Five Lessons from Five Years in Eating Disorder Recovery

December third is a big day for me. It marks my five-year anniversary of being in recovery from ED. What that means is that five years ago to the day, December 3, 2012, at five in the morning I texted my mom, “I need help.” A couple of hours later I had the seizure that brought me to my rock bottom. I’d thought I could feel my body breaking down, and I was right. I had known something bad was going to happen, and it did. Like I had a crystal ball, I’d predicted it and I was lucky I’d asked for help and wasn’t alone. Ever since that day I have committed to recovery because maybe I wouldn’t be so lucky if there was a next time. Here are five lessons I have learned along the way.

1). Recovery doesn’t mean life is going to get easier it just means that you now handle it differently and you have more reasons to believe it is worth it. Oh and you actually enjoy it! I went from a life of being sick filled with only work and obsessing about food and weight (working out/ binging and purging/starving) to having a family of my own–a husband and two daughters–friends, and a closer relationship with my family. These connections that I avoided while sick, out of fear of being discovered combined with my innate feeling that I didn’t belong, now make me feel whole. Now, that little voice of anorexia is so easily knocked out by anything positive in my life—my husband’s lips against mine, by making a difference, by my ability to think clearly, by my two baby girls. Too many things are more important than ED. ED was my world before recovery-the only all-important thing in my life. Now, on a scale of importance ED is like a distant cousin five times removed—you get the point—not even a thought.

2). Time really does make it better. Recovery seems to be a waiting game with time being key—for someone with no patience like me that proved to be hard at times. I remember hearing this and thinking no way I’ll always struggle, but it really has dissipated more and more with each passing year.

A large part of this reason is because I am constantly learning new things and evolving as a human being. With ED you are so set in your eating rituals and routines that everything stays the same—you as a person can’t change. When you aren’t focused so much on ED you can live and experience which helps hush the ED voice. Through these experiences I realized how amazing my body could be and that made me reevaluate my recovery up till that point making it even stronger. My pregnancies and breast-feeding are an example of this. My babies needed nutrients for them to thrive in and out of utero, which made me look at what I was eating and strive for more variety—thus making my recovery even stronger.

Basically ED will go from center stage to a backup singer to a small part of the technical crew and then to the back row in the audience. This combination of time and non-ED experiences makes me believe one day ED will be completely eliminated—I can tell I am getting there.

3). There is a gray area and it’s a much better place than black and white. I have a personality where I am either all or nothing. I was the girl that had to get straight A’s in school, nothing in-between, or I’d be an automatic failure in my mind. I was the girl that had to be the first one at work and the last one to leave and never took a vacation. I was the girl either binging (then purging) on every food possible or starving myself. I had an all or nothing mentality and if I was going to do something–it had to be the best or to the extreme.

Since finding recovery I have found this gray area called moderation and it’s actually pretty great. I find myself sometimes just doing things because I enjoy them (can you believe it?) not to be the best or with a purpose. I now don’t have to earn my leisure. I can watch a movie because I feel like it and deserve to relax not as a reward system. I don’t have rules that I need to follow, for instance, I don’t feel guilty if I don’t workout every day. I also don’t have fear foods, and allow myself to have anything I am in the mood for but not in excess. Moderation is a good and healthy place to be.

4). Everyone isn’t going to like you, but that’s okay. Trying to get everyone to like you is an arduous task—and you will never succeed because newsflash: not everyone is going to! You can also lose yourself trying to please those around you. For a still recovering people pleaser/perfectionist this was a tough pill to swallow. But what I have come to realize is that “haters gonna hate” and it’s not a reflection on you. Bottom line: People have their own issues that make them hate people for different reasons whether they are big green eyed monsters, need attention, or simply put they can—there are so many reasons why people hate, the list can go on and on. It’s not even worth thinking about!

Be kind to everyone and if people don’t accept you still then it is their loss. I struggle with this because I am very sensitive by nature. There are people in this world who are energy vampires and I have learned through recovery that you are most definitely better off without them sucking your blood like the leaches they are anyway.

5). It’s okay to not be okay. In fact, it’s more than okay to say, “I am not okay today. I am not perfect and there is no point pretending to be. The smile on my face is as fake as Kylie Jenner’s admittedly-injection-filled-pout.” Sadness is not a weakness, admitting you are feeling down and trying to make it better is actually brave. Hiding it is actually the cowardly and easy thing to do. If you hold in all your sadness and emotion that’s when we turn to destructive ways of coping and numbing like ED. It’s okay too, to not have an exact reason for why you are feeling off. With mental illness you don’t need a reason.

I find on down days I talk to those closest to me instead of pushing them away. I tell them I am feeling off. Sometimes saying these feelings out loud is a way to admit to yourself what is going on and is also a reminder that you are not alone and people care about you. I then give myself time to write or sweat instead of avoiding those feelings and holding onto them. Bottom line: no one is perfect and life gets better once you embrace that.

So here I am, five years later typing away while my three-month-old daughter is smiling, sleeping soundly in her sleep-sack-burrito contraption in her bassinet. My almost two year old is in view through her monitor, little tushie up in the air, a sea of Wubbanub’s surrounding her. My husband is to my other side watching Stranger Things on his ipad and I am writing while simultaneously breathing in a sigh of relief. With ED, I was so alone, so sad, so defeated, deeply hurting– now I have so much love in my life I feel relief. I am so happy where I am right now—they are my strength and I am a big part of their strength. This life is where I always want to remain and I can only have it in recovery. Five years recovery strong, here is to never looking back…

 

This Is Two Kids Under Two

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“Mommy peas upy” says my twenty-month-old, Vivienne, stretching what is left of her Michelin-arms up high–she has four rolls remaining which for her age is quite impressive (thank goodness! I pray for those rolls each night like Judy Blume character, Magaret Simon, prays to increase her bust size!). The problem: my two-month-old is peacefully sleeping on my chest, fastened tightly into her Bjorn. I try to avoid picking Vivienne up, taking her hand and walking with her, but she quickly retorts. “Peas! Upy upy” and I find myself lifting her up–both girls on me-sweat dripping from my forehead.

I check to make sure the littlest of my brood is okay. Little limber hand of infant, I feel for it. Not squished. Phew. Little sweet legs of infant, not squished either. I am good.

I know one day I will be destined to be a hunchback. Quasimodo you will meet your match—but hell it will be worth it. I hope. I have found myself in this situation more than not since my littlest was born.

If this is you, welcome to the club. And here are five ways you know you have two babies under two:

1). A Carrier is a must:

My girls are eighteen months apart and yes I actually am one of those masochists that tried for the second one. In fact, it took me six months to get pregnant—meaning I got the baby bug even earlier. Crazy? Perhaps. But I love babies and missed the sweet infant smell, skin-to-skin, need I go on…

My twenty-month-old is in a lot of classes and in order for us to resume our schedule and not throw her off even more I bring my littlest to her classes attached to my chest. This would be a no no for baby number one especially without proper vaccinations. Now, this is what I call survival.

I have been in the Bjorn chasing my now twenty-month-old through jungle gyms. I am following her up to the top and watching every maneuver to make sure the baby on my chest is okay. I slither through, slowly down slides shoes bracing my landing, and crawl through tunnels. I have actually become a ninja master of this craft. Call it insanity. Hell I do too.

If this is you, this is a common skill for having two kids under two.

2). Your older child has mastered the death stare:

Jealousy doesn’t look good on anyone, even an adorable eighteen-month-old. I find that my daughter, who is so sweet natured and loves sharing with other kids, has not been as welcoming to her baby sister as I’d expect. She gives the baby death stares that I wish I could plagiarize and use on my worst enemies.

Every time I change the baby, feed the baby, burp the baby, (see a trend…) she wants to be picked up too. Now, if I were an octopus this could work. Sadly, I am not.

On days where the baby is up more and I have to give her more attention my twenty-month-old wakes up crying in the middle of the night, probably because she had a nightmare that this damn baby keeps following her everywhere. Then she wakes up and– Not. That. Baby. Again. Death stare.

If this is your eldest, this is unfortunately common for two kids under two.

3). Someone is usually up, needs a diaper change or SOMETHING, or is crying:

One wants this, the other needs something else. Both need you. Both can’t be trusted alone. Crying. Chaos. Ah.

That about sums it up for two kids under two.

4). You have totally let yourself go, because gosh who has time to care:

Gosh not me. I have managed the eyebrow wax, but besides that, self-care would be taking a shower and brushing my teeth—the musts! To be honest, I am not one to be bothered with makeup, never was, but finding “me time” is hard, especially because I am working from home too—which eats up any spare moment. Who has time for naps these days? Not I. I am rocking the permanent puffiness under the eye look. This is actually the first article I have written and it’s an ode to having no time at this juncture for anything or anyone but my kids.

If this is you, this is unfortunately common for two kids under two.

5). So much love, laughter and cuteness. Double the babies, double the love.

I still love it. I love motherhood. My girls are hands down the best things that ever happened to me. Whether it is my infant making t-rex noises or my eldest running in circles screaming “circle, circle, circle,” I really enjoy these little people I get to help mold. When my eldest gives me a kiss or my littlest lays peacefully on my chest making me feel their love, it just makes all in the world seem right. I am where I want to be: motherhood.

If this is you, this is why two kids under two is completely worth it.

So give me spit up, poop blowouts, heavy lifting, and no me time—twice the baby love makes two kids under two a pretty special club to be apart of.

 

Why It Is Hard For Me To Accept Help Even While Being In Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

“Let me give you a hand with Vivienne (my 18-month old) so you can go get something to eat or sit down?”

“It’s okay, I got it.” I politely smile back.

“Want some water, I will go get you a glass?”

“I am fine, but thanks.”

“Let me hold your diaper bag at least.”

“I. Got. It.” Words tersely spewing out of my mouth through gritted teeth.

When you are thirty-five weeks pregnant like me, and with a toddler in tow, people tend to want to help you out—especially the nicer ones (I mean, I would do the same thing!). It’s a very kind gesture and a lot of people love the help, but news flash: I absolutely loathe it. My immediate reaction is a deep want to Kung Fu the person (sometimes with nunchucks depending how persistent said person is) trying to assist me. Normal? Not really, but I can’t help this visceral reaction.

In fact, when my gynecologist said that I may have to start taking it easier in the third trimester and lift my daughter less, my first reactionary thought was lo siento, no Ingles (meaning, I don’t want to comprehend what you are saying, so I am going to pretend I can’t…). But I nodded, Uh huh, as that suggestion went chugga chugga into one eardrum and choo choo out the other like a runaway train.

So why this sour attitude toward kind Samaritans?

Well for most of my life I associated any form of help with me being incapable. This may be partly because when I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with a processing problem, meaning it takes me a little longer to take in information than most students. My mom made me get a tutor to “help” me, which I translated as, “Dani, you are a idiot.” My being a failure became an internal mantra.

Summer of third grade is also when I was introduced to my close companion, ED (Eating Disorder). The typical internal monologue of someone who takes on ED as a best friend is “I am not enough” “I am a failure” “I don’t deserve pleasure” “I have no worth.” These thoughts only exacerbated and confirmed my internal mantra making it a constant theme song in my life: The Dani Sucks At Everything Show. This could be why, it took me until I was twenty-six and had health complications to finally ask for the help I needed to be-rid myself of ED—the frequent guest host in my life.

I also grew up in an upper middle class town surrounded by a lot of people that were fortunate. Some seemed to take their fortune for granted, which made me as an observer, go the completely other direction—not wanting any handouts. My parents are very successful so it was always assumed everything was taken care of for me and that assumption angered me. At the height of my ED, I became all about being completely independent and taking care of everything myself, not caring if it was hurting me—black and white thinking till the very end.

So Please Have Patience with Me

 “Dani, I wish I could do more to help you out,” my husband says as he lathers Benadryl Itch Stopping Gel on my back, to alleviate my third trimester night itching I have developed.

“I am fine and you are helping me by doing this,” I answer as the cool lotion takes over my itchy skin, calming it down.

“No, you never let anyone do anything. It’s frustrating,” he laments.

This is our nightly routine.

Look, I have come a long way. I am almost five years into recovery (December 3, 2017 is the big day); feel the best I ever have, but go go go is just a huge part of my personality and take it easy is not in my vocabulary. I will at least now accept help at times when I am exhausted or overwhelmed, but I am a work in progress in regards to wanting help at all times or just because. I have found my gray area, but my gray area is still a type-A-personality-who-likes-to-achieve-on-her-own. So as long as the doctor says my baby is doing well, I plan to keep up my current pace. This self-reflection has left me wondering if it’s a me thing or an ED thingDoes any one else who has struggled with ED have this distaste or struggle with help as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Okay With Not Being Okay With My Third Trimester Body

Okay, so I hate to admit it, but lately I have been a total hypocrite of everything I stand for in my post-recovery life.

I hit third trimester and I am having an extremely hard time accepting my body. And no, not in an “I am starving my baby” kind of way, because no matter what I would never get to that point, but a “wow I am uncomfortable, and may kind of resemble a baby pot belly pig and am hating my body more than usual” way.

I am about to be more honest than I have ever been, so brace-yourself.

This week has been hard and there have definitely been some factors that made it that way. First let me get the humor items out of the way:

It’s Hot AF:

The New York heat defined in one word: brutal. It makes you feel like you are on the verge of losing your mind. Heat hitting you SMACK, hard in the face. Salty sweat, falling down your nose and into your mouth. Mmm-hm. Lovely.

I am walking my daughter to classes and the hot humid air (if you could call that air…) makes my shirt press tightly against my pregnant belly. I am not only hating myself with each stare down at the “buddha” (my belly), but feel wet, maybe even swamp-monster-like from the amount of perspiration exiting my body.

I picture the belly bouncing in slow motion, because the heat takes me to a desert-cacti-zone where the speed would be sloth-like.

Constipation:

The baby is officially the size of a pineapple. Therefore everything feels smothered. I swear I can feel my organs shriveled up in a corner.

Taking a dump, has become even more of a controversial topic now that it is not only something I have to worry about for my daughter, but also for myself. Because of said “smooshed organs” and with the baby taking up the anterior of my stomach, it has been harder to make everything move along, causing major discomfort in my belly zone.

I lie in bed at night picturing the days’ items I’ve eaten, stuck and arranged in different organs since they are all blended together at this point–at least that’s how I picture them.

Transformation:

In all seriousness, I forgot how hard it is being pregnant in terms of having your body change so drastically, especially while being in recovery from ED. First and second trimesters were easy, but third trimester is where the changes are getting more rapid and noticeable.

It’s strange to think, within the past five years of recovery (official rock-bottom date December 5th 2012), I have gone through weight restoration, followed by two pregnancies. That’s a lot of body evolutions in a short period of time.

As much as I hate to admit it, it hasn’t been easy for me. I can preach all day about self-love and the new respect I have for my body since creating my amazing girls (one coming in October), which I do, but I don’t feel body confidence at every second. In fact, I think it’s important to say that I do struggle a lot so others know it’s okay to not feel perfect about your baby bump all the time. I don’t even believe in perfection as a realistic expectation. First thing you learn in recovery from anorexia is about this awesome gray-area, where flaws are accepted and embraced and nothing is black or white (What? Yes, really ED—no one is perfect). In fact, the other day, I was moody and snappier than a snapping turtle on steroids (that’s one angry AF turtle) because I felt so shitty about my body, plus everything hurt! And you know what? That’s okay.

When I complain about my size, I am met with “but you are pregnant and so lucky so don’t complain.” I know I am, but just because I am pregnant and lucky doesn’t mean I can’t express my normal rational body fears.

I would like to make a clear differentiation too. I struggle with how I look, but I do practice total self-love in the way I nourish and care for my body. I am not self-destructing because I am thinking of the beautiful child I am fortunate enough to bear (and the one that is outside my belly looking at me as a role model); and in addition to the above, I would never go there again. I am way too happy in my ED free life to ever look back. I just don’t think I look hot, or even kind of good, but I know I am much more than my body, plus my ED was more about coping and control than actual size and weight loss, as most peoples are.

Bottom line, I am healthy and how I feel about my body is never going to stop me from growing my family—or being the best version of me for them. Also, it is not about acceptance, because I accept every part of me wholeheartedly right now, because it is giving me the best gift in the world—another daughter. But third trimester mamas-to-be I want to make something crystal clear–we are allowed to bitch!

Let’s Talk About Society

It is ironic that our need to be skinny is dictated by the media and society, but then if we have a fear of getting “fat” when we are pregnant, it is considered blasphemous and we are thought of as superficial. Addressing any downsides of being pregnant is frowned upon and seen as taboo, but it shouldn’t be. I bet you most mothers-to-be have insecure days and these so-called “irrational fears.” We have to start supporting, rather than judging, one another so we can talk about these normal fears and make one another feel better, instead of holding the feelings in (https://themighty.com/2017/05/advice-for-a-new-mother-in-eating-disorder-recovery/). In fact, these fears are okay and should be expressed. Holding feelings in is how we find ourselves thinking we are the only ones having these thoughts and we must be messed up– when really a lot of people are feeling similar.

So let’s support each other as women and mothers, and the amazing human beings we are. Let’s promote each other and pick each other up when we are feeling down. You know what? Sometimes it’s okay to bitch even if they are lucky problems. So please bitch away. I will be happy to hear it.

Humor In Pregnancy Can Help ED Mamas-To-Be

Your back hurts from the weight you’re carrying up front, random coarse dark hairs sprout out of your chin that your husband offers to pluck for you (thanks honey!), and oh dammit, is that one coming out of your cheek? Welcome to pregnancy or as Will Smith raps and because it’s catchy AF, “Bienvenidos a Pregnancy” (in Miami tune). Pregnancy comes with a lot of fun little changes to your body (thanks hormones!). Fortunately, not everyone will get every side effect.

However, there is one thing about pregnancy that is universally true for every woman who finds herself lucky enough to carry a little bundle, and this little tidbit may be daunting for a recovering anorexic–you are going to gain weight to the point where you don’t recognize your body. Yes, you heard me right, but don’t sound the alarms just yet (no one can do that like Queen Beyoncé anyway.) I am on pregnancy number two, so you will probably do the whole thing again and maybe again and again. If you are feeling crazy, maybe even Duggar status, no judgment here. Bottom line, it can’t be that terrible.

My advice is to take in this new body with acceptance and humor. Acceptance, for pretty obvious reasons, you are carrying the best thing that will ever happen to you so it is more than worth it. But sometimes rationalizing that fact with the ED Voice can be a losing battle. Yes, you know you have a beautiful baby in your belly and you are lucky as hell, but you still feel like a whale, and you start hating yourself for these feelings. What do you do? Try this new attitude I have developed –look at your body with humor goggles (like beer goggles, but they won’t steer you wrong.) I dare you– because if you can laugh in the face of your ED voice, you know you have really put this whole ED thing behind you.

For example, I am twenty-five weeks pregnant with my second child and my boobs have grown to a size quadruple D (minimal exaggeration) like I got a massive boob job, except they aren’t perky or pretty.

They are actually so big that they fascinate my fifteen-month old daughter.

Her eyes become large like she is watching a car wreck, fascination and horror filled baby browns, as she points and says “boo, boos,” what she calls my boobs or what used to be my boobs now replaced by two gigantic itchy veiny beasts.

“Yes, and they feel like boo boos too,” I say back to her and don’t correct her wordage, because damn, these things ache too, and my little girl may be on to something. So the humor in this situation is that my boobs are so obscene that they are now one of my daughter’s first words.

Your stomach will bulge outward to make room for your baby pushing your belly button in that direction. This creeps me out the most, because my belly button starts making it’s way to outie-status. Every day I slowly glance at it as it pushes a little more and more towards the surface. My husband and me joke about it, even making bets on the day when it will officially be like “hi, I am an outie, what’s up?”

I also tend to do things to lighten up my thoughts on my big round belly. Sometimes I will even paint a smiley face in lipstick on it. Why? Because it makes me laugh and gives my belly some character, a little personality, and some sass.

So if you are a recovering or recovered ED mama-to-be who is struggling with body acceptance during pregnancy try this humor approach. Find the funny in your new temporary body. You are blessed and humor can help you remember that—even with each hair on your chinny-chin-chin (And you will understand the three little pigs more than ever as a life bonus!).

A Rebel With A Cause

I struggled with anorexia for over two decades and laxative bulimia for the tail end ten years so that in itself is pretty risky behavior—and a long-haul of it. More risky than Tom Cruise sashaying in his underwear and singing into a hair brush. Come on Cruise, I put you to shame—real self-destruction is real risk not the Risky-Business-amateur-pimping you partook in-sheesh.

It’s ironic to me, because us anorexics are stereotypically (we vary, like everyone else) the straight A students, that always over achieved and never misbehaved. Sneaking out of the house? Not us, hand over mouth in surprised expression of disbelief. Never! We were always perceived as what is the conventional image of The Amish level of good. But even the Amish rebel too—ever here of Rumspringa[1]—they don’t call it the “running around” for no reason.

In reality we were lying to the world all along, creating a farce in a soapy (“squeaky clean”) bubble of perfection to mask our deadly illness. Take little old me for example. I never drank/did drugs in high school, never really dated, was always on the honor roll, yet during school free periods I was driving to drug stores out of area to purchase boxes of laxatives to sneak into my parents house for binges. Because yes I seemed like I had my shit together from an outside perspective, but at the end of the day I was so intent on my mission to skin and bones (really emotional numbness), that I would do and say anything to get people to look the other way and continue my ways of coping.

I mean I gave my parents no reason not to trust me. I wasn’t partying, binging on alcohol, all hours of the night. They even encouraged me to go out with friends and let myself relax.

“Stop being so hard on yourself. Life is too short.” I can still hear my mom whispering into my ear, as I slaved over my schoolwork on a typical Saturday night.

While some of my peers were partying Lil Wayne style, I was studying while secretly binging on food and laxatives or simply not eating to achieve the same high. I wasn’t sneaking out and getting a visible tattoo, yet I was secretly embroidering marks of self-harm into my skin in the privacy of my room. Clearly, I was daring in another way—my rebellion was just my secret.

We are all human. Human beings are flawed. There are usually cracks in the interior even if the exterior is pristine. We all have struggles and pain, heartache of some kind. Everyone has something that keeps him or her lying awake at night, thinking about life. We all need some way to numb-out and sometimes you pick up unhealthy ways, before you find the good ways (like exercise in moderation, reading a book, watching television, or writing). And if you are like me, sometimes those unhealthy ways turn into a deadly mental illness.

So yes, I was a rebel without a cause, doing things my parents wouldn’t approve of, lying through gritted teeth and fake smiles. The beauty of recovery is that now I am a rebel with a cause—the most important cause I ever participated in. I am a warrior of life, bravely showing up to the battlegrounds everyday and healthily participating. I am an eating disorder advocate, looking to help others who are stuck where I once was. I can be anything I want to be because nothing is holding me back.

It is so much easier to numb out than feel, that us who learn how to healthily feel are the champions of life (No and this was not from a fortune cookie believe it or not). So I encourage all you warriors out there to let yourselves feel and experience. There is nothing more amazing, sad, scary, and incredible in this world than feeling—but I am telling you it is worth it. We are all rebels in some way, but it is a much better way to live as a rebel with a cause—we get much more joy, love, experiences, and satisfaction (I can go on and on…)— than self-destruction. So find your cause rebel, and fight on…

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumspringa

Applauds To Us Wannabe/Soon-to-be/ Mamas In ED Recovery

The moment I found out I was having my first baby I was beyond happy—my mind was on a cloud dancing, gangnam style, with my friends, the Care Bears. Anybody who longs for a child might feel this, but my joy was infused with such gratitude and relief that it is hard to put into words. I had thought I had completely ruined my body during my two decade long struggle with ED, but once I got my weight back to a healthy BMI and my period became regular, I was able to get pregnant.

“Oh my gosh, we are going to have a baby!” I shrieked, my initial reaction to seeing a positive result. I placed my hands over my mouth in disbelief. I am having a baby!

As excited as I was in that moment, once it sunk in, there was a part of me that was afraid that the weight gain would jeopardize my recovery. I’d finally found balance in my routines and eating and felt strong in my recuperation, and this was a curve ball. So here is some advice for a wannabe-mama/ mama-to-be in recovery who finds herself in a similar position:

1). How do I deal with my body changing?

I had some initial struggles with my rapid body changes: sudden huge boobs and out-of-control evolutions I had never experienced and could do nothing to affect. This is how I dealt with it. For starters, there were my half an hour workouts each day that helped keep me in shape and fueled me with “feel good” endorphins. Then there was another part of me, a much more rational and greater part that wanted a baby more than anything and knew, no matter what, I would be okay. I would make sure of it because my baby would need me to be. So if you find yourself struggling, remind yourself what is in your stomach-and why you are gaining weight in the first place–your incredible baby!

2). How do I cope with seeing the numbers go up on the scale?

Easy: Don’t look!

            When you are pregnant you are expected to gain a certain amount of weight. Every time you are at the OB’s office you will be weighed to make sure you are on track. I would advise that you stand backwards on the scale and let the professionals track your weight without you knowing. As long as you are on track, that’s all that matters. I know people without eating disorders who do this. I know that weighing myself is a trigger and I take no chances with triggers when I take into account the health of my child. That is why standing backwards and not knowing my number is a good solution for me.

It is very important to be upfront with your gynecologist about your eating disorder history and past. This may seem trivial, but with my first child, I received a document from my gynecologist with great news, but it had my weight on it, a trigger. I hadn’t seen a number in three years and I hate to admit it but that number haunted me. I couldn’t stop staring at it as the doctor was talking to me. To resolve this, I emailed my OB reminding her of my history/it would be better to not know the number as long as I am gaining healthily and the baby is doing great. She said no problem and that was that.

3). What helps you feel comfortable with your growing belly? 

The other issue I struggled with sometimes was my actual bump size/physical weight gain, not surprisingly. Sometimes I thought it looked cute, and other times I thought I looked chubby or like a “beluga whale”—more the latter honestly, which I am not proud of. I was carrying very side to side, so I just started looking pregnant around 28 weeks. I was waiting for “the bump” for so long, and once it came I was actually not that confident in it.

What helped a lot was that I had gotten a great maternity wardrobe that I felt comfortable and confident in. I would suggest everyone get clothes that fit and feel good, especially toward the end of pregnancy! It was helpful to invest in a maternity wardrobe, and it’s not a waste of money; I still wear the clothing postpartum. I also plan to have more kids, so they can definitely be recycled. It’s better to avoid all of your old clothes during this time. It can be a sting to your ego when your clothing starts to get tight and remind you that you are packing on the pounds.

4). Will I have some down days? What should I do?

Of course you will! Duh, you are human. On days when I did feel insecure about my bump, I felt guilty talking about it. If I would complain, “I was feeling huge and bad about myself,” I would be met with “but you are having a baby.” Then I would feel extremely guilty for my feelings, because yes, I was having a baby and I was extremely lucky, but on the other hand, I am allowed to feel not great about myself.

It is ironic that our need to be skinny is dictated by the media and society, but then if we have a fear of getting fat when we are pregnant, it is considered blasphemous and we are thought of as superficial. Addressing any downsides of being pregnant is frowned upon and seen as taboo, but it shouldn’t be. I bet you that most mothers-to-be have insecure days and these so-called “irrational fears.” We have to start supporting, rather than judging, one another so that we can talk about these normal fears and make one another feel better, instead of holding the feelings in.

My number one advice is talk to someone about how you are feeling (a support) and then do something to make you feel good. Go get a pedicure, a manicure, read a good book, exercise—whatever makes you feel like your best self.

 5). Will my Second baby be easier?

Okay, so surprise, I am pregnant again (almost 20 weeks). Meaning after all of these doubts, I did it again. And guess what? This time around has been much easier because I know what to expect. I am finding that the change in my body is also easier because not only have I already been through it, but also I have no time to focus on the changes this time around. I am constantly chasing around my toddler, taking her to classes, feeding her, watching her reach milestones etc. Also, the best thing about this time around is that you really know what you are getting out of it–another little person that you will love more than anything in this entire world. For that deal, I am in, maybe a couple more times (ask me a couple months after this one enters into the world. I may be bluffing…)

6). Will I relapse after baby?

These little people keep you honest. I know I will be healthy for my daughter so, in a way, she will always be keeping me honest about my recovery. I never want to hear the words “I am fat” out of her mouth. I never want her to emulate unhealthy eating habits from me. I want her to look at her mommy and want to be the confident, smart, kind individual I plan to be for her. I want her to see that intelligence and a kind heart is what real beauty is. Helping people is what beauty is. Being happy and healthy is what beauty is. The rest is bullshit. I want her to know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and not one is more perfect than the other. I want her to never compare herself to anyone. I will teach her self-acceptance because no one is perfect. It’s the world’s greatest farce.

But always make sure to contact support after the baby if you are finding yourself struggling with your postpartum body. With the stress of having a new baby, it is easy to feel like “I am not doing a good enough job” and everything is completely out of control. These times are when the disordered eating thoughts come back into my head, and I must be vigilant about shutting them down. Wanting a perfect body is hardest to resist when everything around you is so out of control. I had to remember that the size-zero jeans in my closet weren’t the key to my happiness; in fact, they made me the most miserable I had ever been. I stepped back and realized that I was only obsessing about fat because I felt overwhelmed (between balancing working from home and a new baby who needs to eat every two to three hours), and I shut the voices down. This is what you will need to do.

Also, I wasn’t able to diet to lose the weight, because dieting isn’t recommended for recovering anorexics. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to at times. I am not sure of what my weight was before I became pregnant again, but between breastfeeding (which burns calories and helps shrink your uterus) eating healthy (intuitively), and exercising (chasing a baby is a workout when they get a bit older!) the weight seemed to come off fairly easy. I will never know if I hit my pre-baby magic number, because I didn’t get on a scale, but that’s not important to me. Also, like diets, I don’t believe in scales and obsessing about numbers. I went by how I felt. Most important, my baby was getting proper nutrition from my breast milk and gaining weight and I was strong enough to be the best version of myself for her.

            If you are questioning getting pregnant because of your ED history, know that you will be more than fine; in fact it will be the best decision you ever made. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Just because we had eating disorders doesn’t mean we won’t be amazing mothers. It means we will be strong, sensitive, caring, appreciative, aware mothers to our off spring. And for mamas out there–This mothers day every mama in recovery deserves to be celebrated, because not only are we mamas, which is a hard enough job, we were able to do something our ED told us we couldn’t and produce and care for an amazing human being. Bravo to us!