It's been over ten years since I sat on the doctor's table and watched the word "Anorexia" get scratched into my medical file. The doctor told me gently to put a lot of butter on my bread, which was advice I never took until ten years later, when buttered toast is about all I wanted for a first trimester breakfast.
If you haven't read or watched my story and are slightly confused, feel free to get the background on my About page.
First of all, I hate the title of this post, because my pregnancies have been so beautiful. Not in the always "glowing" and "radiant" sense that is absent of all swelling, heartburn, and general disdain for getting out of bed, but rather, beautiful because two MIRACULOUS boys have grown within me. I've felt their karate kicks, heard their hearts beat, and marveled at how they can be two different little people yet have been such a part of me at the same time.
Pregnancy is NOT about me. And sometimes, I've felt like talking about my past struggles would bring a sense of selfishness into this incredibly powerful nine months and beyond of giving myself away to another person.
You see, I've been redeemed and released from any label written in a file. That salvation from myself business? That happened a LONG TIME AGO. Thank you Lord!
But I'm thinking about that mama out there. Perhaps you are the one. You incredible woman, who feels she has just entered a nine month mind, body, soul purgatory. You who might be counting the exact 350 calories extra you need to keep that baby healthy and not gain a single pound over the recommended weight on that chart. You who stresses each time you step on the scale. You who can't stand it if your husband catches a look without your shirt on. You who cries after going out because people keep calling attention to the growing basketball that was once a dangerously concave abdomen.
I'm praying a fervent prayer for you. It was a prayer I prayed for myself every time Tim and I had the conversation about when to start "trying" to have kids. I'm praying that God would release you from the "what if" questions and allow you to experience the ridiculous JOY and MIRACLE that YOUR BODY can grow another life. I want to free you from the fear that this joy would be stolen by thoughts long ago battled and won by Jesus.
What are these questions I want you released from? Let's tackle each one: What if I ruin it? What if I gain too much weight? What if I can't lose it? What if I don't eat perfect and look perfect? What if I'm not good enough in my weekly belly pictures? What if my husband doesn't want me anymore? What if I eat too little and my baby can't grow? What if I can't produce milk? What if I exercise too much and damage the baby? What if I can't control my emotions like I've worked so hard to do? What if I lose all my coping skills because my hormones make me too vulnerable?
SO. MANY. FEARS. I didn't mention one? You fill in the blank with the missing ones. Speak them out loud.
But you know what, gal pal? I have HOPE for you. I'm screaming this hope over my computer screen to your heart!
GOD HAS DONE IT. He has taken ashes and made them beautiful. My pregnancies have been the absolute confirmation to me that God has the victory over this struggle. Not only has he freed me from those thoughts, He has allowed my body to be used in a way that brings me even closer to Jesus. My body is LITERALLY not my own anymore. What a relief! Like Christ, I have the opportunity to lay my body down for another. And now, He has redeemed my story so much that He has allowed Titus and Matthias, my most precious gifts, to come from this mortal body I've punished so very much.
I don't have to prove anything to any facebooker, to the mirror, to the size of my maternity jeans, to the scale, because He proved me WORTHY the day He died for me and all my selfish mess. Those numbers? Don't matter to me any more. Those calories? Haven't counted a single one. I only count joy in this journey set before me.
I'm so thankful for the struggles I've had, because it has forced me to be very intentional to protect my heart through each pregnancy. If you are a mama reading this who has not had an eating disorder, but does struggle with these thoughts sometimes, God can redeem your life and those thoughts too. He can restore your joy.
I still have bad days, like most pregnant women! Days where I'm incredibly hard on myself and lose sight of that joy. But God can have the victory over this very small, precious season of your life, like He has had with mine. Satan doesn't have to steal it away from us, mama.
Here are some practical tips to help you if the struggle is very fresh at this moment. These apply to any season, but especially to these precious nine months and the post-partum period:
- Surrender your whole life to Jesus. Not everything but this part. Every thought, every action, every morsel of food and inch of your body. Your baby. Your marriage. Everything. You can't do this without Him. Ask him not just to heal you, but to show you more of himself. Only in His presence can we take our focus off ourselves.
- Talk to someone you trust about your struggle. If it's time to call up your therapist, don't hesitate a minute. You are healthier than you think when you make that decision to make an appointment. Can't take that step? Start with an easier call or text- mom, friend, sister. Can't do that either? Hand me the phone, I'll do it:)
- Stop counting. Put away the scale. Seriously. You don't need it anymore. You are free. Throw away your food journal. Pause the fitbit. If the habits are too ingrained and it feels too scary to take away all those things, start with one, the one that is distracting you the most from the gift inside you.
- Turn off facebook for awhile. You don't have to post belly pictures unless you really want to and feel in a good head space to do so.
- Stop the comparison wheels from turning. I still struggle with this one. Don't compare your pregnant body with another woman's pregnant body. Celebrate that woman. Connect with her. Don't reduce her or yourself in your mind. Change the thoughts from, "I wish I looked more like her," to "I love her. I love her baby. I love this body God gave me. I love my baby."
- Serve others. Especially on bad days. Write an encouragement note. Bring a friend dinner. Pursue your husband physically. When your mind spirals, bring it back to the habit of giving yourself instead of caging yourself.
- Find a healthy coping mechanism, or five. Sorry, the years of therapy and mental health graduate school took over my vocabulary. This just means find YOUR THING that HELPS YOU. I write (shocker), read, walk, swim, dance, talk to friends, pray. Find something good for your heart that distracts you when you are having a particularly tough day.
There is so much more I could write, but I trust God has given you what you need from me and will provide the rest another way through your real life. I'm praying for you. You aren't alone.
I wish I could come through the screen and convince you how precious you are, but until you experience the saving love of Jesus and understand what He has done for you, I know you won't really believe me. I know, because I didn't either.