Shapeshifting

When Joshua was born he weighed just 6lb 3 ounces and he was very long and thin. The doctor described him as having ‘baggy skin’, and suggested that the placenta had stopped working properly during his final weeks in the womb, so he was not feeding then, which may or may not have caused his stroke. So when I look at photographs and videos of his early days, Joshua looks very unwell and thin – we called him our ‘skinny rabbit’. All of the medical staff told us that the fact that he was feeding immediately, despite his brain damage and seizures, was a very good sign. So when we took him home, 11 days after being born, we were told to feed him up and treat him like a ‘normal’ baby.

So we did exactly that and as he was such a hungry baby, I breast-fed and supplemented those feeds with formula milk too. Gradually Joshua began to change shape, it was as though he was being inflated by a bicycle pump, as he became bigger and bigger. Looking at the photographs, he grew to become enormous. We used to take him swimming every Friday night and I remember us being in the children’s pool, when a young, slim boy, maybe 8 years old, swam up to Joshua to say hello and then he gave him some advice : ‘ Don’t worry…. I used to be a chubby baby too!’ then he swam away again. We found it amusing as none of us were worried about his weight then, I was proud of my smiling, chubby baby. He was always in the top percentile for his height, but gradually he achieved that accolade for his weight too.

In some of the photographs Joshua looks like a mini sumo wrestler, with a big tummy and solid arms and legs and we really did not realise. One time I asked my Mum, while we were browsing through the photo albums, ‘why didn’t you tell me that Joshua was this fat?!’ She replied ‘ Because we were just so glad that he was here at all’. That was right, our scrawny skinny rabbit grew to become a ‘Bobby Dazzler’ as Yorkshire Grandma used to say, and he looked so much healthier and more robust than when he was born.

When Joshua’s seizures were at their worst, when he was around 8 years old, he stopped eating for a while and started to become thin again. In desperation, when he was 9, we tried the ketogenic diet for his seizures, which is rather like an extreme Atkins, which is high in fat and protein but with minimal carbohydrates. For 6 months I tried my best to interest him in these greasy recipes which were 90+% fat. His look of disappointment, when presented with another omelette for breakfast, was heart-breaking. Again eating became a real struggle for him and he became thinner and paler once again.

Fast -forward another ten years to 2020, and Joshua ate really well in lockdown. We shifted to online shopping and home supermarket deliveries and we always had plenty of food in the house. Joshua began to helping himself to crisps and to asking for them, and chocolate, by name too. I was so delighted that he was consciously requesting something, by its name, that he was rewarded with what he asked for. Although he would also ask for a healthier apple, this happened much less frequently than demands for crisps and chocolate. This coincided of course with being more confined to the house so he was also having much less exercise. Consequently, Joshua, like many of us, developed a lockdown belly. Most of his adult life . Joshua has had washboard abs, with a very strong core, so that he was able to sit up only using his stomach muscles and no arms to pull himself up. He still has this core strength, but now he also has some rolls of fat when he lifts his t shirt up to flash his stomach, which he frequently does.

We all fluctuate in our weight and shape during our lifetimes, although I have never been slim, but Joshua has experienced both extreme slimness and chunkiness in his lifetime so far, so now he has probably got the balance about right.

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