I hesitate to use the phrase ‘inspired by’ but I was sufficiently incensed by this post from lovely Katie at Heels and Hooves about the disgracefully insensitive and downright rude comments directed at her about the size of her baby daughter Lottie, that I felt like I should back her up.
As the mother of another ‘big baby’, I know what it’s like to have the same conversation with well-meaning strangers on a regular basis, to the point where you start to wonder how much of a freak show your baby actually is.
Whereas Katie explains how Lottie was a fairly average weight at birth and has since moved up the growth chart centile lines, Jake was ‘born big’ at 10lb 2oz, comfortably above the 98th centile where he has stayed ever since. He was wearing 12-18 month clothes at 8 months, is now completely filling them at 10 months, and will be out of them by the time most babies are growing into them.
All of this has been a new experience for us, as Joe was born three weeks early, growth restricted by the effects of pre-eclampsia, weighing 5lb 9oz – only a few grams over the threshold for being a low birthweight baby. He wore Tiny Baby size clothes which swamped his spindly limbs for the first weeks of his life and now as a 5 and a half year old he is tall and gangly, all arms and legs. He has never been ‘big’.
You can imagine my shock (and everything else) that came with discovering I had just given birth to a baby almost twice the weight of his big brother. He was already too big for the Newborn clothes I had saved from when Joe was tiny and he has quickly grown through the sizes as each month has passed. I’ve had to tell people that if they wanted to buy anything for him, to buy at least a size bigger than he was currently wearing, to make sure we got some use out of it.
Importantly though, rather than looking chubby or just ‘fat’ as the horrendous woman in Katie’s blog post said, Jake is quite tall and what I might call ‘solid’. He carries his weight evenly, with strong legs and a long torso. As he starts to tentatively pull himself up to standing, he towers above older babies at nursery who are already toddling around unaided. Looking at him out of context, one could be forgiven for thinking he was a 15 month old who was late to develop his skills.
The comments we tend to get as result, when people find out his actual age, are along the lines of “Ooh, he’s a big lad isn’t he?”, “He’ll be a six footer” or my personal favourite, “He’ll make a good rugby player”. I find myself laughing along, “Yes, he is big for his age. Yes, he was born big”, and I tell them about his clothes and how ‘solid’ he is. Women and men alike wince when I tell them his birth weight. (You weren’t there, love. *shudder*). Apparently, having a larger than average baby is a huge point of interest to most people we meet.
But here is the defining difference between the way baby Lottie is treated and how people perceive Jake. People see my son as strong, and capable, and maybe a bit rough around the edges, able to handle himself and take on other kids with his sporting prowess. There is no implication that he is overweight, or needs to ‘slim down’ or that I’ve been over-feeding him (which I have worried about since day one with my ‘big baby’). I have had no comments about his milk intake or his diet, or any question of my parenting abilities. While Lottie, as a girl, has already fallen victim to our fat-shaming society simply for having gorgeous chubby cheeks, my strapping lad is being set up for a career as an England prop forward.
It’s quite sad in a way that the size of our babies is up for discussion at all, whether above or below average. Because that’s all this is based on – an average. My baby may be big, but he is not a freak. Our little ones come in a whole array of shapes and sizes, all beautiful in their own way, all with a potential future not defined by their weight, unless we define it for them.