December 6, 2012

It's a...

On Sunday night, I was reading an article on one of my favorite websites, Mental Floss, that discussed "pieces of folksy wisdom that are actually true." Most of them I'd heard of, until the last: eating bananas will make you have a baby boy. The last banana I ate gave me such bad heartburn that I've temporarily sworn off them, but still, I read on.

The article explains the logic behind the claim: while a baby's sex is determined genetically and not by dietary intake, it appears that a woman's diet may affect the success rate for certain chromosomes. While the cause is uncertain, the cited study observed that "high levels of glucose encourage the growth and development of male embryos while inhibiting female embryos." In industrialized countries where lower calorie diets have been more common, there has been a slight increase in the birth rate for females. The author also points out that this is not only the case with humans, but wildlife as well: higher-calorie foods lead to a higher birth rate for males.

The article, like pretty much anything these days, made me cry, especially as I thought back to late July/early August when we became pregnant. The weeks before, during, and most likely after I got pregnant, I was binge eating like crazy. It was after our 42+ mile bike ride and the ensuing sunburns so severe, we probably ought to have gone to the hospital. And it was after getting rejected from a fantastic job at a French-speaking high school in Chicago, my confidence shot after being told, interestingly enough, that they needed someone more self-confident. And it was after dozens of other job applications went ignored and unanswered.

I had intended to run the Chicago Marathon, and stopped because I was so exhausted and uncomfortable when running - pregnancy side effects, I realize in retrospect, but at the time, I just thought I was lazy and suffering the result of my binges. Though they certainly didn't help the situation, there was a lot more going on than I was aware of. And in my sad ignorance, I continued to binge. The job I was supposed to come back to was taken away. The apartment I was supposed to move into burned down. And now, I wasn't going to run the marathon after all. I felt like a failure. And I ate every single one of those feelings.

If you recall, this was around that time that I joined Weight Watchers in order to try and get the binges under control. I'd weighed 189 the day I left California, maintained 188/189 for several weeks, and then found myself back at 198 for the half marathon and 208 the day I signed up for Weight Watchers. I followed the program for two weeks, until we got the positive results on our pregnancy tests.

Since finding out, I've had days when I ate a lot - either because I waited too long to eat or because I was just hungrier because the baby was growing - but I haven't binged. Still, as I read this article Sunday night, I was terrified, and shared the article with Matt. Walking to the train station on Monday morning, headed to the hospital for our anatomy ultrasound, I told him, if this baby is a boy, I'm going to feel guilty for the rest of my life. He tried to calm me down, but I couldn't let go of the thought. You were in the healthiest shape of your life before you got pregnant, he offered. But my mind trailed back to the study - the participants' BMI had nothing to do with the outcome, just their diets. For the month or so before conceiving, both my eating habits and I had been absolute messes.

Then, the ultrasound. The technician measured the baby to check its progress. Arms, legs, head, spine. Do you want to know the sex? she asked next. Yes, we did - and there, lo and behold, was our answer.

It's a boy.

And I cried. Tears of joy, first and foremost - regardless of what condition I am in right now, our son is healthy (though already stubborn) and growing perfectly. We love him so, so much, and there are so many other people who love him and who can't wait to meet him. But also, tears of guilt and remorse - I can't shake the idea that his sex is a permanent reminder of my own downfall. I screwed up, I reacted to sadness and stress and anxiety in an inappropriate way, and unlike the countless binges of my past, the July/August 2012 ones I'll remember forever.

I'm trying to see this baby as nothing less than a miracle. I was told I couldn't get pregnant, then I did. Now, I find myself gaining much more weight than I would like - given my current "all-I-can-afford-slash-tolerate-is-walking" exercise mode, it's clear to me that I'll be spending the rest of my life very active, or I'll end up back at 345 pounds or higher. But, the baby's second miracle - Matt was right, we became pregnant at a point when, despite a few weeks of poor eating, I was in a very good place health-wise. My doctor has remarked that even though my weight is high, all my vitals are perfect, and I owe that to 2 years of living well. I may not have gotten pregnant at my goal weight, but at least it wasn't at my starting weight. And you know, I lost these pounds once, and in a few months, I'll do it again. I have made mistakes, and now, with our little one on the way, I'm even more motivated than ever to get to my goal weight. I want to be a healthy mom, a self-confident role model. I want us to run races with Baby at the finish line, and eventually, with him by our side.


Weight Wars said...

Argh 3rd attempt at leaving a comment, hopefully not all of them have been caught lol. Anyway. Science aside (and I truly believe science doesn't belong in the mind of pregnant women) boys are amazing. They are devoted to their mothers, naturally active, fun, and brilliant.

You will have a memory of the light that came from a dark time. That's beautiful and you know what, he's lucky to have someone who cares so much already and who will bring him up to love himself and be healthy.

Plus while you may have been off track when you conceived, the last two years are evidence that you are doing the right thing for your health. You would have got back to it. When I conceived I was at the depths of unhealthy, I would imagine I had a high sugar diet, I suffered in my pregnancy. I had serious problems with my hips, terrible nausea, and a difficult birth because I was over 300 lbs. I struggled for 9 months. You know what, you won't because your health is good. I wish I had been in your shoes when I conceived.

Go easy on yourself, growing another human is difficult, it's a whole person. Think about that and take it easy.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

So maybe the caloric intake makes conditions optimal for a "male" sperm to make it's way to the ovum. I'll let you know that I wasn't taking care of myself when I got pregnant with Charlie. I hit my highest weight ever when I delivered him. When I got pregnant the second time, less than a year later, I was eating well and down to my lowest weight in years. I didn't want to be pregnant because I knew it would derail my efforts. I mean, who gets pregnant after just one occasion of unprotected sex? lol Well, long story short, it was a girl. Ok, maybe that proves your point. But my mother had 7 kids, 1 boy, 5 girls, then 1 boy. She has always been a petite little thing and ate the same throughout her life. I remember hearing the theory that the sex of the baby is the opposite of the person that initiated the sex at conception. Really. Hmmm...

Bailey @ Onederland or Bust! said...

Congratulations Mary and Matt!!

Kelliann said...

Congrats again, and, being the mamma of 2 boys, I can say with the utmost assurity that boys are AWESOME. Regardless of "why" the baby is a boy, he is going to be awesome, healthy and loved to the moon and back. THAT'S what matters.
:-) Hugs!

Bethie boops said...

Oh honey! That's just one study. It definitely was NOT true in my case. I am carrying a boy, but had just had 6 months of low calorie, low carb, clean eating when I got pregnant. The reason you are having a boy is because the little sperm with the Y chromosome got there first and your body was healthy enough to sustain the pregnancy. Chin up girlie, you are caring for this little guy the best way you can and know how. You can't expect perfection from yourself, only the best that you can offer in the time that you are in. You are doing a great job!

glenna said...

This post is interesting. I too am pregnant with a baby boy after having lost 70 lbs (I'm about 2 wks ahead of you). We already have a 2 year old little girl that was a complete miracle and took many rounds of fertility treatments and lots of emotional misery to conceive. When we started trying to get pregnant with her I was at 260 lbs. This time around I was at 185 my lowest weight since middle school. After months of getting healthy for our daughter, we managed to get pregnant again almost on our own. I had just spent 3 weeks letting myself go crazy and eat what I wanted right before we found out. So maybe the high calorie diet does have something to do with it, but the side of me that knows that miscarriage rates are incredibly high and that everything with baby and mom have to be just right to let this happen successfully is thankful that I was eating more at the time because I feel like it helped me get and stay pregnant. Had I been eating 1300 calories and running the way I was at that point in time, I don't think the odds would have been in our favor. Especially since I've always read that miscarriage rates with male babies are higher. No regres when it comes to bringing a healthy baby into this world, Mary! You're going to be a wonderful mom and all of the things that you're worried about will work themselves out :) thanks for all of the inspiration over the years! I was actually in tears when I read that you were pregnant too because I was happy for you, but also because I knew that I would have even more inspiration while pregnant.

P.S. I'm gaining at the same rate as you which has felt terrible, but I feel like it might be related to recent weight-loss and our bodies adjusting to higher calories and less exercise. I've been reduced to walking and swimming only as well.

Sarah said...

Bethie is right. You're having a boy because the sperm with the Y chromosome was the quickest to break into the egg, and you were healthy enough and conditioned enough to provide a healthy place for the baby to implant and grow. Please don't see the baby's gender as a sign you screwed up; it really does come right down to biology.

I know lots of people who binge and ended up with baby girls. :)

Serena Michelle said...

Congratulations on your healthy baby boy-to-be!

I sincerely appreciate science and what we continue to learn and discover. However, the study you read and reference is simple no more than that - a study.

I ate healthy, average calorie diets prior to conceiving all three of my children. My first two were girls and my third child was a boy.

I ate the least amount of calories before I became pregnant with my son (as I had been actively dieting/exercising for nearly at year by that point - and I weighed 15 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight from my first child).

I understand all to well the guilt we feel as moms/moms-to-be - but it's NOT the least bit healthy for you or your baby!

I'm not acquainted with your personal religious beliefs but I know you have mentioned Matt being Jewish and both your intentions to raise the baby Jewish.

I'm Muslim - but I know Jews and Muslims share the same belief/understanding: All power and control is in the Hands of God. We cannot make the sun rise from the West and set in the East no matter how hard we try. Likewise, even with an enormously high calorie diet - if God has destined for your child to be a boy or a girl - so it will be, according to His will.

Hopefully, if you look at it from that perspective, you will find solace in knowing that your son was destined to be - not because of your calorie consumption - but because of God alone.

Try to stop feeling guilty and start feeling proud of the boy you will help raise into a man, God willing.

Meghan said...

He is a boy because God gave you a boy. That article is silly. God decides. Relax. it was His choice for you and Matt! :)

That Loud Redhead said...

Congratulations! Boys are wonderful and he is lucky to have such a caring mama!

CarolineCalcote said...

When I got pregnant with Cal I was very thin and very in control of my diet. When I got pregnant with Mack I was very overweight and overeating all the time. You have no way of knowing whether your (relatively very recent) overeating had anything to do with the sex of your sweet peanut. The factors that went into determining the peanut's sex are too numerous to comprehend, as are the factors that are going to make him the person he will be. He's lucky you are his mom. For better or for worse, they are ours to screw up :)

Serenity said...

Hi, I just started reading your blog after following a link from the Runs for Cookies blog I started reading. You're journey has motivated me to try to lose the last 10 lbs I've been trying to lose for the past 6 years! I just wanted to share that I truly believe there wasn't a thing you could/should have done differently that would have given you a girl. It's nothing you've done wrong, and as a mom of two boys, they are great! I get such cuddles and they are so sweet and encouraging when I am down. They say for boys it's monsters, mud, and mess, but in my mind, monsters are cute (that's my nickname for my boys), mud pies are low calorie, and messes can always be clean! I think moms of boys are experts on cleaning products! As far as your weight gain, you will lose it after baby boy comes, and if you chose to do it, breastfeeding will aid in your efforts! Good luck and God bless!