Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Just last week a couple I hadn't seen for a few years bumped into my husband and me at a hawker centre. We exchanged pleasantries, and did a quick catch up on how many children we each had, and then parted ways to get on with supper. On her way out the lady came by to say goodbye, and in the process asked me that dreaded question... "Are you pregnant, again?" I was shocked... but managed to laugh it off with my standard, "No, I'm just fat!" and we giggled nervously while she confessed to wearing a girdle. When I told my dear husband about it later he laughed and said that the lady's husband had asked him how he managed to stay so slim! Haha! Life can be so unfair sometimes! (and maybe this girdle business is worth investigating!!!)
Why do people ask me this question, "Are you pregnant, again?" from time to time? I already have 4 children, so I have no lack. Maybe that's why. They think I love children and the notion of having them that surely I would want many more, and that is very true. I am in love with the notion of having more! How lovely it would be to have had more children! I really wanted another daughter, but it never happened, and now the time is past. The batteries have run out on my biological clock.
Part of the reason why it never happened is because of Crohn's Disease. When I had an obstruction and had to go on a liquid diet for 8 weeks, I was also put on immuno-suppresants, in particular azathioprine, which is not at all permitted during pregnancy. So I had to give up the notion of having any more children in 2005, when I was a mere 38, and surely could have managed one last child! I debated this with my doctor, I wept tears of sadness when I was alone, I raged against what I perceived to be the imposition of the end of my fertile years... and so it was indeed.
On really hard days I am grateful that I have only the 4 to worry about, and believe me, sufficient unto the day is the worry thereof. On days when things are smooth sailing I wish I had another little one who hung on to me and thought that I was the centre of his or her universe. But then my existing 4 break out in a big squabble and I think that all is well as it is, and if I can get through the day without blowing my top, well then I'd have seen a miracle!
One of the many side effects of being on steroids is that you tend to put on weight, especially around the abdomen and on the face, while your arms and legs remain skinny sticks. I have some of that appearance, which is why people ask me if I am pregnant, and why I just give them the simple and self-depreciating answer that I am fat, because they can't handle the truth, or rather they simply don't want to hear it.
Conversely, I was once asked if I had a wasting disease or cancer, when my weight plummeted and I was very skinny, back in the old days before I was diagnosed properly and the Crohn's was very active. I was so thin and so tired. I just shrugged and said I was unwell, but it was nothing serious. In fact I had no clue what it was back then.
Once, when I was unable to eat much and had been invited to an Indian wedding dinner, I was in two minds as to whether I should attend because I wouldn't have been able to eat Indian food, and didn't wish to embarass anyone. I decided in the end to pack my own dinner, and managed a mix of fruit and salad which suited me then in my "fiber is allowed" days.
I sat at the table, and when food was served and people started helping themselves to the buffet I whisked out my tupperware and began picking at my food. I got some stares, and a few obvious questions, along the lines of "Oh you brought your own dinner?" I felt so weird, and wondered if I'd done the right thing. In the end it was such a relief to go home feeling well, and not have to be ill from food that didn't suit me so I told myself it was the right thing... for me.
I have never done that again, though. I go to dinners and eat plain naan if I have to, just so I don't embarass myself or anyone else. I don't think people can accept packed food in the setting of a big dinner, though I have few qualms about explaining dietary limitations to my host in an intimate setting. Nowadays I simply say, "Cook anything. If need be I can have toast. I'm not there for the food, really, it's the company". And indeed, it usually is... after being home with 4 kids... give me adult conversation or I die! :)
One issue with being on steroids on and off over 12 years is that I have morphed from skinny to not so skinny and then back again to skinny. In between all this I had my younger 2 children... and so my wardrobe has swelled even as I have. I have clothes for pregnancy (finally disposed of last year) I have skinny wear for when the Crohn's flares up and I lose weight, and I have not so skinny clothes a whole one size larger, for when my steroid tummy bulges, and I am putting on weight. And of course I also have the small selection of "What was I thinking when I bought this" clothes. :)
So when I need to I wear something looser and not so fitting, and when I think I can pull it off I wear something a little closer to the skin, though it's hardly too fitting either. How then to deal with the folks who ask you if you're pregnant because you're floating about in a loose blouse or the kindly ones who tell you to your face that you've put on weight? Sigh. "I'm just fat" to the rescue again. And a conscious decision to laugh instead of cry.
At one stage my hair was falling out, and I suspect it was due to one of my medications. I decided to lop off my hair to preserve what I had. Unfortunately this then led to questions like "You cut off your hair?!" (Gasp, shock, horror!) Life as an Indian woman can be hard. It's as if your womanhood is embodied in your hair, which essentially is a bunch of dead proteins. and amazingly grows back if you cut it off. So my hair has been through a lot too... and I just laugh off the gasps of horror...
Food, clothes, hair... just a few of the things that obssess us all on a daily basis... but I have grown to feel that certainly I am more than these, I am more than that which concerns the flesh. I am a soul on a journey in an imperfect vessel. I laugh off the embarassing questions, I look beyond what is impermanent, and I rejoice that if my corporeal dimensions enlarge over time then maybe, just maybe, that's because my soul too has grown, and needs a little more space. :)
So the next time you see someone with short hair in a loose, ill fitting dress, with a bulgy tummy and skinny limbs, with packed food at a wedding dinner... say something kind. It could be me! :)
Thanks for reading!
Posted by Pavitar Kaur Gill at 11:31 AM