Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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Sit Up Straight and Drink Your Milk
La Lupe is probably the best nagger on the planet. Everyone around her is poked and prodded to change certain habits. Of course her constant corrections come from a place of total love. She has lived 82 years and knows a little something about habits and what happens after a lifetime of them.
The two things she is always hounding me about are to sit up straight and to drink plenty of milk. Between having eight babies and breastfeeding all of them, La Lupe knows a thing or two about the logistics of motherhood. Whenever I talk to her on the phone she asks me if I’m drinking enough milk because if not then those babies are going to take all my calcium and make me jorobada like her. And as for my posture, moms in general always have bad posture. If we’re not holding one baby on our hip and trying to drag another away from imminent danger, then we’re lugging loads of baby gear around or stooping over to pick up toys or looking for a lost sock or something. You get it. Moms = bad posture.
I’ve never taken any of this seriously. I’ve never actually been careful about taking care of myself physically. Our bodies are resilient. Our ancestors hunted and foraged and migrated vast distances, surely my body can stand what I am doing. It’s not like I’m working in the fields or building houses or working out eight hours a day or something.
But I’ve done it nonetheless. I’m only in my mid-20s and my body has decided to pay me back for not taking care of it. I need to see a chiropractor, an eye doctor, a jaw masseuse (no joke, they exist), an orthotist, and a lactation consultant all because my body has decided that it has had it with me.
This week I’ve been thinking about how badly I treat myself. Physically speaking. As I go through my rolodex of memories I come across time after time when I knew what I needed to do to keep myself healthy and I ignored it.
In 2008 Brandon and I decided to run a marathon. Oh wow, you really have to train well for that, don’t you? Nope, not really. We didn’t do any core training or good stretching. We just kind of ran for a long time. Despite having a great coach, we didn’t wear the clothes we were supposed to, we didn’t eat what we were supposed to, we didn’t train like we were supposed to. We did finish it, but I’ve honestly never wanted to die more. And we did it in 6 hours 15 minutes. If you don’t really know what that means, it means slow. Super slow. Like they closed the course at 7 hours slow.
Having a baby. Surely after having a baby I slowed down? Nope. Soon after having Lina I walked down to the park alone with Olivia. I was pushing her on a swing next to a nanny who was also pushing a kid. You could tell she was a good, typical Mexican mother. I told her that I had just had a baby about 10 days ago. She stood there with the same look La Lupe would have given me. She was horrified. What are you doing out of the house? Why aren’t you resting? Having a baby is hard. Don’t you have any help? She fired off one question after another. She went on to tell me how well she took care of herself after she had each of her four girls and warned me that I better take care of myself. I should have heeded her advice. Within days of having Lina I was back out shopping for groceries and making Target runs. I should have been resting. I should have let my body recover. It’s not like I felt great. I was definitely slow-moving and achey. But again, I ignored it.
So here I am, with some pretty severe back pain, this nagging fever that I get every couple weeks, and other random aches and problems. All because I ignore what I know. And every time I ignore what my gut is telling me, I just end up a weepy mess on the floor because I’m exhausted, sick, but still have a million things to do.
Sometimes we have to just put down the glue gun we’re using to make Elmo invitations for our kid’s birthday along with matching cupcake wrappers, goodie bags, party hats, and birthday banner and just go to sleep. And I guess while I’m at it, I should start sitting up straight and drinking more milk.