I’ll never forget when my doctor looked me square in the eyes and told me I might never be able to have children. After years of struggling with a severe eating disorder, my body had deteriorated and suffered the consequences. As a result of anorexia, chronic malnutrition and over-exercising, I had dealt with amenorrhea, or the absence of a regular period.
Many women who live with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, will stop having their periods. Erratic and abnormal eating habits, as well as weight loss from decreased calories, can suppress the production of hormones that are needed to maintain normal estrogen levels. Without normal levels of estrogen, ovulation will not occur and infertility can develop.
At the peak of my eating disorder, all of this meant very little to me. As a 17-year-old, I was more concerned about making it to state for cross-country my senior year, not necessarily about the future family I would possibly never have. All of this changed dramatically for me when I met my husband and found the person I wanted to build and share my life with. Suddenly, the possibility of not being able to have children felt much more invasive and threatening. I desperately wanted to give my body the opportunity to recuperate from the damage I had done years prior.
In order to allow my body to heal and support an optimal opportunity for recovery, I had to intentionally seek help to overcome my eating disorder. With support, I was able to nourish my body and change my poor eating habits. I gave up running completely and learned new ways to move my body that were gentler. With better nutrition, my weight was restored and I resumed having normal periods.
While these aspects of recovery were instrumental to my healing, they definitely were not easy. Having a support system and the guidance of health professionals allowed me to overcome my eating disorder, which I never thought would be possible.
Time and consistency were also key factors in healing from my eating disorder. It meant being dedicated to eating consistently and learning how to accept my changing body. Recovery meant finding healthier ways to cope with stressors and leaning on the support of others.
Was it easy? Most definitely not. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits. Ultimately, I was tired of how my eating disorder prevented me from truly living. I wanted to rewrite my future. I wanted the possibility of having a family with the man I loved, and I knew I needed to give my body the opportunity to heal.
To our surprise, I became pregnant with our first daughter a little over a year after my husband and I were married. It was exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time. I was awestruck that my body could even manage to carry a baby after everything I had put it through.
Bringing a child into the world from a body that was once broken by an eating disorder restored my hope in healing and recovery. Like a faithful friend who endures time and distance, my body had not given up on me. Proving resilient and persevering, my body allowed me the chance to nurture and grow new life.
Today, we are expecting our fifth baby, and the miraculous process of pregnancy has not ceased to amaze me. I am humbled to experience what my body has been capable of, and having the chance to grow and nurture a family has been life-changing.
Not to say that things have always been easy — that is certainly not the case. I have experienced my own challenges through both pregnancy and postpartum that were difficult in and of themselves. The undercurrent of my journey in motherhood has been built on hope and grace, and this has sustained me through painful seasons of unknown.
These days, I am honored to support women through their own recovery journeys, guiding others to find healing from eating disorders, chronic dieting, disordered eating and infertility. There is undoubtedly struggle, but there is always hope, too. Hope for recovery and healing to create a future that is not defined by a battle with war and food.
If you have found yourself on this similar path, know there is hope for your future too. Know you are not alone in this struggle nor do you need to fight aimlessly. The journey may feel daunting, but it starts with a commitment to healing yourself — it starts with you.
And you know what? You are worthy of healing and recovery. You are deserving of a life in which you can truly thrive. Whether you are eagerly waiting for your first baby or trying to expand your family again, there is no shortage of hope for you.
No matter what your life has been up to this point, It’s important to remember the ending to your story has not been written yet. Focus on what you can do for yourself today, in this moment, and keep moving ahead.
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” — Anne Lamott
Lead Getty Images Photo via YakobchukOlena