How pregnancy helped my recovery

It has been a whole decade since I started experiencing eating disorder behaviours and what a better way to celebrate your intense fear of gaining weight, than getting pregnant.

I have always wanted to be a mother, but the thought of uncontrollably gaining weight rapidly was always at the forefront of my mind and therefore, I was not in a total rush to go down that path, especially considering some of the dangerous head spaces I have been in over the last 10 years. That was until about 2 years ago, when I decided to take my mental health into my own hands and start a blog to help me give myself the care I deserved and my main goal was to finally love myself after years of self hate. During this process I tried finding hobbies, exercising, eating healthy and letting myself just be; but what I learnt along the way was that I was just exhibiting more eating disorder thought patterns and ultimately I learnt that I could never truly love myself; and that was okay!

Since concluding my blog, I have tailored my life to suit the current climate with social media, to reflect my level of recovery. I find social media is the new magazine; people are trying to sell a product and a way of life and everyone with a phone in their hands is eating it up like they need to be the person they see on instagram; the beauty of social media though, is you can alter what you see, you get to choose who you want to follow, what ads you want to see and what way of life you want sold to you. Realising I did not need to follow the people trying to sell me diet pills and I could follow people who embraced fat bodies, was a massive turn in my life and had enabled me to see the world in a way that I never could. I learnt how dangerous the diet industry was and was able to notice eating disorder thinking and behaviour in my own friends and family through their want to constantly be smaller. 3 years ago if I heard my one of my friends tell me about their diet plans or wants to lose weight, I would have manifested that and gone on my own health kick or diet, because I thought it’s what I needed to do in order to be healthy and live a happy life and how dare my friends lose weight and I stay the same! The constant strive for thinness is not attainable and if you’re constantly trying to better yourself, then you will never truly be happy. I realised I do not have to be a better me than I was yesterday and I am totally fine the way I am. Tomorrow I may not like the way I look in the mirror, but the day after I may be a goddess- striving for body neutrality is a much more attainable and healthy mindset and this in turn helped me finally be in a stable place in my eating disorder recovery.

Cut to falling pregnant. Over the years I have learned that when my eating disorder is in full swing, it is usually due to lack of control. Although my husband and I tried for this baby and it was all planned, you cannot control your pregnancy symptoms. From 7 weeks of pregnancy I had awful morning sickness and food aversions to anything other than potatoes. I was a fiend for anything greasy and salty and it was like a constant hangover for 13 weeks. I was gaining weight and I wasn’t even showing in my pregnancy and that thought crippled me, even though I felt like I was in a safe place of recovery. I was experiencing eating disorder thoughts like crazy and partaking in old behaviours like skipping meals, however then I would be so sick I wouldn’t be able to keep food down for hours and was violently ill. I was telling my friends how much weight I had gained and letting people know I was pregnant, long before I hit the 12 week safe mark, just so they knew I wasn’t just gaining weight, I was pregnant. I was planning new ways to lose weight, but some days I couldn’t even get out of bed or stop crying and it was almost as if I was the only woman to ever be pregnant and the thought was so isolating. The problem was I now had to think about someone else. The tiny little sac of cells, needed food, whether it be covered in grease or salt, it needed me to eat.

As a nurse, I have always been an empathetic person and I always seem to be putting myself in others shoes, but when it came to pregnant women, I never really could understand or sympathise when they said it was difficult and never really saw them as being as strong and as powerful as everyone else would feel towards pregnant women. It’s a harsh reality when you fall pregnant and realise the strain is has on both your physical and mental health and then to find strength to go through pain to give life to another human being. I have not yet gone through birth, but in just being pregnant, I have found a whole new love for women and mothers especially. I have watched a few birthing videos and attended online classes and I have a whole new appreciation for the act of actually giving birth, whether that be naturally or not.

A little into my second trimester, I found that most of the fat on me had gone and I was starting to form a little round belly and suddenly, feeling pregnant cascaded me into this new world of motherhood and my new and ever changing body was incredible! My body was producing hair in the most rude of places (I pluck thick black hairs out of my chin on a weekly basis), my nails were growing at a rate I couldn’t keep up with, there were rude smells coming from every crevice of my body, I was so sick, I was covered in pimples, my fingers and feet were like something out of movie and I developed a weird rash around my nose- but in all of this, I was a total goddess and I was making a person, my very own little person. My priority was no longer about myself but keeping as healthy as I can in order to keep this little baby going and growing inside of me, even if I ate take away food, I was still giving my baby food, I was running the show and I was amazing in doing so.

At my 20 week anatomy scan, the sonographer picked up a mass on my babies right lung. He did not seem concerned, but wanted to take it further and transfer my care to a specific maternal hospital. I was not stressed or upset until my GP told me they were thinking it was a lung lesion called Congenital Pulmonary Airway Malformation (CPAM) and with that, I was told nothing else. My only instinct as a human of the 21st century was to go to my friend Google, where I learned all about CPAM and my impending doom of losing my sweet little baby that I hadn’t even had a chance to protect. I felt like a failure. I was failure as a mother, because I tried to do everything right and I still couldn’t make a proper baby, I was a failure of a wife because I was so ill and lethargic that I couldn’t contribute to housework as I once would have and I was a failure as a colleague because my workload had changed drastically. I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words what it is like to find out that there may be something wrong with your baby, but I can only say it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to hear.

3 weeks later I got the follow up ultrasound that confirmed that my baby, did in fact have CPAM, however it was very stable and based on what they could see, they would live a normal life and eventually would just have the lesion cut out. The confirmation of the condition stung a little at first because I honestly thought it was just a mistake they had made. Usually this lack of control would have spun me out into a dangerous mind set, however it was almost as if the new mother inside me had taken over and suddenly worrying about it seemed stupid, what would worrying do? Its not going to take away the lung lesion, its not going to make anything easier on the baby, or me, in fact it will just make everything worse. My lack of control had caused me to take control of my mental state for the first time in my life and knowing that the baby will be okay was enough for me to not worry about the “what ifs”. My bond for my baby grew in knowing about the lung lesion because I had a huge sense of protection and only I could give that to the baby as the mother. When I found out the baby was the girl I always wanted, I found an even bigger sense of protection in that I did not want her to end up like me. I never wanted this baby to ever feel like she wasn’t good enough and it made me even more resilient to the thoughts that would come into my head about my weight and self worth from time to time.

I no longer cared about what I looked like, because there was so much more to the world than what was on the scale AND for the first time in years, I actually looked at the scale during appointments and even though my weight was creeping up rapidly, I was not scared for the first time in my life. My priority changed when I fell pregnant and my new journey is to nourish my daughter with love and never judge her. She will always be more than what she looks like. There will be no more complaining about my weight or what I look like because over the years, these are the things I have realised that have shaped me to be who I am in hearing the ones I love putting themselves down. I cannot protect her from the outside world, but if I help her along the way to not see those material things and surface things as valuable, then maybe she has a chance of just being.

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