Pregnancy after an eating disorder
I have received some questions regarding this pregnancy and my eating disorder, so I wanted to provide some answers here.
Whenever someone asks about it, it kind of surprises me. Not because I'm still ashamed of my history, but because it's such a non-issue to me now that I don't even think about it.
I struggled with ED for years, so it's very much a part of who I am today. But it's not at all a part of my everyday (anymore). What used to consume all my thoughts and actions is now just a memory — a memory of a sad girl with a lot of shit she needed to unpack.
When my husband and I got married in 2011, it was important to both of us that I had plenty of time to heal and be in a healthy mental state before we would think about adding to our family. I needed to take care of myself before I could think about sharing my body with another. I was already on a good path, but it was still an everyday effort. I needed more time. Time to focus on me and my new husband.
When we did decide to start a family, we discussed a lot of factors. In-depth. For several months. Actually, the conversation started a couple years ago when we decided we wanted to travel more first.
Have we done what we wanted to as a married couple? Just the two of us?
Is our relationship ready to tackle the unknown stresses of parenthood?
Can we support a child — financially and emotionally?
Is this what we want?
Are we on the same page about what kind of parents we want to be?
These are the types of loaded questions we discussed at length.
But we didn't have to discuss my ED. That's how much of a non-issue it's become. I'm so grateful for that transformation.
That being said, I understand the concern: Pregnancy comes with some changes that could make me more vulnerable to fall into old patterns.
If you're still struggling with an ED and wish to start a family, I'm not your best resource. Your best resource is whatever form of treatment works best for you.
I know you're supposed to always be "in recovery" but I really consider myself healed. I don't use the term "in recovery" to describe myself anymore. I've addressed the trauma that led to my addiction and it no longer affects my everyday life. I think about it, of course. But not every moment. Not even every day or every week.
That's a long disclaimer but it's important. Because I am not you. This is just my experience — from a very healed state — with some of the pregnancy changes that could be triggering. My experience is certainly not universal. So please, don't take it as such.
When I was struggling with bulimia, throwing up was a part of my everyday. At my worst, I threw up 6-8 times per day, every day. This takes practice. As a bulimic, you have to "train" yourself to throw up this often. Until it becomes easy. Quick. Automatic.
It could still be easy for me. I know my body remembers how to use that control. But now I've worked so hard not to purge that sometimes when I actually need to throw up, I won't. Because I still have this control. I just use it in the opposite way now.
My morning sickness was bad in the first trimester. And for those who don't know (I didn't), morning sickness isn't just in the morning. It was morning and afternoon for me. Sometimes well into the evening.
I felt like I had a horrible non-stop hangover for weeks. Perhaps throwing up would have made me feel better? I'm not sure, but when I felt like I needed to I wouldn't ... until I really couldn't control it. That only ended up being three times total. Once was after flying.
I imagined I'd have weird cravings. That ice cream would never have tasted better. That I'd want pickles on top. But that's not how my cravings worked.
First trimester, you were horrible. "Food cravings" sounds positive. Like "Mmmm I could really go for a _______ right now." But that's not how it was at all for me.
It was more "I feel like hell and literally the only thing I could possibly eat or smell or touch right now is a Wendy's cheeseburger."
Seriously. I ate a ton of fast food, which is not like me. But it's all I could stomach. So it wasn't so much a craving as it was a OHMYGOSHINEEDTHISNOW.
And then I gained weight. Because fast food.
I'm now 26 weeks pregnant, but I gained most of my weight in the first trimester when you're "supposed" to only gain 2-5 pounds or something minuscule like that. I won't share my specific weight gain because specific numbers are unhelpful ... and potentially triggering. But it was a lot more than that.
That weight gain wasn't baby. It was the fast food and the lack of exercise.
Those body changes weren't so fun. Nothing fit, but my body wasn't fitting into maternity clothes yet. I just needed bigger sizes, but didn't want to purchase them because soon I'd be in maternity clothes and what's the point of wasting money on something I'd wear a few weeks?
I was uncomfortable, but it wasn't a trigger. It just was. I knew exactly why I was bigger and I also knew that those cheeseburgers were worth it because they made me feel better in those seemingly desperate moments.
Now, I'm expanding in different ways. The ways that pregnancy causes, not fast food.
I am eating a normal diet and moving my body again so I'm back to feeling comfortable in this skin. Though it's changing, it feels like home once more.
I've discovered that it's less about how I look and more about how I feel. They are related. When I feel good, I am comfortable in my skin. So although I'm expanding, I'm feeling good. Great, actually. I'm growing a human. That's fucking magical.
When my belly gets bigger, it's exciting! I've started to feel more movement. I see little kicks making my belly move. Baby is growing in there and I love him or her so much it hurts.
Baby is infinitely more exciting, precious and important than vanity. My thoughts don't have space for those superficial thoughts. They're too preoccupied with love. So. Much. Love. A kind of love I've never known.
Passing an ED gene?
Like any parent, I want the best for our babe. I don't want him or her to experience the same pain I did. But I am a realist — I know they'll experience their own. I can't stop that.
All I can do is be honest with them. I will honestly and openly talk to my child about my past. About the trauma that led to my addiction and about the life I lost through that dark time in my life. Through sharing these experiences, I hope they can learn from my past and history won't repeat itself.
I'll also honestly show them how to be comfortable in their own skin ... by being comfortable in my own. I won't say anything bad about my body or theirs or anyone else's. I won't teach them that bodies are shameful. Or that they need to diet or work out to look a certain way.
Instead, I'll share my experience. That how I eat and move can very much affect how I feel. Mommy practices yoga to feel good, not to look good.
I'll teach them to be curious. To explore their bodies. Discover what makes them feel good in their skin.
This pregnancy, although it hasn't always been glamorous, has been the most magical experience of my life.
Those little kicks never stop amazing me.
The thought that my body has the ability to create and house life, to create a whole new organ to sustain that life ... it all amazes me.
This experience hasn't brought me closer to old habits. If anything it's brought me further from them. Because I've never had so much love and respect for this magical body of mine.