"You're lucky," my sister-in-law said to me as we stood in the baby-to-be's room, "you won't have to get fat." I made some kind of low murmuring noise and then changed the subject. She was right. We were adopting. I wouldn't have to deal with any of the unsightly weight gain, the bloating, the stretch marks. My daughter would be home within a month and, when she was only four-days old, I would hold her in my slim arms and walk briskly around the house without waddling or feeling the ache of stitches.
Wasn't that one of the benefits of adoption? Of course, I would have love to have carried my daughter around for nine months, but wasn't I glad that I would be able to retain my naturally skinny shape? It seemed like a gift. Yet, the idea of not being able to be pregnant, to not have the ability to get fat for my child, stung so much.
It wasn't just my sister-in-law who noticed my lack of motherly figure. A month after my daughter came home, she and I went to the zoo. We met another mom and baby near the hippopotamuses and stopped to talk.
"How old is she?" the woman asked, cooing over my child's adorably chubby cheeks.
"You gave birth a month ago?!"
"No, my daughter was adopted."
"Oh," she breathed in relief. "I really felt bad there for a second."
While I was at home for three months with my daughter, the stress of taking care of a new baby, coupled with my anxiety during the months of waiting for her to come home, kept me thin. I ate almost as little as my child, who now topped out at four ounces of formula every few hours and who was rapidly gaining weight.
When I went back to work, I got lots of compliments on my appearance.
"You look great!"
"You're so thin!"
But they all seemed so undeserved. I was just the same. I hadn't done anything. Motherhood had not changed me at all.
It was a while before I started to notice a difference. I had always loved going to vintage shops. I would usually breeze through the store, buying clothes right off the rack without ever trying them on.
"That's weird," I said to my husband as I yanked up the zipper on a hot pink pencil skirt. "This doesn't fit."
He made a low murmuring noise.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing," he replied quickly, eyeing the fabric as it strained across my hips.
I began to notice the legs of models in magazines. They're so thin, I would think, as downed the last bits of my daughter's uneaten hot dog in addition to my own dinner. One night, I tried on some sandals in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom.
"Do I have cankles?" I asked my husband.
"Yes. No, wait. What are cankles?"
"It's a calf-ankle," I explained. "It's basically fat ankles."
"No," he replied robotically, "you do not have cankles."
Just last week, I took my daughter and my mother out to lunch at McDonald's. My daughter sat and happily munched French fries while I took hungry bites out of my Big Mac.
"God, these jeans are so tight," I moaned, feeling the waist band cut into my stomach.
"Time for a new pair," my mother replied simply.
"They must be shrinking,” I assured myself, as I usually did nowadays.
She made that low murmuring noise.
"It's that or I'm gaining weight."
"Well," she replied, looking from my daughter to me, “these things happen. You are a mother now."
I just smiled and took another bite from my sandwich.
Lisa Galek is a writer and editor for a greeting card company who also happens to be searching for a publisher for her YA novel. She's also a very lucky wife and a proud mom to a two-year-old girl through open domestic adoption. You can find out more at LisaGalek.blogspot.com.