Monday, December 8, 2008

My Fat Child Tale
If you do nothing else today, please check out the above article by Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor in Ottawa who actually has a heart.
I was a fat 6 year old. I cried myself to sleep every single night and that was in the days before people were mean to fat kids.

It's possible for a baby to be the tipping point. My family was overworked and over burdened and along came an unexpected pregnancy just when they were seeing the light at the end of the childrearing tunnel and thinking life might get easier.
Absolutely everything in our family was dated from my birth. My mother had her hysterectomy was I was 4 and my grandmother had her stroke when I was six and we got hot water when I was 7 and my oldest brother died when I was in Gr. 13.

My dad had chronic glomerular nephritis which sent his blood pressure through the roof. The doctor thought he'd have a stroke if he had a nightmare so he took powerful sleeping pills to keep him from dreaming. The children's story that represented his life perspective was The Little Red Hen. My mother protected him by never allowing any of us to place demands on him. It worked. He lived to be 89.

My mom was the rose in the Little Prince. She was a rose in the midst of a cornfield. The nitrogen levels were too high for something so delicate. Her doctor pumped her full of everything he could think of to maintain the pregnancy. He thought a baby might save her. She had a major hysterectomy when I was 4 years old which plunged her into a lifelong depression. My dad thought any kind of sickness was disgraceful and my poor delicate mother would have suffered greatly if any of his relatives even suspected that she had emotional/mental struggles. So I became my mother's listener at 4 - only I didn't know it was the illness and not the truth when she told me I was a wicked, ungrateful, unlovable child.

By the time I was 5, I was really ill but it took over a year for a proper diagnosis. The doctors said I was screaming in the middle of the night because I was a spoilt brat. By the time they operated my bladder was full of scar tissue from chronic urinary tract infections. Anyone who has ever gone to a urologist knows that it involves a lot of invasive, unpleasant tests involving hospitalizations and in my case surgery. My parents protected each other by not visiting - by not being there to explain or offer support.

And then the major tragedy struck. My grandmother, the decision-maker on the farm, had a severe right-sided stroke while I was still in hospital after surgery. My dad made the doctors discharge me because he thought hearing my voice would bring my grandmother out of her coma. It did. She lived for another 10 years - until the doctors told my dad someone was going to die and he had to choose between his mother and his wife. When I returned to school following my surgery and my grandmother's stroke, I developed hepatitis and in the pictures after that I was fat. My family job became keeping grandma happy and watching that she didn't wander away. She couldn't talk, was always available and was consistently happy to see you which made her just about perfect.

So there you have it. I was sick and over-exhausted from walking a mile and half to and from school and learning all day and had very poor social skills because we didn't play after school. Even if a doctor had prescribed all the recommendations in the above article, my teenage brothers already had a pile of farm chores and were doing their best by me. We had a river behind the house and a major highway in front of the house and animals and farm equipment and sometimes hired men around so I could only play outside if grandpa was out front swinging the scythe. My dad was Chairman of the School Board all the time he had kids in school so he could hire women teachers who had raised a family and understood what life on a farm was like.

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