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.
|Maggie Baumann, MA, is a marriage family therapist intern working as a counselor in a private practice in Newport Beach as well as at The Victorian in Newport Beach, a residential treatment facility providing care to women struggling with eating disorders, addictions and body image. Maggie has written for various publications and appeared on national television promoting eating disorder awareness and prevention. She also facilitates two eating disorder support groups in Orange County, one in Newport Beach and the other in Laguna Beach. You can reach Maggie by email or visit her website at MaggieBaumann.com.|