My Forgotten Baby

My first pregnancy ended in a Subway bathroom on my lunch hour. I had taken a home-pregnancy test the previous week after my period had been about a week late. Though faint, the test came back positive, and I was looking forward to my doctor appointment scheduled for the following week. Two days before the doctor appointment, I was standing in line with my co-workers at Subway deciding whether I wanted the cold cut combo or the black forest ham when out of the blue I was struck with cramps in my lower belly. A hot flash came over me and I felt dizzy with a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. I excused myself out of line and headed straight to the restroom.

As I sat down on the toilet my belly cramped again, and I essentially started hemorrhaging into the porcelain bowl. My skin had gone clammy and hot and my head felt light. I leaned my head onto the wall, trying to take deep breaths and keep calm. The blood kept coming, and I felt trapped in that cold, tiled bathroom all alone. Waves of nausea washed over me, and I kept thinking what is happening? What is happening? I sat there a long time, just waiting for my body to finish expelling itself. When my body finally seemed to calm down, I tried to clean up the best I could. Can I just say that cheap, 1-ply toilet paper in a fastfood establishment bathroom isn’t conducive to mass bleeding?

Then I flushed, wondering if there was any way the tiny baby inside me was still there.

I emerged from the bathroom on shaky legs and with zero appetite. I felt numb and scared. I found my co-workers and they asked if I was okay. “You look pale.” I mumbled something about not feeling well and needing to go home for the rest of the day. I don’t remember anything else from the rest of that day.

Two days later I showed up to my doctor appointment and peed in a cup. I told the nurse what had happened in the Subway bathroom. When both the nurse and the doctor returned they looked at me with a bit of confusion. “Well, your hCG levels are high, so you were pregnant. But you were so early in the pregnancy that most women at this stage don’t even know they were pregnant. They just figure their period was late and heavier than usual.”

I went home feeling sad and confused. So did I miscarry? Had I only been “kind of pregnant”? I felt like I had experienced a loss, but it wasn’t being defined as one, so I didn’t know if I was allowed to feel sad.

My husband and I went for a walk that evening and I explained to him that we were pregnant “for like two minutes” but not anymore. My husband said that basically the embryo was like a zygote. I let myself cry just a little, and then I completely disconnected from the experience. I only told a friend or two and my parents about it and then never really spoke of it again.

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My husband and I were blessed with two kids following that pregnancy, who are now nine and 11 years old. Strangely over the last 11 years, I’ve had random and sporadic sensations of a third child in our house, a child that I have forgotten about, maybe napping upstairs or playing in the other room. My husband once came to me and said, “Do you ever get the feeling there is a baby here that we’ve forgotten about?” Yes! I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who had the feeling. Neither of us had been able to explain it or come up with a logical explanation as to why we felt this way. “Maybe we’re going to have a surprise baby when we least expect it?” I speculated once. I secretly hoped not!

I mentioned to my mom these feelings of a “ghost baby” in our house that we sometimes feel and explained that we couldn’t figure out why in the world it was happening. “Well,” she said, “maybe it’s the baby from your ‘two minute pregnancy’ that you’ve never really acknowledged.”

*heart stop*

I took this to therapy recently, and guess what? My mom was right. Dear reader, I spent over 13 years “disconnected” from a real pregnancy and real loss. I had emotionally disengaged from my miscarriage, not even allowing myself to call it a miscarriage, mostly because it wasn’t like any of the miscarriages my friends or acquaintances had experienced. It also wasn’t like I lost a full-term baby during or right after birth like a couple other mamas I know. Because my loss wasn’t the same, as tragic, as other women, I had minimized my fragile unborn baby into scientific verbiage, and buried a physically terrifying and emotionally fraught experience. I thought I had disconnected, but my body and my heart never did.

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I processed my loss for the first time just recently. I now understand that I had three pregnancies, not just two. One day when I go to heaven, I’ll have a little girl waiting for me. I know she is a girl because when I talk to God about her, when I asked Him if this baby was real, my heart pounds in response with an inexplicable knowing that yes, she’s real. And I cry every time (like right now) I think about her and her realness. There is a completeness in my heart now that the “forgotten ghost baby” is no longer forgotten… or a ghost.

When I think about what the doctor had said, about how “most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at this stage,” I had written that off to mean that my pregnancy didn’t count. In reality it is a miracle that I was let in on a secret that God needed me to know. He wanted me to know that this unborn child exists. He’d been whispering to both my husband and me reminders of this secret for over a decade. I don’t know why, but I believe like every baby He creates, she is a gift for our hearts given to us with Divine love.

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Friends, our bodies never forget what’s happened to them. Everything that happens to us, regardless of how seemingly small it seems to us matters to God. Deeply. No matter how hard we try to minimize, deny, or bury our hard experiences, they always stick with us and God wants to heal the hurt that comes with them. I pray that if you have something that’s happened to you, that you’ve tried to forget or from which you’ve tried to disengage, that you find someone to help you process through it and that God heals your hurt.

Food rules you can break (Part 1)

*This is the first post in a three-part series on common food rules that, while seemingly harmless or even healthy in theory, are confusing to the body’s biology. Understanding food rules, where they come from, why we have them, and how we can break them is important  in learning how to rediscover your ability to eat intuitively and find freedom in food. 

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One of the most common food rules we have, much to every child’s chagrin, is we must finish everything on our plates.

Why?

Do you have this rule? Can you articulate why you have this rule and why it is necessary to finish everything on your plate?

If the answer is because you don’t want to waste food, that is an absolute valid thought; however, an easy solution is to save for later what you don’t eat now.

Is this a rule you grew up with , so you just follow it because eating everything on your plate is what you’re “supposed to do”? Not everything we were told to do as a kid is the best instruction; it’s okay to change or ditch the childhood rules.

You don’t have to finish everything on your plate! (If this is a rule you have with your children, I am going to respectfully beg you to ditch it.)

The problem with this rule is your brain forces you to ignore your body when it says, “I’m full.” The focus of the meal becomes eating everything in front of you rather than eating to satiate hunger. It’s easy to overeat because you don’t stop when you’re actually full. Instead you wait until all the food has been eaten, which can be long after your body has had enough. You end up feeding your body more than it needs and more than it can metabolize before you sit down to the next meal. When the body becomes overwhelmed with more than it can use, guess what it does? Yep. Stores the excess in added weight.

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HOW TO BREAK THIS RULE

First, practice assessing your hunger level. In Resch and Tribole’s book, Intuitive Eating, they discuss the hunger scale that goes from zero to 10. A level zero means you’re starving–running on empty; you’re so hungry you have the shakes, a headache, feel faint. You might not even feel hungry at this point because your body has “all hands on deck” to keep your brain functioning. Conversely, level 10 means you’re so full you feel sick; one wrong move and it might all come back up. Ugh.

Ideally you want to start reaching for food when your hunger is right around a level three or four. This will feel different for everyone, but for me I feel:

  • my belly grumbling
  • the thought of a particular food sounds good
  • a little dizzy
  • hiccups in my ability to think clearly

Notice what a level three or four hunger level feels like for you and maybe even write down what you are feeling. When you’re at level three/four, try not to wait until you’re starving to eat because by that time your body has moved into deprivation mode, which means you’re likely to overload your plate to begin with, feeling like you won’t be able to get enough food!

Once you know you’re comfortably hungry, the second step is to fill your plate to satiate. When you think about the hunger/fullness scale, think about feeding yourself enough to satisfy your body’s hunger rather than filling yourself to the brim. What amount of food would take you from level three/four to a comfortable six/seven? Hint: You aren’t going to know by looking at the amount of you serve yourself, but rather by tuning into how you feel as you eat. Start with what you think sounds satisfying and give yourself permission to either save what you don’t eat now or to go back for more if you need to.

This takes us to step three which is practice paying attention to yourself as you eat. It’s imperative at the beginning of your new practice to eat without distractions–no phones, computers, projects, friends, television, etc. Create an environment where it’s just you and your food. (This will be harder if you have a family but not impossible!) Eat slowly, focusing on how the food smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. I know this sounds kind of weirdly meditative, and it is. Not weirdly, of course, but definitely meditative! As you make your way through your meal, focus on your hunger level and notice when you feel the move from hungry to satisfied. When you feel the comfort of satiation, stop. Don’t worry about how much food is left on the plate! Ignore it and stay in tune with your body instead. Doing something that actively makes you stop can be helpful–push the plate away; stand up; place a napkin over the plate.

Within about five or 10 minutes of ending your meal, you’ll notice one of two things as your body settles:

  1. You’re still hungry and need to eat some more (go ahead! Honor your body’s request.)
  2. You are comfortably full–satisfied without feeling like an overstuffed bear.

The more you practice these steps, the less you’ll have to think about them. Tuning in with your body will become intuitive.

There are no rules when it comes to food. Following rules, such as “finish everything on your plate,”  instead of following your body cues will absolutely contribute to weight gain and keep your body from finding its homeostasis, that place of size and good feeling you were designed to embody.

The next rule we’ll tackle: no dessert until after dinner.

Peace,
Leanne

 

 

You don’t struggle with your weight

“She’d always struggled with her weight.”  This statement bothers me when I read it in biographical media or watch documentaries on famous ladies. Why is that even mentioned?They might as well just say, “She was always fat, trying hard to get skinny yet never seemed to get her act together.”

We don’t struggle with weight. No one does. We struggle being comfortable and happy inside ourselves.

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When I was in the depths of anorexia, I was scared of becoming fat because I believed if I became that way then people wouldn’t trust me, wouldn’t find me beautiful, wouldn’t take me seriously; I would be sick, unhealthy, and “less than” in the eyes of others. As someone who craved acceptance, needed to be heard, wanted to be “enough,” fat was scary. So I went to extremes to stay thin. I didn’t know what thin enough was, of course, so I just kept getting thinner. With every comment about how good I looked or adulation about my good discipline, focus, and healthy ways in addition to praises in my work, the eating disorder clawed in deeper and I got sicker.

It wasn’t the weight or loss of it that was the struggle, you guys. I was insecure in my body because I was insecure in who I am and wasn’t sure that I would be seen, accepted, and loved. 

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Hear me well if you feel like you struggle with weight: The struggle is so much deeper than body size. You are constantly told, whether directly or indirectly, through media, doctors, health professionals, models, red carpet stars, and diet companies that larger bodies are “bad.” Larger bodies are unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined, sick, embarrassing, unreliable. The tragedy for for you if you live in a larger body or think you might be in a larger body is you believe the body labels are definitions of who you are: “If my body is larger then that means I’m fat, which means I must be unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined. I need to be change. Be better.”

So you wrestle with diets to help you be more disciplined, to be healthier. You get into workout routines you don’t really love, but you love the idea that the movement might make you skinnier. Then when the restriction of the diets are too hard (which is not your fault, by the way) and the hard core workouts become a cursed chore, you give up and further feed the belief that you’re lazy and undisciplined. The weight you might have lost comes back plus a few extra pounds. Then the cycle starts over again, with feelings of inadequacy rooted even deeper.

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From the outside, all the world sees is your body size getting bigger then smaller then bigger then smaller, and judges you, as you do yourself, as “struggling with weight.”  No. The constant rise and fall of weight on any person is simply a symptom of a much deeper struggle with negatives feelings and inaccurate beliefs about who she is inside her body. These feelings and beliefs are rooted in past hurt or emotional/mental damage and are simply exacerbated by cultural ideals and expectations.

A diet will never cure low self-esteem; a work out regimen won’t change who you are. And a thin body won’t bring the happiness you’re looking for. Trust me. I almost died trying. Internal struggle isn’t solved by external work (this is part of the reason why diets fail). Internal struggle is healed through deep inner work, and usually cannot be done without the help of a counselor.

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Do you feel like you struggle with weight? Do you know someone you’ve always thought of as struggling with weight? I want you to see yourself or your loved one as someone who is struggling with inward hurt rather than struggling with weight. There’s healing that needs to be done, and with healing comes the body satisfaction, and even body love, as physical health aligns with mental/emotional/spiritual health.

 

 

Why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk

I accidentally saw my weight back in June 2017. It’s the first time I’d seen my weight in two-and-a-half years. It’s the first time I’d even thought about my weight in over a year. In eating disorder recovery, you are blind to your weight in addition to calories and other nutritional information; those numbers trigger the eating disorder voice to scream that you’re fat or getting fat, eating too much, and doing “healthy” wrong. It’s dangerous to see your weight.

When I saw mine back in June, I was a little shocked, but I also had enough (strong) recovery under my belt to know that I felt great, my clothes fit, and I was comfortable inside my body. That number didn’t matter, and it held no value for me. I let it go.

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This week I accidentally saw my weight again. The nurse was new so she didn’t know to keep the weight blind; I didn’t even think to let her know I needed my weight to be blind; and I wasn’t careful about avoiding my eyes. It was a careless accident, and the number has been aggravating my mind like a loose hangnail. My weight was higher than it was in June, which my eating disorder voice was quick to point out: “You’ve gained weight! You knew it. You suspected it and now you know. What are you going to do about it!?”

What am I going to do about it?? Should I do anything about it? Why did I gain that weight? Am I not paying attention to my body? What am I doing wrong? Am I going to keep gaining? Am I eating too much? Too much sugar? Too much fat? Am I not moving enough? What the hell?

The sudden anxiety questioned all the body advocacy and intuitive eating truths I believe; all the messaging on this blog about not worrying about weight and body size became burdened with doubt.

Why?

Because of a stupid number.

This is why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk!

The number coming from an inanimate object made of plastic and metal doesn’t have the power to change anything about me, so why let it have a say?

Who cares if I put on a few pounds? Only my eating disorder cares.
Did the core of who I am change? Nope.
Am I still a good mom? Yes!
Do I still have an active heart and belief in the people for whom I advocate? Yes!
Does my husband still wrap his arms around me telling me how much he loves me, loves my humor, and honors all the things I do for my family? Yep!
Do I still believe that God is in charge of my body and my body knows what it’s doing? Yes!

Then what’s the problem?

Dumb scale.

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No one needs a scale. All it does is connect us with a number and distances us from our bodies and God. The scale induces anxiety, food rules, self-doubt, and shame–the barriers to body love and the joy to live freely inside our bodies as God intended.  Or if you like what the scale says because you value the number or drop in number, then your sense of worth and accomplishment are being validated by something that has no life and no vested interest in who you are.

The only people who need to know your weight are your doctors, and they can get that themselves–blindly! Turn your back; avoid your eyes; tell the nurse you don’t need to know. Look, if you own a scale. Smash it. I mean that literally. Smash it to pieces and then make art out of the debris. I did this with a friend of mine a couple years ago, and wrote about it here. It is so  liberating! Also, it wasn’t my idea. Check this out: https://www.southernsmash.org/

If you decide to smash your scale, I want to know about it and see pictures of it! You can tell me here in the comments or post on my Facebook wall  or Twitter!

Peace and love,
Leanne

Let the weight loss bandwagon pass

Twenty seventeen has been one of the most challenging years I’ve ever experienced. It started with my young daughter suffering through major depressive episodes that came with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and inexplicable anxious behaviors. In early spring one of our elderly cats of 17 years passed away. Late spring brought the murder of one of my dearest cousins in a tragic domestic violence murder-suicide event. By summer my daughter’s mental health was so unstable and scary that we began her on medication (which was unnerving because she’s so young). Fall melted into the holidays which included two surgeries (one for my husband and one for my daughter), my own knee injury that many times renders me to the couch, and a school change for my daughter.

Was the year all bad? No. In April my daughter and I both earned our Taekwondo black belts; in the summer we adopted an amputee cat who was slated to be euthanized; in late summer my husband and I celebrated 13 years of marriage; and in November we adopted a therapy puppy named Jade who’s been an unexpected gift to our lives.

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With all the changes and the extreme emotions my body, mind and heart have endured, it’s no wonder that my eating disorder has begun to chatter again. It tells me that I’m gaining weight; that I look fat; that I’m eating too many carbs; that it matters how I look. A few weeks ago it told me to skip lunch, eat a tiny breakfast, skip the cookie. With New Year’s Day approaching and the resolutions to lose weight and “get healthier,” the ED says that’s a bandwagon I should join. My eating disorder is a liar. And a bitch. (Pardon my language.)

I brace myself for the weight loss resolutions that splash across all the media platforms because they are always triggering for me. Plus I have a bad attitude about New Year’s resolutions because we often make them with no realistic strategy for how to accomplish them and fail before the end of February leaving us face-down in a pool of guilt and shame. It’s depressing.

However, as I reflect deeper on the cusp of a new year, I realize that my body, mind, and heart never failed me this year. God never failed me this year. Though my daily connection with God grew distant and the sound of his voice became a mere whisper, I know He was close because my body, my mind, and my heart never gave up. When I listened to my body I was listening to the Spirit. When my body told me to lie down, I did. When my heart told me to let the tears flow, I did. When my mind gave me a new strategy to try, I did. When I was hungry, I ate. When I needed to move, I walked. When my brain needed help, I went on an anti-depressant. When I needed a friend, I reached out. And all of it was HARD. The eating disorder was so loud and convincing at the same time.

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Here’s what I am going to do, and what I encourage you to do too: let the weight loss band wagon pass right on by. Don’t jump on. Resolve to stay in tune with your body each day as it is. Don’t think about what it should be, what you want it to be, what it needs to be. Think about and maybe even write down (as I did here today) all the challenges and joy it’s brought you through in its current shape. It doesn’t matter if we’re round or flat; curvy or straight; heavy or light. Life is deeper that shape and weight. What matters is that our body, mind, and heart don’t give up. Resolve to pay attention to yourself, grow appreciation for what your body does right now, and enjoy the freedom of being detached from food rules and body regulations.

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Given how hard 2017 was for me, it’d be easy to say “Sayonara! Don’t let the door hit you in the hiney on the way out.” However, not only did I survive the year fully in tact–well, except for the bum knee–I am ready to take on whatever 2018 brings. The lies of the eating disorder are just lies and I’m not listening. Thanks to God, my body, heart, and mind are strong and ready for 2018.