May 15, 2018, 9:35 a.m.
TRIGGER WARNING: The following content mentions eating disorder symptoms and may be triggering for some individuals - please read with caution.
My husband and I were in our mid 30s when our first daughter was born. Although we were elated to become parents, we were also shocked into broad sweeping life changes. We both had successful careers, a vibrant social life, a variety of athletic activities that we enjoyed together and individually, and practically no limitations on our time. Now, as parents, our hearts and lives were changed forever.
Sleep deprivation, feeling overwhelmed, and a general sense of disconnection with myself began to settle in. I no longer went to yoga, very rarely did I see friends, and I was too tired to spend quality time with my husband. But, that was all OK, I told myself, because now I was a mother, and my soul/sole purpose was to nurture my child.
Just as life began to ease, as my husband and I had a better grip on parenting, we were blessed with a second pregnancy. Although I modeled nothing but joy about this news to the world, internally I was unclear about my feelings. Did I truly want another baby? I was finally sleeping all night again and beginning to feel less overwhelmed. I did not utter these thoughts for fear of sounding selfish and ungrateful. And so, as I carried my baby, I also carried a secret—I was uneasy about having a second child, fearful of returning to a state of feeling overwhelmed.
My relapse began the very day after my beautiful second daughter was born. Anorexia reclaimed my brain, and it took merciless root. As I held my baby in the hospital, filled with all the mother’s love possible, a sinister drive to drop the baby weight as fast as possible rang in my head. I spiraled into severe restriction and was hospitalized before her first birthday.
Years later, I am a strong woman and mother, confident and committed in my purpose to hold space for others' healing from an eating disorder as a yoga therapist. This is not to say motherhood is easy, that I always feel euphoric happiness with my children, or that I don't bump up against triggering moments in the chaos of temper tantrums and household responsibilities. I assure you, I do, and I have a hunch that many moms out there in eating disorder recovery do as well.
In reflecting on my own experiences as a mom, especially how isolating both motherhood and recovery can be, I felt called to open up the discussion around motherhood and eating disorder recovery. I reached out to my friend and fellow mom and recovered colleague, Melainie Rogers, founder of Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center, in New York City about my ideas. From candidly sharing our own challenges and experiences as moms in recovery, we were inspired to create a video series on motherhood and eating disorder recovery. Our intention for this project was to offer support and let other women know they are not alone in the challenges of motherhood and recovery.
I invite you to view our INTRO VIDEO to the MOTHERHOOD & EATING DISORDER RECOVERY series and check out all four of our videos. Here's a snapshot of the topics we discuss and links to each video:
Part 1: What's hard about becoming a mom and maintaining recovery
Part 2: Body image during & after pregnancy
Part 3: How to use our experiences and wisdom from recovery to help our children have a healthy relationship with food
Part 4: The importance of support & self-care
As many of my closest friends have heard me say, motherhood is the greatest and hardest. It's taken time to allow myself to hold both of those feelings without guilt or shame. For those who are also in recovery during motherhood, Melainie and I support you in your efforts in your life to embrace your feelings around motherhood and recovery. We sincerely hope you find our stories helpful and comforting. Us moms need each other, and we all will most definitely benefit from knowing we are not alone in our victories and challenges.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, RYT, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. She is coauthor of the forthcoming book, Body Mindful Yoga: Create a Powerful and Affirming Relationship With Your Body (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). In addition to her private yoga therapy practice, Jennifer leads yoga therapy groups at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and yoga workshops and retreats on eating disorder recovery and body image. She is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and writes and speaks about her personal and professional experiences on the topics of yoga, body image, motherhood, and eating disorder recovery. Connect with Jennifer: www.ChimeYogaTherapy.com.