As Cinderella mopped the castle floors with beautiful bubbles all around her, she sang about a sweet nightingale - oblivious to the fact that Lucifer had put his dirty little paws all over the place. I woke up that next morning curled up inside my own bubble, staring through blurry iridescent colors at the existence I once knew.
Just one day prior, life had been like “a box of chocolates…” (Forest Gump voice). Bubbles popped out there in that world, dirty paws ran wild, and hearts eventually got broken. But that morning I had one purpose, and I was safe in my bubble from all harm. I had never felt more certain about my place in the world, and as my mind floated up, up, and away into the whipped cream clouds, I knew I was gone baby, gone.
Much like the emotions that come over you at Disneyland, a pregnant woman, gets bombarded by excitement, fear, magic and denial - all at once. As a child at Disneyland, I had a fear that those Haunted Mansion ghosts were going to follow me home from my, “Dooooooom Buggyyyyyy”, and it’s safe to say that every kid was scared of the witch from Snow White drawing open her curtains and staring down at them. I used to try to hide in the Peter Pan line, but her evil stare would always burn through my soul every time I glanced up. I’d finally get to the front of the line, and my fears would fade away while trying to guess what color pirate ship I’d get. As it whisked me off through the giant bedroom door of Wendy, Michael, and John, I’d shrink low and squeeze in closer to my sisters in excitement. We always gasped as we flew over the tiny city lights below us, and compare the glowing lint on our sweaters under the black lights to see who had the most (I used to tell myself it was Pixie Dust).
I also told myself that the echoing roar from the Matterhorn’s Abominable Snowman was real, and Thunder Mountain Railroad was definitely going to be “the wildest riiiiiide in the wilderness”. Pregnant women have similar thought processes. We tell ourselves it’s going to be ok, even though our emotions are turning and dipping like a roller coaster ride, laughing and peeing our pants when we least expect it.
Being pregnant is scary, because once you’re connected to that child emotionally, “there are no windows and no doors (haunted mansion voice) to find a way out! Muahuahuahua!” At Disneyland, I liked that I could escape into a world of magic just like everyone else. Even scared out of my mind, I was never alone. We were like a big team of strangers all working together to pretend, ducking from the cannons on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and yelling in unison down the final Splash Mountain final drop. Magic became our reality.
I remember looking at strangers walking by, and when their eyes met mine, I’d notice the look of wild excitement mixed with panic on their faces as they rushed to the next ride. Everyone had those big souvenir sippers strapped to their bodies, clinking next to their fanny packs. I used to envy the kids who were draped in glowing necklaces and holding those expensive light-up toys. Sometimes my sisters and I would spot a glow stick on the ground and all crowd together around it like it was filled with this magical power. Then we’d fight over it until someone ended up in tears. Being pregnant reminded me so much of Disneyland: both had a way of making me feel scared, ecstatic, and jealous all at the same time. If I couldn’t decide what I felt, there was always the popcorn, churros and bread-bowl scents in the air to distract me - and make me feel hungry every single moment.
I stretched that morning in bed as I woke up, feeling a smile form on my face before I even had time to turn on my mind’s chatter. I stood up and felt light as a feather, filled with excitement and curiosity about this new me.
I made my way to the bathroom door, and little voices in my head began to clamor and whisper, telling me to face reality and to start thinking about everything that could go wrong. I ignored them and carried on with my feet in imaginary glass slippers, sparkling my way through my normal morning routine. Deep down, I knew time would run out. My world would in pieces around me like Cinderella’s shattered pumpkin carriage. My clothes would turn to rags, my feet would be bare, and I would have to face the truth.
It was like that dreadful feeling of having to leave Disneyland and then hearing a robotic voice over the loud speaker announcing the Electrical Light Parade. I’d watch the workers rope off areas in our path, forcing us to stop and wait, relieved to have another brief distraction. I’d stand on my tip toes to see the Cinderella float rolling my way, and catch a glimpse of the beautifully-lit pumpkin carriage in the distance, then look for Prince Charming himself. I used to always get so shy when he’d wave in my direction too, because c’mon, Prince Charming was a lot of people’s first crush, (and Aladdin too… but don’t even get me started on Eric from The Little Mermaid…hubba, hubba). Anyway, from a young age I had practiced holding onto magic in my heart as long I possibly could (“in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds.”). So in my pregnancy, I decided that was exactly what I was going to do.
Can you even blame me? My sisters and I were raised on the magic of Disney (obviously), and Jem and the Holograms. We got our imagination from Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow, while living in constant excitement from thoughts of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus. Our bellies would be sore and red from hundreds of Slip-n-Slide runs, and the chime of the ice-cream truck could always make us to drop what we were doing and sprint as fast as we could to wave it down. After a while, the truck would just drive directly to our curb, blasting music until we could steal enough change from our mom’s purse for our latest sugar rush. (We were grounded many times because of that damn truck, learning discipline and how to cry ourselves to sleep.)
We got our sarcasm and humor from, I Love Lucy and the crew from Married with Children. We saw romance for the first time in West Side Story, Gone with the Wind, and Oklahoma, and came to understand rock music with blues-inspired lyrics through Janis Joplin.
Dolly Parton put Jolene on blast and taught us that even adults are human - and can get heartbroken too. We learned “contro-ol!” from Janet Jackson, and all about addictions from Atari and Super Mario Bros. We even developed a little country twang in us from Dwight Yokum’s, “Guitars, Cadillacs”. We learned to see ourselves as women with the help of Mariah Carey and Paula Abdul videos. We’d apply our stick-on earrings, Elmer’s glue nails, and popsicle lipstick stains. Then we’d dance in our neon paint-splattered jackets and MC Hammer pants for hours on end, filling the karaoke machine with our obnoxious voices.
It was that kind of childhood foundation that had formed in me so many years ago, and that morning, it was lit up inside the new pregnant me like our living room T.V. on a Friday night in the 90’s. (That Nickelodeon line-up was everything).
So what I could have said a few paragraphs ago was that, “I had a vision of love,” and he was a “Dreamlover,” and as I got out of bed that morning, I felt like a child at Disneyland. My heart fluttered like Reading Rainbow’s “butterfly in the skyyyyy…” as I took in the new world of blinding lights and a blurred past. I was re-born.
I stood up and felt like Jem, being two people at once, and it was time to rock the new “truly outrageous” me. Like Paula Abdul, I too have been fooled before, and “wouldn’t like to get my love caught in the slammin’ door…” but instead of being negative, I waved “a b-b-b-bye, b-b-b-b-bye,” to reality as it rode off into the sunset without me.
I stood in the bathroom looking in the mirror at my skin, which looked shockingly bright and fresh. I smiled, and then shyly looked away from myself like we’d never met before. As I dressed for work and zipped on my pink jacket, I felt my body freeze. The little voices in my head were now so loud that I couldn’t avoid them. A feeling came over me like a dark raincloud, and I was in a sudden internal thunderstorm.
Booming thunder ripped through my soul, and lightning jolted my mind, giving me an instant headache. It almost took my breath away. I tried to ignore the voices again by reaching for the bathroom door handle, but I was now caught in an emotional downpour, drenched in guilt, fear and sadness.
I slowly looked into the mirror again. Staring back at me was a terrified woman, eyes wide, alarmed by something. I was being warned, and as my ears grew boiling hot from warnings, I touched them with my cold hands to quiet them down. My hands lingered on my ears, and I felt a deep rumbling in my chest, like thunder before you hear a crack of lightning. I forced myself out the door and to my car, but as I drove to work, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
All day in the gym, that little dark feeling kept following me around like Peter Pan’s shadow, nudging me, and then escaping every time a new client walked in to train. I tried to ignore it time and time again. I didn’t have time for it. I had clients to train.
I felt so bloated mentally and physically that I noticed myself in the gym mirror staring off in a trance at the wall in between clients. I wanted my dream world back, but had to keep forcing myself back into reality, client after client. Finally, my day was over, and I stared down at the ground outside feeling confused. I noticed my glass slippers were replaced by dirty ol’ running shoes with untied shoelaces.
As I crouched down to tie one, the shoelace broke and my chest rumbled again. I hated this reality, and to top it off, the rush I used to get when my Dreamlover would text me was now replaced by an uneasy vibration in my body. The voices were warning me about our relationship.
This continued on for weeks, until Valentine’s day came (otherwise known as, “the official day of heartbreak”). That vibration in my body then became a deep rumble… the rumble then become a loud cracking sound... and that sound became my “achy breaky heart.”
The biggest fight we ever had was on February 14, 2010. I was crazy in love, and he had me lookin’ as crazy as Beyoncé, sitting in the backseat of that car while Jay-Z lit it on fire. It was that type of angry, stubborn love, where deep down you know it’s not right. The other person burns your soul to the ground, and you still manage to recover and come back dancing on the flames in a racy one-piece bikini, like my girl Beyoncé. I was no quitter, and I truly believed back then that arguing meant “passion.” In my naïve mind, I really did love him. I simply didn’t know any better.
It was that same Valentine’s day that I realized what the little dark feeling following me around meant. I knew what true love felt like now, and the relationship I was in… wasn’t quite right. Dun, dun duuuuuun! (Cue the dark rainclouds, low piano key sounds, and bellowing thunder.)
Three weeks later I remember throwing my purse as hard I could onto the ground in the underground parking lot at my mom’s (don’t worry, it was like $5 from TJ Maxx). I listened to it echo. He was randomly leaving town and I… was… pissed. Hormonally, emotionally and mentally fuming.
I was Roseanne Barr-angry (aka: Ruth Patchett in the movie She Devil, glaring through raging eyes as she plotted to burn the house down). I told him not to go, and that I needed him. I stood there crying as he turned away from me. I watched the back of his head leave in the same way I watched “shin-kicker” Ryan’s from grade-school. The fighter in me started to chase after him, but I heard a voice whispering my name like that woman with the tiny face at the end of “The Haunted Mansion” ride: “Come baaaa-ack…”
I don’t know if it was my guardian angel or what, but that voice stopped me, and I was suddenly awake, and ready to burn the relationship to the ground.
A scorned woman needs closure, dammit! So the day he left was when my closure project began. I did what women do when we feel disrespected: “we dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through, To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do…Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho.”
I spent hours on end mulling over every detail I could find about him in great length, reading and re-reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Papers were everywhere, and my printer was hot like a firecracker, spitting out more pages for me to highlight, underline, and circle. I dissected thousands of words, photos, and had piles and charts of organized evidence all around me. It was like one of those detective movies where they have a huge map on the wall with push pins in possible leads to the fugitive.
Let’s be honest: a woman scorned could solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper, or The Bermuda Triangle - if it meant she’d have proof of a man’s indiscretions. She WILL find Big Foot, if he has information on her boyfriend’s whereabouts. She’ll even find and interview the The Loch Ness Monster if she sees it in the background of one of her man’s social media photos in a place he shouldn’t be (screen-shot, zoom, screen-shot, zoom, zoom, zoom, got him)!
To gain access to more secrets about her man, she would discover why Stonehenge was created and have a full highlighted report in her hot little hand about it, blowing historians and archaeologists’ minds. She’d find, and even bring you an alien if it meant you’d be caught lying. Never underestimate a woman scorned, because she will relentlessly seek answers until you are lying in a pile of dust on the ground, defeated and swept away in the wind forever.
So basically, I realized my Dreamlover wasn’t ready to be a family man, or my Prince Charming. Not now, not ever, as far I could see. We just weren’t meant to be, but of course, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I watched each of those pieces, shaped like flaming hot Cheetos, fall onto my shirt and roll to the ground, leaving behind Cheetos dust (which by the way, is the adult version of pixie dust) …and, it was in that moment, that my emotional eating began.
I wiped my tears with my red-stained fingers, tilted my head up, and pushed my lips tightly together like a toddler refusing broccoli. The ultrasound photo in a metal frame on my computer desk caught the light and shined through my eyelids. I looked over, picked it up and began staring at it.
I was having a boy. Whenever I looked at the photo of his blurry little body, I would go back inside my Cinderella bubble and feel safe again. He was saving me from all my pain, and although he didn’t know it, I promised to be his protector for as long as I lived.
I plopped down in front of a giant sheet cake as I illegally downloaded my break up playlist to my iPod. Forkfuls of cake filled my cheeks as I selected Destiny’s Child Survivor, Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable, Linkin Park’s Numb, No Doubts Don’t Speak, Eminem ft. Rihanna Love the Way You Lie, Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know, and Christina Aguilera’s Fighter.
My Chinese food then arrived at the door and I placed it “to the left to the left,” where I could easily take bites as I downloaded more music. Thank the good Lawd that Adele was up and running by 2010, because I was “Rolling in the Deep.” I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times I sang that song in my car at the top of my lungs with my voice crackin’, “We could have had it alllll-alllllllll!!!!!”
The next morning, I woke up and felt like a bus had hit me. I needed something, and wanted to stay away from caffeine so…I ate a sheet cake a day for the remainder of my pregnancy. After-all, it was my un-birthday everyday anyway, right? I was a single mom now, so sheet-caking was muh thang.
Days passed, and I felt more and more alone, so I created a nice fat layer on my body to keep me warm at night. I should have cared how I looked, but I didn’t. Sugar became a drug to me, and I loved how it made me feel, and that’s all that mattered. I soon became a full blown sugar junkie. If I felt sad, I’d eat and feel better. It was a no brainer.
I’ll never forget one of the days when I went to the grocery store and pointed out a sheet cake behind the glass to buy (ya know, the fancy-schmancy ones). The baker said, “Ok, what do you want me to write on it Miss?” (He assumed it was for a party). I was so embarrassed that I just mumbled, “Uh… err… Happy Birthday,” like Gus Gus in Cinderella, giant belly and all. It then dawned on me that I had gone from channeling my inner Cinderella to a damn overweight mouse wearing clothes that were too small.
Now, it wasn’t just sheet cake: it was Taco Bell, Mickey Dee’s, Burger King, Mongolian BBQ at the Mall, tubs of ice-cream, Chinese food, the big Papa (aka: Papa John’s cheese pizza with jalapeno’s, extra garlic dipping sauce, and crushed peppers, cause duh), Top Ramen (with an egg cracked in it and lots of Sriracha), and endless amounts of juice. Pineapple juice, orange juice, grape juice.
240 pounds to be exact. 100 pounds more than my starting weight. Yes, let me say that again: I had gained 100 pounds during pregnancy (and still had a month to go after that weigh in). *side note: my son is now 8 years old, loves sheet-cake, and is perfectly healthy.
I ate my feelings like it was a full time job. I’m tellin’ ya, I worked overtime, holidays, and weekends at this job. Sadness, chomp, depression, chomp-chomp, single motherhood, chomp-chomp-chomp. I was kicking ass at my “job,” but deep down, wayyyy deep down, was sadness, and whenever it tried to surface, I’d slap it down with, “hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders, navy beans, navy beans, navy beans, navy beans…” and more sheet cake.
The only thing that made me happy then was food, especially getting it delivered to me. I loved delivery because I felt like someone was bringing me food as a kind gesture, like they cared about me. Sure, I was paying them, but damn it felt good to live in a dream world again.
The doorbell would ring, and my delivery man would be standing there with a gleaming smile, holding a neatly wrapped package of delicious denial. The delivery men even knew me by name, and I knew them by name too,
“Daniel! Good to see you again! How are the wife and kids? Little Tommy finally lose that tooth?” We were friends, and they were helping me bury my sadness with every box, Styrofoam container, and paper bag. If you can picture yellow, blubbery fat being shoveled on top of a coffin with a woman inside crying, that was basically what was going on. The cries became more muffled the more fat I shoveled on top of that poor woman.
Emotional eating became my new identity. My doctor even recommended that I see a nutritionist, and was shocked that I didn’t develop gestational diabetes. She yelled at me every visit, but I couldn’t stop. Food was my drug. I definitely played with fire, and was criticized by many women for the amount of weight I gained. I was asked daily if I was having twins too. I tried to eat salads, broccoli and spinach everyday too, but the scale kept climbing. I even took my prenatal vitamins religiously, but I still heard a lot of comments, some serious and hurtful, and some funny.
My trainer friends would associate Taco Bell with me, the jokes would fly, and I would laugh hysterically. (Even in 2018 as I write this, my trainer friends still, to this day, send me photos of burritos or tacos with #thinkingofyou #tacobell #youoverdiditsophia #neverforget #jennyfromtheblock #youwerehuge). As time went on, ordering food, and eating large servings of food became the backbone of my happiness. I needed a full stomach to distract me from my vacant heart.
My heart was in fact broken, and day in and day out I destroyed my figure. (My favorite quote of my pregnancy came from my friend Kyle: “Geez Sophia, what’s your blender set on? DESTROY?” That one made me pee in my skin-tight, see-through, clinging-on-for-dear-life workout pants that I refused to upgrade to maternity pants). I was a walking cry for help but I hid it with laughter. No one knew that my love affair with sheet cakes and tacos went deeper, and I never wanted them to know. I’d joke around in a lumberjack voice, “Yep, I eat like I train,” or “Big mama in the house!” pretending to adjust my pants like Chris Farley in an SNL van down by the river skit. I figured if I made others laugh, they wouldn’t see any sadness… and it worked.
Sheet cake… now that’s who saw the real me. Her sweet frosting caught every tear and temporarily filled the cracks in my broken heart. She’d whisper that everything would be ok, and I believed her. (That lying bitch)! We’d sit and watch trash T.V. together, and talk all night, sometimes until the sun came up. She was my true friend and stuck with me, literally. To my love handles, my thighs, my arms, and my chinny-chin-chins…