by MARY GELLATLY
I have a fat baby. Go back a generation and this fact would be a reason for celebration. A fat baby was considered a healthy baby, a baby who had a bit of padding “to fall back on” in the event of sickness. A fat baby would give his/her mummy cause to breathe a sigh of relief that her little boy/girl was not likely to be sickly or a struggler. Today? Not so much.
My baby is “obese” in the words of one. “A monster!” proclaimed another. “He likes his tucker” comments the 3563rd complete stranger in the supermarket, whilst critically eyeing his older brother and sister to assess whether I have a propensity to overfeed my children.
I have read articles about our society’s obsession with cookie-cutter body shapes and our photoshop-skewed notions of beauty. As a person whose BMI has been grazing the upper limits of normal for most of my adult life, I can relate. I will never look like Kate Moss. Or Miranda Kerr. I’m not even curvy in the voluptuous, retro-50’s kinda way. Just big.
In fact, I vaguely suspect that Trinny and Susannah would describe my body shape as a “Brick”. Noice. Even they couldn’t come up with something a little more flattering than that.
Anyway, I digress. This article isn’t about me – I’m a big girl (pun intended) and I can live with that, so back to babies. Last week, pottering about on Mamamia, I read a post about the birth of not-so-little American baby Asher Stewardson who came out of his mother and hit the scales at 14 pounds (6.5kg). My heart went out to his mummy straight away. Not because of the birth itself (well also that – he was born vaginally and without an epidural – ouch), but because of what is yet to come.
Babies on the whole seem to be viewed as common property. Once you have children, you find that the world is a much more talkative, friendly place and that can be very nice. You have conversations with complete strangers that leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy and like part of a big community group hug. It’s nice. Or it can be. Suddenly though, when the baby isn’t quite your cut-out gingerbread baby, all this community can turn a little… intrusive.
“How did you get him out!?”
“How are you feeding him? Is he breastfed?”
“Were his siblings big babies?”
“Have you got him on solids yet?”
“Is his daddy tall? Surely he must be…”
And so on. Sure, I know people on the whole mean well and the majority of these comments are good humoured and motivated by pleasant curiosity, but would you like to have to enter into the gruesome details of why your obstetrician opted for a last-minute caesarean or why breastfeeding didn’t work for you – all in the middle of the fresh food section of your very busy local supermarket?
It isn’t only strangers, either. Family and friends have offered not-so-helpful tips about his diet, expressed concern over whether his size is a precursor of disease and announced that he would no doubt be slow to crawl and walk because of the load he had to carry.
Should I really feel the need to justify his appearance and outline my feeding regime everywhere we go? Am I just being overprotective and a little sensitive? I did wonder whether this was the case until I heard his older sister call him “Our fatty baby” and his brother say, “Baby is a fat boy!”
It has been enlightening to see how much the Hollywood led concept of body beauty has become engrained in our collective psyche. Thin is the only kind of beautiful, such that a fat baby should draw such comment and warrant such wide-spread concern about his future health, appearance and mobility.
All this at 8 months of age. And we wonder why pre-teens develop eating disorders…
Mary is a 28 year old Brisbane girl who is mum to 3 children. She has an obsession with celebrity chefs and a hopeless compulsion to buy food magazines. Currently she is working on recipes in the hope of one day publishing a cookery book.
Who would you react?