebuild post-partumThe unabashed way you share choosing your body over baby makes me worry that your mindset is not foreign to many women in today's body-first culture. And that's scary. So I'm writing because I'm convinced I represent most mothers out there – whether beach babes or soccer moms – who love looking good, feeling healthy and still feel that birthing a baby is our body's ultimate purpose (imagine that!).

When you think pregnancy, all you imagine are stretch marks. When you hear baby, you just see flab. To you, growing a child is a "that" - not a feminine experience. This attitude is the antithesis of all that is womanly. You may have a great body, and you certainly work to keep it that way, but you're no female role model.

More and more studies confirm the fact that the pinnacle of the female body's experience is growing and birthing a baby. It's confirmed both scientifically and certainly from personal accounts that our body's health is enhanced – our years lengthened! – via the physical experience of becoming a mom.

Jillian, you’re thirty-six years old. Hopefully before menopause, you’ll consider giving your body – and mind and soul – the gift it deserves. Don’t just keep doing your jumping jacks, denying your feminine self. Do something truly great for your body - have a baby. And after you do, I’m sure we’ll all see you again on the cover of Women’s Health Magazine, sporting a belly that is just as flat and toned as it was before – but a heckuva lot happier than it ever was.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Lesson from Zaidy and Nona

By Mimi Hecht

It’s barely two days into my month-long stay back home in Seattle and my father is crying. His hand presses my seven-month old son’s cheek against his face, his eyes brimming with fresh tears. In a soft and serious voice he looks at me, but seems to ask himself, “What am I going to do when he goes?” Once again, I feel that jabbing pain from facing the reality that I raise my son on the opposite coast as my parents. But seeing so clearly how attached my father is to my son, watching the connection they have built, forces me to respond with a smile. I remind my father that we have so much time this trip and we will undoubtedly make it worthwhile. Indeed, I was bustling with excitement to be afforded the precious opportunity to spend time back at home with my child and give Zaidy and Nona the chance to bond with their first grandson.

As soon as my husband and I touched down in Seattle, my two parents became that village they say is essential to raising a child. They wholeheartedly assumed the parental role and providing everything essential to my child’s physical and emotional wellbeing. My mother had decked the house with tons of toys, an entire cupboard of baby food and so much baby paraphernalia that I almost thought she herself was pregnant. I thanked her profusely, but quickly learned she did none of this for me per se. Her baby was home.

At first I was blown away by my parent’s helpful hands. They insisted on taking the baby while I slept or worked, and when I was done they’d give an enthusiastic report on their time together - a program of feedings, diaper changes and, in my father’s case, a detailed tour of the house. It was heartwarming, but also a little strange. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea that my parents – who raised seven children and are now enjoying a more restful period of their life – could so naturally and joyfully slip into parenting-gear, something that demands so much energy and focus.

They were unstoppable. When my mother went on a walk, she insisted on taking the stroller. Every time she wanted to hold the baby for “just a second” he would suddenly be enjoying a treat outside his strict seven-month old diet or be undressed and splashing in the bath. When my father had some free moments, he whisked the baby away to play him music and tell him stories. One morning I woke up to find him giving the baby breakfast, both still in pajamas.

And then there was the time I heard the baby upstairs and, after following his chuckles and scanning the floor for his roly-poly crawling polkas, I also found my father on all fours. Yes, my father was having a crawling play session with my toddler. “Sorry for interrupting,” was all I could say. It was official; my parents needed to have another baby. But when I suggested that to my mother she laughed and reminded herself of the task of raising teenagers. I couldn’t help but think to myself, just one more reason to treasure these poop-filled, tear-soaked and sleep-deprived days of baby-raising.

You always wonder what it was like for your parents to raise little kids. How did they talk to you? How did they feed you? What activities and moments really made them smile? Up until now, I have only heard the memories, being left to imagine my folks as youthful parents. But now, having brought my child home, I have been given an inside view into my parents’ joy-filled days raising children. My mother always told me that caring for us as babies was the best time of her life. But she doesn’t have to say it. I see the same delight every moment she’s with my son…and the lesson is indispensable.

I now know what grandparents are for. They’re not there to share a burden. They don’t exist to spoil your kids. And while it’s always accepted, their primary role is not to dispense advice. Their purpose is more in-between the lines. Seeing a couple who are no longer raising little ones enthusiastically kick into gear and embrace the responsibilities of parenthood when they have absolutely no obligation – and seeing them do it with the elation of a lottery winner – well, that’s just something you can’t ignore. So here’s to the best Zaidy and Nona. Thank you for teaching me to approach parenthood with zest and joy. Thank you for reminding me that, years from now when I am beyond my childbearing years, I will look back at this time and wish it hadn’t passed so quickly.