the ‘rexia’ series:
When Dan and I were dating, everyone kept asking us, “When are you going to get engaged already?” When we were engaged it was, “When are you getting married already?” Now that we’ve been married two years it’s, “When are you having babies already?” (I’m honored that my life is so intriguing, by the way.)
When we first got married, I said we’d be married five years before we started trying for a baby. Dan said three. I said five. He said three to five years. I said okay. Dan also said we’d have five kids. I said two. He said four. I said two. He finally said two or four. I said okay.
But the reality is… I don’t really know when we’ll have a baby, let alone four of them. It could be three years, sure. It could be five years. Or, if I’m being 100% honest with you (which you know I always am) it could be never. I really want to have babies. I do. But I struggled with disordered eating for so long that the idea of losing control of my body to a fetus is terrifying for me. Would I be able to handle it? Would I be able to gain pregnancy weight for 9 months, have a baby, then have a body forever changed by carrying a child, and NOT end up in the same body-hating life I was in that forced me into years of eating disordered hell?
Is it even worth it to try?
About a year into our marriage, I decided that yes. It’s worth it. I was a full-blown self-love warrior by that point and I decided that because I’ve always felt as though God has created me to be a wife and a mother, my dysfunctional relationship with my body wasn’t going to get in the way of that calling. So, we elected to stop refilling my birth control. Mind you, we’re not actively trying to get pregnant. We’ve just eliminated unwanted chemicals and hormones from my body to keep me healthy enough, just in case. And besides, even if our society puts unreasonable beauty standards on women, they get a free pass when they’re pregnant, right?
Sigh. Wrong. Enter: mommyrexia.
Yes. This is a real word. Yes. This is a real thing.
Pregnant women are evidently so concerned with their weight that they are doing insane things to ensure they gain as little weight as possible while pregnant. Eating too little. Exercising too much. Wait, what?
Isn’t pregnancy the one time in a woman’s life she is allowed to eat whatever she wants and evade judgment? It looks like, in our society, those days are long gone. Magazines and websites in our celebrity-obsessed culture barf up cover after feature after spread of “post-baby bodies,” praising these starlets for getting down to pre-pregnancy weight in as little as one month. Naturally, women across the country are starting to think this is normal, despite the truth that every woman is different and not all pregnancies are created equal.
I reached out to some of my mom friends for advice about this. (The ones I contacted via text immediately assumed the reason I was inquiring was because I’m pregnant. I felt really bad having to tell them that I’m not.) Here is what a handful of them had to say about managing their weight during pregnancy:
- Emily: I personally did not “manage my weight” but instead focused on eating healthy, whole foods, many smaller meals throughout the day, and saving sweets as a treat. Exercised as it felt good, but not to maintain a weight range. Childbirth is a marathon… and a person doesn’t prepare for a marathon by sitting on the couch and eating ice cream all day. She needs to condition her body with APPROPRIATE exercise and feed it with healthy foods so she is ready to “run” on race day.
- Ashley C.: I did not worry about my weight and ate a ton of sweets — what I craved. I did jog in the beginning, then walked, then nothing. I gained the same amount of weight for each pregnancy…29 lbs.
- Theresa: I ate when I was hungry, didn’t eat when I wasn’t. I was active, but didn’t work out or anything. If it isn’t good for you when you’re not pregnant, it’s not good for you when you are….it doesn’t have to be complicated!
- Rebecca: I tried at the beginning, but my doctor convinced me it was about feeling good and the baby being healthy. I had preeclampsia and my blood disorder, so it was more about keeping baby and I safe than what foods to eat. You can always lose the weight, but you can’t always go back and make sure baby gets everything he/she needs.
- Ashley P.: I didn’t give into “cravings.” I ate normally, just a little more of everything. I walked a lot, but never overdid it. And did light arm weights.
Me: Cool. So nothing extreme?
Ashley P.: Absolutely not! It’s so selfish!
Bam. Ashley P. nails it.
Look. I obviously understand the fear of weight gain. I absolutely get how scary that can be. But I also know that when I get pregnant, my body won’t belong to me anymore.
A little over two years ago, I was couple months out from my wedding, and I remember being so scared that my eating disorder would rear its ugly head when it came time for us to try for babies. The thought of going through that made me sick to think about, so I sought out some counsel. I sat down with one of my pastors (whose tiny wife is now, at the time of this writing, pregnant with their fourth child.) He showed me a bible verse (1 Timothy 2:15, for those of you who are following along in your bibles) that says women will be saved through child birth. I haven’t been pregnant, and I haven’t given birth, but I think this verse is true. Motherhood is arguably the most sacrificial act a woman can do. And offering up her body to the child during pregnancy is the first sacrifice of many the mother will make. But, not only does this sacrifice benefit the baby, but it also saves the mother. Oh, what a joyful and beautiful thing it is when a woman finally realizes that her body was built to do more magnificent things, sustaining and giving life, than looking “acceptable” in a bikini.
I just wish that society knew that about us. I wish they knew that about us and celebrated that about us, instead of making us feel ashamed of it.