My last post was ironically illustrated by an image of a baby within the womb. It has been some time since my last post, as I battled with severe morning sickness throughout my first trimester. Yes, breaking news…I’m pregnant!!! At the time of my last post “From the womb to the world”, I was completely unaware that my body was in the very stages of preparation for this pregnancy, and that just a short 2 weeks later, I would have a child growing and forming within me. Perhaps it was prophetic of that which was to come. This child is however, undoubtedly, nothing short of a miracle. I can’t count the number of times I have heard that I would be unable to have children as a result of the abuse and starvation my body endured. Furthermore, my menses had not long returned after years of amenorrhea, and whilst I was weight-restored, my weekly blood tests had only just begun to indicate that my levels of nutrition and physiological restoration were improving. And yet, here I am, the impossible made possible. A further sign of healing and recovery.
It hasn’t been a smooth sailing pregnancy thus far, however I have continued to learn and grow, consolidating my recovery and proving to myself that my eating disorder is a thing of the past. For quite some time, I was unable to keep any food or fluid down, which incidentally meant that I was unable to keep down my meds, and therefore also struggled to acquire much sleep. This historically has spelled out disaster and has been a perfect recipe for relapse. I was nervous and apprehensive that after a period of decreased nutrition and hydration, I would find it difficult to resume eating, afraid that the eating disorder would take hold in my moment of weakness. I am pleased to say, that did not happen. That once the underlying physical symptoms were treated, I continued right on from where I had left off. Traversing periods of intense nausea, vomiting, dehydration, etc and coming out the other side even stronger, solidified and consolidated my recovery along with my confidence that I no longer have an eating disorder. Don’t get me wrong, I was tempted and it wasn’t an easy period. How did I get through it? I maintained accountability; I sought help when I needed it; I went back to the basics and utilised many of the same skills that I needed to initially establish regular and adequate eating (see Tips and Tricks); and I continuously encouraged myself, becoming my very own cheerleader.
Another challenge I faced throughout my first trimester was requiring several admissions for my hyperemesis at the hospital in which I had historically spent much time as an inpatient for my eating disorder. This hospital was associated with many traumatic and triggering memories. Returning there was the last thing I wanted, but it is also the hospital in which I will be delivering my baby in a number of months’ time, and therefore a fear that I knew I needed to challenge. I am pleased to say that I had an extremely positive experience that was both healing and redeeming. I met my wonderful obstetrician and was cared for by some tremendous midwives. I have a new-found appreciation for the doctors and nurses who have treated me in the past, and it has been redefined my relationship with and experience of hospitals.
One of the other great changes over the past few months, has been the necessary gaining of weight and expanding of my belly. It wasn’t something I particularly looked forward to, and I still have my hang-ups and insecurities about my size, shape and weight. I, probably like every other woman on the face of the planet, worry at times whether people will think I’m just getting fat or if they will notice that in fact I am pregnant. What a fantastic challenge for me…I was wanting to learn to appreciate my body more and to love it as it is, no matter its shape or size, but just wanting that wasn’t enough…I wasn’t going to magically wake up one morning loving myself. It is a choice. Just as recovery is. And a choice I have to make innumerable times a day.
I speak quite frequently on the topic of eating disorders, to clinicians, allied health, students and volunteers, those with eating disorders, and their family and friends. The group I find myself being most self-conscious in front of, is those who still struggle with an eating disorder. My mind tries to convince me that when I speak, everyone will take one look at me and think ‘If recovery means gaining as much weight as Sarah or looking like her, then no thank you!’. But I have to challenge myself on this, cause whilst it may be true, I’m pretty sure that would be their eating disorder speaking, as in reality, I have a spring in my step, light in my eyes, joy in my depths, a bub on the way, and a life worth living. This is FAR more valuable to me than being a certain size, weight or shape. I am honestly learning to accept that a number is just a number. It cannot tell you much about me or my lifestyle. It doesn’t reflect on my personality, my strengths, my courage, my likes and dislikes. It’s not even a solid indication of my health. So, no matter the number, I am choosing to love and embrace myself. Is it easy? Hell no. But neither is hating on myself and being constantly dissatisfied.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my good news with you all. I hope that it is an encouragement to you that nothing is impossible; that recovery and restoration is possible for all; and that no matter the depths to which you have gone, life after an eating disorder is possible! That was a lot of ‘possibles’ in one sentence but it’s a great word meaning ‘able to be done or achieved, within reach’. And I truly believe it (recovery and life) is ‘within reach’ for each and every one of you and your loved ones. I will always hold hope for you. Reminds me of the verse in Hebrews 11:1 that says “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see”. You may not see a life without ED, a life worth living…yet…but nevertheless I have hope, faith, that it is within reach and possible for you.
With much love,
xx Sarah-Louise and bubs xx