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Pregorexia: More Food for Thought

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Maggie Baumann: Wow, as I read the feedback on my post, I realize how my personal story with pregorexia can be viewed in so many different ways.

Pregorexia: More Food for Thought

Actually, I appreciated reading all the posts and respect everyone's opinion on this story.

I accept the criticisms because I understand where they come from. I believed some of the exact same thoughts about myself regarding the cruelty and abuse some readers posted about my actions. In fact, the guilt I held inside of me for these actions is one of the emotional issues that drove my battle with anorexia to reach such a dire state I had to go to inpatient treatment years after my pregnancies.

Anorexia, like bulimia and other forms of eating disorders, is a mental illness that affects the body, mind, and soul. It is very common for someone to be struggling with an eating disorder and have no real conscious insight as to why the disorder developed. Many sufferers focus completely on the size of their body, the food they eat or don't eat, and the number on the scale. The eating disorder (and its surface-level focus on body, food, and weight) takes away the need to feel the pain of the real issues that lie underneath -- like an abortion, low self-esteem, a loss of a loved one, and so forth.

At the low points in both my pregnancies, I was UNAWARE of any emotional issues on a conscious level that I needed to deal with. My past abortion, the death of my dad, my adoption, my mom's scare with cancer were some of the real emotional issues that were never dealt with in my life. I had tucked all these issues out of sight because I was not equipped at that time to deal with them on an emotional level. I did not share my past losses with anyone; I just tried to pretend I was happy and everything was normal in my life.

The only real awareness I had during my pregnancies was this recurring thought that I had KILLED the baby I aborted and God was going to hurt the baby inside of me. I remember thinking that thought, but never sharing it. Instead, my focus went to feeling so ashamed of myself. I don't know exactly how the shame got connected to the loss of control of my body during my pregnancies, but it did. It's easy for me to see NOW how I felt out of control for much of my life, so the eating disorder and its lure of feeling "in control" was something that I unconsciously was attracted to.

I truly regret I was so detached from myself during my pregnancies, and in such a high state of denial of what I was doing to my children. Today I own my life-threatening actions taken against my children when they were in my womb, but back when this was all happening I truly didn't GET what I was doing. I rationalized, minimized, and denied my behaviors because that was the only way I could live with myself and feel some sense of control.

It's not right what I did. It's not healthy. It can look so cruel ... but I was sick at the time and I didn't understand I could reach out for help. I did not know of any pregnant moms who acted like me. Honestly, what mom would want to say she is not feeding herself properly and negatively affecting her baby inside? I don't know any mom who would say that.

I believe eating disorders are a disease and to overcome them you need treatment from experienced professionals to help you find your healing and recovery. I didn't open up to a team until my kids were in the 6th or 7th grade. It took me years to get through my denial, but I finally did reach the point of consciously understanding how I harmed my own children as they were growing inside of me.

As I stated above, I understand how my actions during my pregnancies can be viewed with criticism. I guess I only ask that people embrace the truth of how an eating disorder develops and shows its symptoms in one's life, then make a decision on how you feel about this story.

The eating disorder is NOT an excuse for my actions ... I must own them because those were the choices I made at that point.

There is no happy side to this story. It is what it is, and that is what I have learned to accept.

I share this story in the hopes that other women who may struggle with this issue can get help NOW. There is no reason to be alone with this issue. There are treatment professionals available to help you keep yourself and your baby healthy during a pregnancy. Help is just a phone call away.

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55 comments so far | Post a comment now
v June 5, 2009, 3:10 PM

I applaud you on being able to tell your story. I read your story and was shocked to read all of the negative comments. When I read it I thought you put it out there as a cautionary tale- letting people know the dangers of ‘pregorexia’ People were mean!! I applaud you for being so honest and applaud you even more for being able to overcome your sickness

Jamie June 5, 2009, 5:45 PM

I just want to say I feel you. I have battled anorexia myself… and while it didn’t affect my pregnancies, I completely empathized with you.

Congratulations on your brave journey.

m.e. June 8, 2009, 11:05 AM

I guess the only people who will understand your story are people who have suffered through this disease themselves. In my mind, there is absolutely no way I would hurt my child even if it had negative consequences on my body or health. I just don’t get it and can’t find it in my heart to sympathize. It’s just sooo wrong and makes me question whether a person with these issues should even have had kids in the first place. sorry.

Terri June 8, 2009, 12:35 PM

You are very Brave, Maggie. I think that admitting there is a problem is the most difficult part, and I hope that your message reaches more women at risk than the judges, as I believe it was intended.
Blessings to you.

Bellita June 8, 2009, 1:10 PM

I suffered from anorexia for many years, but now I am pregnant - 8 months - and I would never be so selfish as to endanger the child I am carrying. I don’t think you are strong or brave for telling your story. I think if you are dealing with something as serious as anorexia then you shouldn’t be having sex and you most certainly should not be getting pregnant. If you want to hurt yourself then fine, but to hurt your unborn baby is seriously sick. I pity you and I feel sorry for your children.

Anonymous June 8, 2009, 6:55 PM

In resposne to ‘M.E.’s comment.
I was not aware you were a perfect human being. Get over yourself.

Bellita  June 8, 2009, 7:01 PM

So Belita you are pretty much saying that the cure to anorexia is to become prenant? Sorry, that may have worked for you but doesn’t work for everyone.

Tammy June 9, 2009, 9:43 AM

Hello Maggie and her 2 healthy girls,

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I think this happens to a lot of women, although it is different story though. In my case, I did not take care of myself as best as I could and get the proper rest. I did eat good though, but sometimes did not eat a good breakfast. I had an unfortunate event and had my 2nd baby boy early at almost 25 weeks gestation. The baby lived in the nicu overfed by medications and oxygen and passed away at 6.5 months of age.

I did exercise and went around my normal business when I was pregnant, just like I did w/ my 1st child. Doctors and books always tell you it is normal to exercise during pregnancy and do everything you did before the same.

I guess it was just bad luck and the amnio at 16 weeks and stress at work and not getting enough rest, etc. that caused me to have the baby early. Sometimes I also blame it on my ex-boyfriend who forced a kiss on me for 30 seconds that put some painful pressure on my stomach while he was trying to kiss me. And then I started bleeding 3 hours after the forced kiss.

But I guess it was not the forced kiss that caused it, but just the culmination of everything. What I had was similar to a miscarriage w/ all the bleeding for 9 days and then eventual cramping which I forgot that could be labor.

I found out go to the hospital when you are bleeding, instead of going to the OB (doctor). Some OBs doctor don’t know everything about bleeding during pregnancy and think it is normal.

PS- I am very glad everything turned out healthy and happy for you and your girls. Your family is so blessed! God bless you always.

Doctor Liz June 19, 2009, 2:22 AM

Hi Maggie and Whitney - what a brave story to tell in such detail. I am happy to know you both.
- Doctor Liz Lyster

Dina June 23, 2009, 4:45 PM

Thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. I’m so glad your family is doing better.

I can relate to a lot of the eating disorder stuff. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have it during my pregnancy. Mine began when my child was about 3.5 years old. I think there’s a lot of guilt when you’re a mom with an eating disorder. It’s not your child you want to hurt. But you sometimes end up hurting them anyway. It’s really sad.

Fhkebyto June 27, 2009, 1:06 AM

RNNlal comment6 ,

Bethann July 1, 2009, 9:29 PM

Maggie, this story fills me with mixed emotions. I have a husband who is always using shame and inability to ask for help as an excuse for pulling these amazingly boneheaded stunts that harm our family, wound me deeply, and, in some cases, put our present and future at terrible financial risk. I try to sympathize, but mostly what i feel by now is: “Well, are you on the bus or off the bus?” At some point, your feeling state and your mishegas stop entering into the things you do, and in your understanding of your responsibilities, and you let the responsibilities take the lead and call the shots. That’s how I felt during my pregnancy, even though as a head-trauma survivor, I had to stop taking a bunch of meds I needed to think straight and deal. And then, after already having spent a month in the hospital and an additional five months at home on bed rest after the head injury, I was required, in order to bring my son to term, to be on bed rest in he hospital for the last six weeks of my pregnancy as well. No exercise, no going outside, just lying on my left side and thinking good thoughts. So, I sucked it up and did it.

It’s hard for me to have sympathy for people who let their feeling states, or their numbness, or checked-outness, or whatever it is, harm others. Especially little children. It’s especially hard when your story, and follow-up, seem to be all about YOU. Because, based on my life experience, that’s what being a grownup and a parent is all about: letting go of our narcissism, and catching hold of our responsibilities and relationships.

That said, I feel that it was very brave of you to tell this story at all, and I hope that it may help other pregnant women. I hope your daughters continue to do well physically. Sadly, in addition to some modest cognitive problems, their conditions In Utero will leave them vulnerable to high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome, even if they are slender, as they get older, so you’ll want to keep an eye on that…..

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Kim July 21, 2009, 4:15 PM

Maggie is drumming up business….did she write this after she got help? No. Did she have that urge to tell her story so other women with her illness could get help before they do irreparable damage to their innocent babies? No. She spills her sob story after the fact, once she is a ceritfied therapist, at the most opportunistic time for herself. Nice to read when her own life was in jeopardy she sought help. But when the life of an innocent fetus, HER BABY, was at risk, she CHOSE denial. I know friends and relatives who have had this disease and chose to seek help immediately after finding out they were pregnant. This was over a decade ago as well. Courage would have been acknowledge when she was pregnant and sought help. It would have been helpful for her to have her story out a decade ago when this was not spoken of. Now it is just opportunistic. See it for what it is.

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