Accepting my pregnant body after battling an eating disorder…

I was terrified of gaining weight during my pregnancy. I wrote about my fears here.

For a long time, as long as I can possibly remember, I was my body’s worst enemy. I hated the way I looked – the soft folds of my tummy, my thick thighs and my jiggly arms. I itched to escape from within myself. I fantasised about cutting away at my fat and finely sculpting myself into the images I saw on the cover of magazines.

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In fact, I hated my body so much that when I was 14 I actively tried to destroy it. I was diagnosed with anorexia. I had starved my body for so long that I now had a BMI of 14 (normal is between 18.5 – 25), I had developed an irregular heartbeat and even sprouted a layer of fine downy hair called lanugo. I had, through sheer will and hatred, managed to murder myself from within.

Things, of course, didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. I survived, but only after a long stint in hospital. Deep down I’ve always been in two minds about whether or not I’m grateful for the medical intervention. Sometimes the damaging background noise that still (and will always) exists makes me wish I could shut down everything. People survive things like anorexia, but they never actually beat it. It is always, always there.

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Me in hospital when I was right in the grip of the illness. I was about 14/15 here. You can see the feeding tube – as I wasn’t gaining weight quickly enough I was intravenously fed 1 litre of a substance known as ‘Ensure’ (like Sustagen) every night.

Anyway, after all these years of treating my body like the enemy, pregnancy was about to make me endure my worst fear: gaining weight and having no control.

I was terrified. I can’t even put into words just how deep the fear ran. After years of trying not to gain weight, I now not only had to pile on the pounds but I would also have to stand by as my body changed without my control.

But I did it.

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This was the first full body pregnancy shot I took. I’m 14 weeks along here.

I increased my caloric intake, I went a little easier at the gym, and gradually I saw the numbers on the scales go up, and up, and up.

One of the things I decided to do in an effort to ease the internal shame of my changing body was force myself to share photos of my burgeoning belly. “It’s OK,” I told myself, “this is normal“.

Then something wonderful started happening – people liked the way I looked (or at least they said they did and at this point I’m naive enough to believe anything) and they peppered the photos with encouraging comments.

This time instead of ignoring the kind comments and throwing them away with a “oh but they have to say nice things to a pregnant woman” – I chose to believe them. I gave myself agency to enjoy this new shape and even embrace it.

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Then the shit hit the fan.

A certain family member decided to call my mother and tell her I was “showing off” my pregnant body and telling people how “good” I looked.

It wasn’t fair, she said, given another family member had such a “terrible” pregnancy.

“She’s posting photos of herself and saying ‘look at how good I look everyone’. How embarrassing. I would be embarrassed.”

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And in a way yes, I was posting photos of myself showing how ‘good’ I looked, but it wasn’t out of gloat or vanity – it was out of a deep need for acceptance. It (and still is) a form of self preservation – trying to make the outside noise of well wishers drown out the hate filled thoughts that still thumped inside my head.

And I’m glad I did it.

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For years I lived thinking that small equals beautiful. The smaller I became, the more my life would make sense and the happier I’d become. But pregnancy totally and completely turned that on its head – the bigger I became the more beautiful I was. It was a form of therapy that, thankfully, just happened to work.

I’m still terrified of not being able to lose the baby weight quickly enough – but the intensity of the terror is no where near as fervent as it was before. That anorexic voice still lingers, like a buoy floating aimlessly, but this time my reserves are just that much stronger.