Five years ago May was the second hardest month of my life. It didn’t start out that way, it started out full of hope and excitement. It started out with the promise of new life, of a beautiful little being to hold and love, but ended in immense pain, both physically and emotionally.
I have tried to write about the loss of my third child many times, but have never been able to find the words. Even now, five years later, I can only write about the facts, and about how that loss helped spur my descent back into my eating disorder.
I will start with the facts. I was about sixteen weeks along and went in for a routine appt. We had already heard a faint heartbeat and done an initial ultrasound at the last appt., and I had just started wearing maternity pants as they had become more comfortable than normal pants due to my growing belly, so I expected everything to be pretty normal. I was working with nurse-midwives, so after the initial measurements, the nurse tried to find the baby’s heartbeat, but she could not. I have always carried my babies low, so we assumed that it was just positioning that was preventing hearing the heartbeat, and decided we would just do a quick ultrasound. I was actually kind of excited about the ultrasound, because I knew that it was early, but that it might still be possible to find out the sex of the baby. I truly was not expecting there to be a problem, but I will never forget the moment that I saw my baby on the ultrasound screen. As soon as I saw the picture on the screen, I knew in my heart that my baby was dead, and when the ultrasound tech turned off the screen and called for a doctor, my worst fears were confirmed. Even though I knew it was true, I didn’t want to believe it. I don’t remember feeling anything as I listened to the doctor explain the options for ending the pregnancy. Because of the risk of heavy bleeding, and also an incomplete delivery, waiting for the body to naturally expel the baby was not recommended. What that meant was that by the end of that week, I ended up in the hospital preparing to deliver a dead baby.
Ironically, the delivery of that child was probably the most painful. It seems that the emotional pain of going through the stages of delivery without ending up with a baby made the physical pain twice as bad. It was a very good thing that I was in the hospital with a doctor present instead of at home though because the doctor had to use forceps to get all the tissue out after delivery. As if losing my baby wasn’t bad enough, I ended up with a uterine infection that caused excruciating pain for most of the week after the loss.
During the pregnancy, I barely knew what I weighed, but I have not gone more than a week since the end of the pregnancy without knowing what I weigh. I lost weight in the first month after losing the baby, both due to normal bodily changes after a pregnancy, and also due to a lack of desire to eat or to do much of anything actually. Anyway by the end of that first month I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but that did not last for very long.
Due to a combination of depression and hormones that became messed up because of the unnatural end to the pregnancy, and also continuing issue with uterine infections, my weight got to the highest point it had ever been when not pregnant. The next year was spent both trying to completely get rid of the infection and heal from the loss. Most of that year is a blur for me as I was barely functional. At the end of that year, I fell and suffered injuries that prevented me from being able to work out at all for at least a year, which just exacerbated my hormone issues. All of the above things put me in a state where I was both physically and emotionally miserable.
I hated everything about my body at that point, what it looked like, how it made me feel, and also how it had failed me. My body had become a foreign object that I didn’t know, that kept me from doing many of the things I enjoy. It cause me to be in pain and uncomfortable on a regular basis. For the first time in my life, I had fat pants in my closet. From day to day I didn’t know which of the three sizes in my closet I would need to wear. I had to take my wedding rings off every night because my fingers would often swell significantly overnight. It took about a year to figure out what was causing all my issues and to begin to correct them. During that time, I tried many different things to lose the extra weight, “healthy” things like going to bed slightly hungry, or a high protein diet, or the mediterranean diet, and when I was finally able to, exercising again.
None of those things worked, my weight just kept fluctuating, so finally I resorted to restricting again. I started by cutting out 500 calories a day, but before long, I had cut out 1000 calories and increased my amount of exercise. After that it became almost like a competition to see how few calories I could eat. I also continued to increase my exercise level. Not eating seemed to make everything better, I didn’t have to think or feel when I was exercising. When life felt too hard, I could turn to the numbers and I would feel a little better. That continued until the scale stopped moving, that was when the euphoria started to be replaced by misery, when the voice in my head started to tell me that I wasn’t working hard enough.
The first turning point in considering recovery came after the second day that I had eaten less than 500 calories and exercised for an hour and half. I came home to an empty house, and as I was going up the house came very close to fainting. The idea that my husband or children could come home and find me passed out terrified me. I reached out to a friend who had gone through their own struggles with addictions, and after talking to them for about six weeks, I finally admitted what I had been doing to my husband. You would think that talking to my husband would have been the second turning point in my recovery, but it was actually talking to that same friend a few weeks later that truly put me on the road to recovery. The tough love I received that night was what finally broke through the voice in my head.
I wish I could say that the voice is gone now, but that is not the case, nor do I think it will be for a long time, if ever. That is the thing about recovering from an eating disorder. Even after you have done the physical recovery, the voice is still in your head. That is the reason that so many of us struggle with it for our whole lives, and often relapse multiple times. I routinely remind myself why I am doing this, why I can’t let the voice take over again, and I hope that someday the voice will be so quiet that I will barely hear it. Until then, I will just keep fighting.
escuchar la verdad, no las mentiras