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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent


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During my weekly doctor appointment in the final weeks of pregnancy with Savannah, each doctor would measure my belly with a tape measure (Because this is women’s medicine in 2017…) and frown a little.

They would then ask unassuming questions like, “Was your son small?”

Not really. He was pretty normal. Seven pounds.

“Hmm,” they would say. “This baby seems small. Nothing concerning. But, we will keep an eye on it.”

Each week it was the same conversation, but it never seemed to be a concern, so I just got a few more Newborn sized sleepers and didn’t worry about it.

Even on the operating table, the residents who observed my c-section commented on how “cute and tiny” my belly was. Which was only a consolation as I was my back, naked in a bright, cold room full of people.

A few moments later, Savannah was pulled from my belly. She was angry- so angry- that she had been removed from the warm, dark place that she had called home for almost 42 weeks.

Red all over and screaming, she was placed on the scale on my left. I turned my neck to see her and watch for her official weigh in. The scale blinked a few times and then her weight appeared.

8 pounds, 6 ounces.

I lifted my head a bit and my jaw dropped. I expected that number… backwards.

The room erupted. No one could believe that was how big she was.

My amazing doctor, who had wiped tears from my cheeks while I curled over her getting the spinal tap just a few minutes earlier, leaned over the curtain and asked, “So, how do you feel about the VBAC not working out now?” with a wink.

Savannah thrived from the start maintaining her weight through the hospital stay and, like many babies do, she grew rapidly. Within a few weeks newborn clothes were packed away. She grew rolls and cheeks and was so adorably squishy.

Strangers at would ask how old she is and say, “She is big for X months.”

I would get inquiries on her clothing size and hear, “She is that big already?”

“She is a big girl.”

Listen, I get it. This is likely my own issue with the word “big.” We want babies to grow and grow well. We play games with babies asking them to tell us “How Big is Baby!?” “SOOOO Big!”

But, I can’t help but have a hard time hearing this.

She does not need adults talking about her size, especially as she gets older. Unless it is in the pediatrician’s office, she does not need there to be any conversation about how big she is.

Because she will already know.

She will know she is big.

It will not matter if she is lanky or athletic. Petite or right on the recommended percentile, she will feel like she is too big.

At seven, (SEV-EN…!) I knew. I knew my thighs were bigger than the other girls in ballet class. I could see it in the mirrors every Saturday morning and I hated it. I would wonder why mine touched and the other girl’s didn’t. I would press them back in the comfort of my own room willing them to be smaller by the next class. One day, I wore shorts over my leotard in hopes of concealing them. The teacher told me I would have to take them off or leave the room.

I sat on the curb and waited for my parents and I never went back. I was done with ballet.

In the years that would follow, I would do whatever I could to make my thighs look smaller. Make my waist look smaller. Make even my feet seem smaller.

But, I didn’t stop there.

I loved dolls and Barbies. Playing pretend and watching Full House. But, at ten, they were not cool anymore. Eye shadow, MTV and Leonard DiCaprio were. So, I made the things I loved smaller.

After sharing a story on our 8th grade class trip to DC about one my dad’s first jobs at the Washington Monument, I was mocked in front of a bus full of my peers. So, I made my voice smaller.

I wanted to be a architect because I loved homes, but was told, “Oh, Claire. That is a lot of math.” So, I made my abilities smaller.

I idolized Katie Couric and wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I looked up that to get a career in broadcast journalism I should major in communications, so I thought that would be the right path only to hear, “Communications is full of a million Katie Couric wannabe’s. You have to be really smart and vibrant.” So, I made my goals smaller.

Not too long ago, I shared that I have dreams to publish a book and heard, “Ugh. Everybody wants to publish a book.” So, I stopped writing and made my dreams smaller.

But, the dream kept showing up and bringing along more dreams. They got louder and I couldn’t help but listen.

Today, if you saw my dreams, you might say they are too big. But, after a 30 years, I will not make them smaller.

One of those dreams is to make sure that this little girl never feels this way. That she never feels like she has to make anything about herself smaller.

So, stay big, babe. SOOO big.

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