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Between October 2010 and June 2011, I added a whopping 50 pounds to my frame. As my belly rounded and my boobs expanded, I was forced to cast aside beautiful white lace bras and matching thongs with the slow understanding that the days of Agent Provecteur had come to an end.
No, nothing was wrong with my thyroid and neither a pricey personal trainer nor Jenny Craig could have remedied my situation. The “problem” was that I was with child.
From the age of 13 and well into my early 20s, I struggled with eating disorders. If there was a way to keep my weight down, I tried it. Starving, purging, diet pills, laxatives, smoking cigarettes, ingesting syrup of ipecac, and even convincing a psychiatrist I had ADHD and was desperately in need of Adderall to focus.
The little blue pills may have melted fat but they also made me shake like a Parkison’s patient and act insane. In high school, I recollect episodes of over-exercising; stepping off a treadmill and dizzily making my way to a scale which in my distorted mind had taken on the role of a judge in a court of law.
When the numbers were revealed, I could hear a gavel being struck. Ashamed, I imagined myself being sentenced to five years without chocolate or another three hours of exercise without anything to eat. When I flip through photographs from that time I see a pale 16 year-old with legs and arms like twigs who had never menstruated.
I wish I could tell others struggling with food issues how I recovered. There was no one thing that did it but rather a conglomeration of reasons including talk therapy, moving to different self-destructive behaviors, and the painful, expensive, and undeniable reality of what bulimia had done to my teeth. Countless root canals and a $4,000 implant later, I was ready to stop.
Though no gynecologist ever actually told me as much, I managed to convince myself through women’s magazine articles and books I’d read that I must be infertile. I reasoned I had had massive weight fluctuations, contracted Chlamydia twice (from the same guy) and smoked countless cigarettes which supposedly were poisonous for my ever-diminishing supply of eggs. Most importantly, I had never gotten pregnant despite all the unprotected sex I had had.
At 27, armed with all this (mis)information I demanded my gynecologist freeze my eggs. She made a face like she was considering prescribing an anti-psychotic instead, politely declined, and reminded me to schedule my next annual pap.
In the spring of 2010, I began having unprotected sex with a new partner and by October I was pregnant. Although I had not exactly planned for my son, I wanted him very much and quickly began taking prenatal vitamins and getting prenatal care.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew having a baby necessitated weight gain; however, little did I realize this would activate the eating disorder which had lay dormant for a decade. I found as my body began to change that the disorder awoke like an animal that had only been hibernating.
I never experienced morning sickness or weird cravings. Instead, from the very beginning, it felt as if a tapeworm had taken up residence inside me. I easily consumed two bowls of cereal and desired a third. I ingested not one strawberry or two but an entire container in minutes and found a pint of ice cream didn’t stand a chance in the freezer.
When I told this to a friend, I was dismayed by her response. “Yeah, but if you had a tapeworm then wouldn’t you be like skinny?”
One day, after eating what felt to me like an unmanageable amount, I remembered how easy it had been to make myself vomit. Within moments all the calories could be out of me and easily flushed away. This, however, was no longer an option.
As I was aptly reminded by friends, whatever I did to myself I did to my baby. It was a lot of pressure.
I slowly accepted through the buffets I inhaled (and digested) and Thanksgiving where my cousin marveled to see me devour plate after plate of sweet potatoes (she was not aware I was expecting and was accustomed to my picking at salad) that although I had to gain weight in order to nourish my baby, I didn’t have to like it.
My son is now 7 months old, and when I see his voracious appetite eager for applesauce, avocado and bananas, crying out when he’s finished his bottle or the contents of a bowl, I understand why I was so hungry when he was inside me.
I love to kiss his belly, which without fail always makes him giggle -- my favorite sound in the world.
I am 20 pounds heavier than I was a year and a half ago and upon returning to work was dismayed to find myself unable to fit into any of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. I reason how cost effective it would be if I were still a size 2. I see the MTV teen moms splashed across the covers of US Weekly and In Touch and wonder how they got their bikini bodies back so quickly?
Fortunately, at nearly 33, I have my priorities in check and my weight doesn’t carry the momentous importance it did when I was younger. Nowadays, when I leave the office I want to go home, bathe, and cuddle my baby. Whenever I look into his eyes -- grey blue like mine, my feelings of insecurity and inadequacy somehow dissipate. He is worth it.