When I decided I wanted to leave anorexia behind, one of the driving forces was that I ached to become a mother. I wanted to have my own family. At the time when I realised I needed to get better to have the life I wanted, I didn't have periods, and I hadn't had a period in several years.
Menstruating was going to be crucial if I was going to conceive. (Or so I thought...though now I've read some cases which argue against this!) I can still remember the day that my period came back. I was 21 and I was so excited I told everyone - teachers, parents, my brothers, my sister, the friends I've never met on Facebook. That was the first step on the journey to recovering my body back so that it would able to create, hold and give birth to a baby.
Having an eating disorder can devastate your life and the lives of those around you. Add a baby into the equation and things can become much more difficult. In this article, we will share with you 15 stories of brave eating disorder sufferers who were battling while going through the motions of becoming mothers.
15 You Are Going To Be Big And Fat
Beth Jones battled anorexia, bulimia, and excessive exercising for 25 years. When she became pregnant with her third child, she struggled to eat enough for her unborn baby, even though doctors told her that her child was too small.
Discovery Health caught wind of Beth's situation and she was featured in the documentary I'm Pregnant And... I Have An Eating Disorder.
The show featured Beth at a therapy group for pregnant women with eating disorders. There she explained what when on in her head: "This baby's going to come and you're going to be big and fat. Who are you going to be if you're big and fat? That's just not acceptable, sorry." Thankfully her baby was born at a healthy weight. But her husband worries about the effect her eating disorder may have on their three children.
14 I Made Myself Sick Ten Times A Day
Claire Fillingham was mere days away from giving birth, when she confessed to making herself sick 10 times a day for the majority of her pregnancy. At the time, she was living on a diet of a slice of toast, a bowl of soup and glasses of diet cola.
The young mom was existing on just 500 calories a day. This is a quarter of the daily recommended intake for pregnant woman. She said: “I know what I’m doing is selfish but it’s not something I’m in control of."
Claire was already mum to a two-year-old daughter India when she became pregnant with her second child. She told her story today in the hope of better understanding her condition:“I feel guilty about the baby but it’s not a lifestyle choice,” she said. “It’s not something I consciously choose to do."
13 Recovery Was Worth It For My Son
In the back of her mind, Carrie Cohen knew that having a baby meant gaining some necessary weight. However what she didn't realise was that the weight gain would kick-start an eating disorder which had lain dormant for a decade.
Carrie convinced herself that she was infertile, and regularly had unprotected sex which never led to conception. But, in the spring of 2010, she started having unprotected sex with a new partner, and, found that, within a few months, she was pregnant. The weight gain put enormous pressure on her mental health, and led her to ferocious vomiting. But she was reminded by friends, whatever she did to herself, she did to her baby and started to change her behaviours.
Thankfully now, with her son at 7 months, Carrie's priorities are in check, and weight doesn’t carry the momentous importance it did when she was younger.
12 I Was So Thin My Son Crushed My Lungs
Holly Griffiths was 8 years old when she developed anorexia due to the pressure of needing to look good in a leotard for ballet. At 19 she became pregnant with her first baby - a son called Dylan.
While Dylan was born weighing a healthy 5lb 10oz, his birth was not a walk in the park, and Holly needed to be induced at 37 weeks. Because she was so thin, Dylan cracked a rib and began to crush her lungs.
Now she's 34 weeks pregnant with another baby, a girl named Isla, and she's desperate to overcome anorexia to give birth to another healthy baby. She said: "I know I have to eat for the baby, but it’s hard to push the voices away that are telling me I’m fat. When I first discovered I was pregnant I was terrified of having to gain weight again."
11 Being Pregnant Isn't In Your Best Interests
“I don’t think getting pregnant right now is in your best interest.” Jennifer Rhodes was told by her nutritionist. “The weight gain associated with pregnancy is difficult. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you.” Jennifer dropped that nutritionist and soon found herself pregnant.
But Jennifer quickly found out the nutritionist may have been right. The mom said: "As my pregnancy gained momentum, so too did my compulsion to fight my body’s natural response to grow round, gain weight, and nurture my developing baby."
When she was six months along, she learned to consciously choose to focus on the baby. She said: "While I loved the false feeling of worth anorexia gave me, I love this baby more. I’m not magically healed of my neuroses, but I recognize I have been given a precious gift and a second chance. I intend to make the most of both of them."
10 Pregnant Anorexics Know They Should Be Happy
Katie Parsons is a mom of five and wants the world to know that pregnant anorexics 'know that they should be happy - but it's hard. Really hard."
At nine months pregnant she wrote on her blog: "At this point in my life, I eat plenty. I take my prenatal vitamins, supplement twice daily with a liquid iron booster and eat my fair share of square meals and then some … and then some more.
I am not starving myself or my unborn child But other pregnant anorexics will tell you that the disease is not solely about the actual food that you eat or any of the other actions that you take. It is a state of mind." Thankfully Katie went on to give birth to a healthy daughter.
9 Why Did This Happen To Me?
One anonymous mom of two suffering with body dysmorphic disorder wrote a heartfelt post on a website for moms with eating disorders.
"I am a mom of two beautiful and I mean beautiful children. But I look back at my first pregnancy and I would do anything to go back and have more self restraint about food and knowledge about exercise. I ask why did this happen to me? Why did I get this body? I see women in social media and the news and I cannot believe they have been so blessed...how were they dealt such an amazing hand?
Body dysmorphic disorder is real. We don’t always see ourselves the way we are, or the way others do. I don’t have any answers. I have lots of questions and lots to learn. I feel always at the beginning of my body journey and nowhere near the end."
8 Seventy Pounds When I Fell Pregnant
Jess Astill weighed just 5st 1lb when she discovered she was pregnant. She had been anorexic for more than ten years. Finding out that she was going to have a baby gave her the motivation to recover - doctors told her that if she didn't, she would have a miscarriage.
Jess started eating a high-calorie diet and her baby - a little girl called Cassandra - was born weighing a healthy 6lbs 10oz. Jess says that the pregnancy saved her life. She said: "From the very first second I realised I was pregnant, I started caring for my daughter with my whole heart."
Jess's mom suffered with anorexia when Jess was a child, so she grew up thinking it was normal not to eat. But the young mom is determined to stay healthy and ensure that her daughter doesn't have the same experience.
7 I Hated Being A Size Medium
I have said on more than one occasion, that I would like to be a small mom with a tiny bump. But, while I know that I can still worry about my weight sometimes, I know in my heart of hearts that I would never to anything that could potentially damage the child, and that includes starve myself, or work out so vigorously that it became a dangerous obsession like I did when I was tight in the clutches of anorexia.
Sadly “Karen” worked out so much during her pregnancy that when the day came to give birth, her doctor struggled to slice through her core muscles during her C-section. This same mom was absolutely horrified when her clothing size went from an extra-small to a medium while she was pregnant.
6 I Prioritized My Weight
Gabrielle Reid battled anorexia for many years, including when she was trying for a baby. She would tell herself: "It's fine. If I get pregnant, I'll stop all this, because it won't just be MY body I'm putting at risk."
For a few days, she was motivated to eat properly. But she soon retreated back to old behaviours, and ended up in hospital, under the care of psychiatrists. She hated the fact it grew harder to see her ribs. But she was able to eat well for much of her pregnancy. Her daughter was born a few weeks premature, but a good size.
Gabriel hopes her daughter won't live a life marked by her illness. She said "When she's hungry, she cries and feeds without hesitation, worry, or guilt. I hope that instead of her learning from me, I can be the one to learn from her."
5 I Want To Be Able To Say I'm Happy With My Body
"To say that my pregnancy weight gain was disturbing to me is an understatement. It consumed me, to the point that I would talk about little else." These aren't the sorts of words we're comfortable hearing. But one mom continuing to battle with an eating disorder after giving birth, is brutally honest about how her illness continues to make her suffer.
She said: "My feelings about motherhood, food, and body image are incredibly complex and layered, a mandala of neuroses. I love my son, but I resent him for altering my body into something I do not like or recognize.
I understand that our societal conception of post-baby bodies is unattainable, but I strive to attain it regardless; I'm grateful to my family and friends for supporting me during new motherhood, but I'm angry at them for not recognizing that I had an issue before I became a mother."
4 I Had No Control Over My Body
Hillary Coggins developed anorexia as a teenager, and struggled with bulimia for much of her life as an adult. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she thought that it would encourage her to clean up her diet, but instead she started binge eating, going way and above the recommended extra 300 calories a pregnant woman needs. She would go to McDonalds at midnight, for example, and order 6 value meals.
Her weight steadily went up, and by the time she gave birth to her son, Hillary weighed 200 pounds. She ended up needing an emergency C-section - the complication has been linked to bulimia and obesity. While Hillary blames herself for her disordered eating, she also said: "if my doctor had said that my weight was endangering me or the baby, I would have tried to curb my habits."
3 I Actually Felt Brave
Jodi Bickley developed bulimia at the age of 16 and, after 10 years in recovery, became pregnant with her first child. She realised that life was going to change in ways that she could have no control over.
She said: "When I got pregnant my body started changing and becoming things that I had no control of. It was the first time it wasn't about me anymore. It became so much bigger than me."
For the first time in her life she had something to look forward to. She actually felt brave. She understood that her body needed to be as 'safe' as possible for her little one. Jodie went on to have a healthy little girl called Dylan. I follow Jodi on social media, and it lights up my day to see her finally loving life.
2 Giving Birth Made It Easier To Cope
Kate Wicker developed anorexia and a purging disorder when she was in college. While she was treated and regained some stability in her life, when she first became pregnant, she felt a loss of control with her weight.
She said: "When I was really sick and weighed myself four to five times a day. I put so much energy into fighting my own flesh that I could have spent that time solving world hunger."
When she became a new mother, she gained a whole new respect for her body. Despite not considering herself fully recovered, she's now capable of recognising her weaknesses and handling them. "It's like a pebble in your shoe. It's always there, but you get better at being able to walk with that pebble there and not letting it control everything."
1 I Went Back To The One Thing I Could Control
Ann Marie Hopwood had been struggling with anorexia on and off for 20 years. But when she became pregnant, the issues she thought she'd conquered came back with vengeance.
Instead of gaining weight during the first trimester, she lost it. “It was a daily struggle to eat enough,” she said. She kept her eating disorder a secret from her friends, but her husband supported her all the way. She also self-treated with reiki and also used prayer to find strength. But she still under ate and over exercised.
But by the end of her pregnancy, Ann only gained 17 pounds. Her son was born two weeks early, but healthy. She's currently breastfeeding, but worrying about the weight she'll gain when she stops. “It helps being a role model, knowing that I have this little boy to take care of, and I have to be alive and healthy for him,” she says.
Sources: Jazabel.com, Mirror.co.uk, DailyMail.co.uk, Babble.com, MumblingMommy.com, TheShapeOfAMother, Romper.com, BBC.co.uk, Self.com, FitPregnancy.com