My eating disorder was about having control — control over the number of calories I ate, the number of hours I spent at the gym, and the number on the scale. I got to the point I couldn't see how thin I was when I looked in the mirror; so thin I stopped having a period and had a hard time finding jeans that fit. Then I got pregnant. I wasn't remotely prepared to discover how my eating disorder changed my feelings about my pregnancy. I was definitely not prepared to lose the control I'd grown to depend on.
I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't obsess about my body. One of my first memories is standing in front of a mirror in a damp campground bathroom in my bathing suit, thinking that my tummy was too big. I was 4 years old. Later on, in high school and college, I developed a love/hate relationship with food. Once I got married, a good deal of my now ex-husband's abuse was centered around me losing weight and staying thin. He was kinder to me when I was thin, and when I wasn't, well, he was cruel.
After I got pregnant, I went in for my first appointment at 11 weeks along and stepped on the scale. I had already gained 15 pounds. I cried. The midwife said that sometimes that happened with women who were underweight at the start of their pregnancies. "Underweight?" I thought, "who is she talking about? I'm not underweight." But I was, and at every appointment I stressed about the scale while she stressed the importance of eating enough and nourishing my baby. I eventually stopped letting people take my picture, I was so embarrassed at my round body.
It's taken me eight years and three pregnancies to come to terms with how my body has changed with each pregnancy, and to realize that growing humans is badass, even if you gain more than the recommended weight or your hips get bigger.
I Became Obsessed With Not Gaining Weight
During my first pregnancy, I became super obsessed with weight gain, and I was determined not to gain more than 20 pounds. I worked out every day until the last week of my pregnancy, but even then, I gained 50 pounds and tortured myself about it. How could I have failed?
I Had Panic Attacks At The Doctor's Office
I seriously had panic attacks before I stepped on the scale or discussed weight gain. One day, after I couldn't make myself step on the scale, a kind nurse suggested that I not look at the number and offered to put a note in my chart to remind staff not to tell me, unless there was a problem with my health. Still, I was obsessed.
During my most recent and final pregnancy, I finally took her advice. I actually have no idea how much I gained, and I am totally OK with that.
I Couldn't Separate My Feelings About My Pregnancy From My Feelings About My Body
I grew to hate my pregnancies as my body grew and changed. I saw the incredible ways in which my body altered itself to sustain a human being as nothing more than a means to an end that I had to endure. My pregnancy wasn't amazing, fun, or something to remember. It was just something I had to get through in order to have my babies.
I Developed Prenatal Depression
At a time when I should have been happy and excited, I was so depressed. During my first two pregnancies, I was so ashamed of my feelings that I kept them to myself and suffered alone, thinking there was nothing I could do or take during pregnancy to make a difference. I was wrong. During my last pregnancy, I was able to get some help and learned that there are several medications you can take for prenatal depression that are safe during pregnancy.
I Became Obsessed With Food
I actually tried to join Weight Watchers during my first pregnancy. When the group leader told me I couldn't participate, I took the materials home and followed the plan on my own. I tried to eat a strict, organic, low calorie, "healthy" diet, but then baby wanted Sour Patch Kids. I ate so many my mouth got sore. I was so ashamed.
I Was Secretly Pleased When I Started Losing Weight
During my second pregnancy, I developed hyperemesis gravidarum — severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. For my first few prenatal appointments, the number on the scale kept dropping instead of going up. I had forgotten how good that felt.
Then, when my midwife got seriously concerned, I felt so ashamed that I was actually happy about that initial weight loss. The day that I gained four ounces (in a month), my midwife and nurse cheered, but I was silently mortified as they gave me high fives.
I Hated Posing For Pictures
I started my first pregnancy planning to take a picture of my bump every week to document my growing tummy. Every week became every two weeks and then once a month, until people had to practically beg me to pose for the camera. I actually only have one photograph from my entire second pregnancy. One. I really regret that.
I Wanted To Die When People Commented About My Pregnant Body
People seem to think that it's OK to comment about pregnant people's bodies. It's so rude. When I had an eating disorder, their words hurt so much, making me feel horrible about my amazing body while it literally grew a freaking human. Damn.
I Didn't Really Enjoy My Pregnancies
Having an eating disorder seriously interfered with my ability to enjoy my pregnancies. While most people love the second trimester, because they start to feel better and begin to feel their babies move, I liked mine most because I finally started looking pregnant and not "just fat," which is a terrible way to treat yourself when you are literally growing a tiny human inside your body.
This last time around I was finally able to enjoy parts of my pregnancy, mostly because I had finally come to terms with the fact that I will never be a size 0 or 100 pounds again. And as I hold my chubby baby in my arms and talk to my children about loving their bodies and what they can do, I am starting to realize that other things are so much more important than the number on a scale.