My Second Pregnancy Journey: Pregnancy After Weight Loss, Eating Disorder Recovery, and Finding Intuitive Eating

Ok, ok, I won’t put it off any longer: yes, readers, I am officially pregnant (actually, 18 weeks pregnant) with baby #2 — Michael! Due June 20, 2020!

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As with my last pregnancy, I really want to document this journey, because there are so few illustrations of how a body might change during (and after) pregnancy after major weight loss and, this time, after eating disorder recovery and finding intuitive eating.

Let’s start with a rundown of what my last pregnancy looked like and what’s very VERY different this time around!

My Pregnancy (in numbers) with Emma!

  • Starting weight: 123 pounds (which I was unhealthily maintaining eating 1,000 calories a day. Do not recommend.)
  • My age: 28; 29 at delivery
  • Exercise pre-pregnancy: None
  • Exercise during pregnancy: None
  • Caloric intake during pregnancy: 1,500 1st trimester; 1,700 2nd trimester; 2,000 3rd trimester
  • Weight at delivery: 157 pounds
  • Total gain: 34 pounds
  • Emma’s weight: 7 pounds
  • My weight post-delivery: 147-150 pounds

My Pregnancy (in numbers) with Michael! (So Far)

  • Starting weight: 140 pounds (which I was maintaining eating 2,300-2,500 calories a day – estimated – intuitive eating!)
  • My age: 32; 33 at delivery
  • Exercise pre-pregnancy: Lifting 3x a week; cardio 3x a week
  • Exercise during pregnancy: Lifting 3x a week; cardio 2x a week (intensity is also diminished)
  • Caloric intake during pregnancy: Not sure as I am doing intuitive eating. 2,300 – 2,500 calories most days still, I imagine, based on the couple of days I have tracked out of curiosity (and anxiety).

And here’s where I’m at right now:

  • Week: 18
  • Current weight: roughly 148-149
  • Total gain so far: 8-9 pounds

I haven’t taken my 18-week picture yet (tomorrow!), but here’s my …er… “growth” so far lol.

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And, of course, here is a comparison 🙂

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And, for fun, here’s a sneak peak at what I look like now (but not scientific ‘cus not at the same time of day or in the same clothes — science is important! Ha!):

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Mental Struggles

As you may recall, I struggled hardcore with antenatal mental health as well as post-partum depression, anxiety, and OCD that eventually led to me being hospitalized when Emma was 7 weeks old. Moreover, with Emma, I was still in an active eating disorder when I got pregnant.

I’ve been in pretty intense therapy for years now, but I’ve also improved to the point of being able to be off of psychiatric medication for a year. I’ve also been in genuine eating disorder recovery for only a year, and I admit that the body image part of this is HARD for me. Somewhere in my head (before recovery), I had it in my plans to get my weight way back down again before getting pregnant again because I was SO AFRAID of how a second pregnancy would impact my body and weight. But, then I found lifting…and running…and recovery… and, well, here we are.

This pregnancy has been different — I’ve been far more sick, I’ve been far more tired, but I’ve also been far more active, and I’m not having to go through psych medication withdrawal. My anxiety is still very present, but I do feel overall more emotionally stable this time compared to last time.

My brain and body have also not totally caught up with one another: my brain currently refuses to accept that I am pregnant when it comes to my weight & what I’m seeing in the mirror.

Impacts to and of Intuitive Eating

Pregnancy (and post-partum) are going to probably be the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced when it comes to committing to intuitive eating. I’ve been doing intuitive eating for a year now, and if I’m being honest – I don’t know that I can commit to NOT tracking/trying to intentionally lose weight after this baby is born. I already am feeling the pull.

I’m trying to eat intuitively right now, but my appetite is alarming to me at times: I wake up hungry multiple times throughout the night, every night. In 1st trimester, I would eat even in the middle of the night; now, I don’t. I also try very hard to focus on eating mostly “whole foods.” This is mostly because I’ve found these foods appealing and they physically make me feel the best; but, admittedly, it’s also partly a weight gain/fear food thing.

I’m not tracking calories (except for portions of a couple of days to get just a ballpark of where I’m at); I religiously tracked in my last pregnancy. And, I just put my scale in timeout too.

I’m honestly not sure what I’m doing — I’m overwhelmed by my hunger levels and fear of gaining too much. My midwives have mostly been supportive (they know I am in ED recovery), but they’ve still mentioned ballpark target weight numbers, which has been difficult for me. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with my ED recovery/intuitive eating dietitian next week for some reassurance and guidance.

So, there you go – that’s where I’m at right now.

I’d like to keep documenting this pregnancy and postpartum just like last time. Hopefully, some of you will find it helpful (or at least interesting)!

What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha OcĂ©ane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

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I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

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Abs Relaxed Photos

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This morning:

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Abs Flexed Photos!

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This morning:

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Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.

 

This is Real Life…An Uninspirational Blog Post

It’s been a month since my last post, and though I have been reluctant to write, I wanted to stick to my goal of including  this blog in my present journey. So, here I am…with a confession:

I’m tracking macros again, and my abusive relationship with numbers (and myself) is in a definite “on again” phase.

I am very frustrated this morning.

I’m angry, actually.

I’m angry that this is so difficult.

I’m angry that the real “meat” of a disordered relationship with food and body is so illusive.

Honestly, the food is the easy part. Food is concrete: eating it or restricting it in many various ways are all firmly graspable behaviors that can be forced in one direction or the other. It’s the mental and emotional battle that leaves me feeling hopeless. As I said in one of my online support groups this morning: I can make myself eat bread; I can’t make myself be OK with it.

The thing is, I feel like the only thing anyone is prepared to help me with is the food, and it’s making me worry that that’s all that anyone CAN help me with. That I’m doomed to one of two fates: follow my obsession & live it out loud… or don’t actually act it out — follow someone else’s plan instead — but still be trapped with it in my head. And, honestly, I’m not sure which of those two outcomes is the easiest to live with.

I really don’t have much more than that to share at this point. I will say that the path I’m currently being nudged down is towards “intuitive eating.” I’m reading the book, and I’ve joined a couple of online intuitive eating support communities, but I currently can’t even imagine it ever being possible for me. I’m not even sure I can bring myself to want it. The truth is…I don’t trust my body to tell me how to eat, and I don’t trust myself with food. I can’t imagine a world in which my weight doesn’t determine my worthiness, and I’m not sure I can ever believe that to be true…not in my world. True for others, but not for me.

An Honest Account of New Motherhood (with Postpartum Anxiety, Depression, and OCD)

The day my daughter was born was not the best day of my life.

Pregnancy was long and hard – so hard – for me. I did not enjoy being pregnant. And, the day my daughter was born, I was glad for the pregnancy to be over. But, when they lay my wiggly little girl on my chest, I was not overcome with emotion. In fact, I felt nothing at all. Later that day, in tears, I would write a message to my therapist saying “she feels like a stranger.” Which, in truth, she was.

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I had dark thoughts during those two days in the hospital. As honest as I strive to be on this blog, I am not brave enough right now to tell the entire world what those thoughts were. But, I will say that I was ashamed of them. I did begin to feel one thing, though: anxiety. Lots and lots of anxiety. When it was time for us to go home, I found myself in the throws of a panic attack. I told myself that it was normal. I was a new, first-time mom. Anxiety was expected.

When we finally got home, I needed my mom. Not to do anything for me; I just needed her presence. I had said repeatedly while pregnant that I didn’t want anyone staying over at our house when my baby was born. But, I now found myself crying like a small child when my mom went to go home. (And, so, she stayed.) “How funny,” I thought, “that in becoming a mother, I find myself feeling more like a child than I have in many years.”

I cried a lot. Constantly, really. Deep waves of pain would strike, welling in my stomach like grief and crashing over me. I never cry in front of anyone; now, I could not help myself.

I regretted becoming a mom.

I did not regret my daughter’s existence, but I regretted thinking that I could be a mother. I told my husband and my therapist this daily. Hourly, sometimes. And, I Googled… I searched all over the internet for other women who regretted becoming a mom… desperate to see if any of them had found their way out of this pit. But, nobody’s story, nobody’s thoughts sounded as dark as mine. Nobody seemed as far gone as I felt.

And then there was the insomnia. In the first two weeks after giving birth, I found I was able to nap and sleep whenever I had even 30 minutes of downtime. But, I soon found myself unable to sleep even when the baby was sleeping. I was exhausted, I took Benadryl, and still, I couldn’t sleep. Increasingly, it got worse, until I was sleeping maybe an hour in total every night; two if I was lucky. Always broken up in to 15-20 minute increments. Not because of the baby, but because my body physically refused to sleep. I spent countless nights writing panicked messages to my therapist in the dark, alone, on the stairs… nobody else was awake. But, I could not rest.  In truth, I felt relief when the baby would wake up, because then I could nurse her – I could do something – I could be productive rather than sit there, tortured.

And it was torture.

I began to struggle with caring for my daughter. I was exhausted. My body was exhausted. My brain was flooding me with nothing but anxious fear and intrusive images of terrible things happening to my baby, my family. I was miserable. I was in constant pain. But, I didn’t really think much of it; I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and mild OCD for so long that I just figured that this was normal for me and had nothing to do with having had my baby.

I went to my 6-week appointment with my midwife expecting nothing more than a quick check and sign off to return to work at 8 weeks postpartum. I filled out the questionnaire honestly and then sat in the exam room holding my screaming, over-tired baby who refused to latch and nurse. My midwife walked in.

In the first minute of that appointment, she could tell that I was not OK. And she called me out on it. In fact, she said she would not clear me to return to work. I was caught off guard. I was scared. I was ashamed. I felt like a failure. But, also, I was so…so relieved. She SAW me. She SAW that I wasn’t OK. Nobody else, nobody, not even my therapist who I had unloaded everything on had recognized how much I was struggling, how I was drowning. I was relieved to hear that I would not have to go back to work yet. I had been so afraid of how I was going to manage working at my fast-paced, mentally demanding job when I couldn’t even sleep for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

I left that appointment with so many emotions. I thought it would be my turning point. But, it wasn’t. Not quite yet. Then came one of the hardest decisions for me: whether or not to go back on my antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication and stop nursing. The anxiety exploded. The intrusive thoughts exploded.

I knew that I needed to go back on my medication. I still remember my last nursing session with my daughter. It was in the morning, and I ate poptarts while she nursed. I, who had never ever thought that I even would nurse at all, found myself flooded with grief and fear. When she was done, I stared at that stupid antidepressant pill and second guessed myself over and over and over.

There were the logical arguments: What was I going to do if I couldn’t nurse her for comfort? She wouldn’t take a pacifier.

The emotional arguments: She wouldn’t need me anymore; anyone could feed her. She wouldn’t need ME.

And the completely illogical: Would formula cause her to developmentally regress? This became a very real fear.

After I took that pill, I instantly felt like I had become poisonous. Tainted. My daughter could no longer nurse. I was poisonous. Poisonous. Poisonous. It echoed and echoed in my mind.

Unfortunately, it seems I had waited too long to start medication. I rapidly deteriorated. I could no longer sleep at all. In desperation, I took some Ambien that my psychiatrist had prescribed during a previous bad fight with insomnia. Despite having not slept for 2 days, the Ambien only got me 1 hour of sleep. My mom took me to the ER where they gave me Valium, which made everything worse, causing huge waves of cold anxiety that made it hard for me to breathe.

Finally, finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t take care of my daughter. It took 6 and a half weeks for me to break, but in the end, I did break. I asked my mom to take me back to the ER, where they admitted me to a psychiatric unit.

Have you ever hit rock bottom? Have you ever fallen so low that it doesn’t even feel like real life anymore? Have you ever questioned your own sanity? Whether you might actually be asleep and dreaming rather than going through something in reality? As they wheeled me away to transport me via ambulance to the psychiatric unit at a neighboring hospital, I truly thought that what was happening could not possibly be real. And, I could not stop the tears. Though I had not felt much love-based attachment (mostly anxiety-based attachment) to my baby, I now found myself crying for her. I kept telling my mom, the doctors, the nurses “I want my baby…” I begged for her like a small child.

The bottom of the postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD pit is a very dark place for those who find themselves there. It seems endless, inescapable, hopeless. But, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself with people who care about you – with people who want to help you – you will see that, if they can shine just a little light into your darkness, the pit is actually lined with ledges that make climbing out – while not at all easy – definitely possible. Going into the psychiatric unit was my lowest low, but it was also a huge turning point in my journey – both as a mother and as an individual.

I want to pause here to say – if you are someone coming to the edge of this or any other deep, dark pit of despair but are too terrified to ask for help – to go into a hospital, even – please know this: it is not at all like they show in movies or books. The psychiatric unit of a hospital can be a very helpful and uplifting place. The people there – we were all just people. Just people. Some sad, some afraid, some lost – but all of us people. They don’t strap you down and pump you full of medication; I had complete control over the medicines that I took, and they never once pressured me into taking something that I didn’t want to take. Not all hospitals are alike, but in this one, I had my own room, my own bathroom. I had privacy, but I was also not alone. In the deep dark of the night, there was always someone right there – someone to help me when I couldn’t sleep. It’s a safe place. With good people. Good, caring staff. And people who are just in dark pits of their own needing some help finding those ledges on the sides of their pits. I would go back now, if I needed to, without the fear that I once held.

It took them 5 days to get me to sleep. But, when that sleep came, when my body finally remembered how to function, everything changed. My husband visited me every single day. He brought me pictures of my baby, reassured me that she was not developmentally regressing, and we worked together to craft a plan for when I got out so that we could all be ok. I was also so lucky – so lucky to have my family. My inlaws stayed with my husband and helped him get our daughter on a new feeding schedule now that she would need to be on formula. When I got out, they had it all sorted out – all of the things I had been so anxious about (pacifiers, feeding schedules, figuring out when she was hungry when I’d always nursed on demand) – my mother in law had sorted it all out with my husband. And they helped me so much.

The best day in my life is the day after I came home. When I successfully slept in our house. When our daughter ate and was fed, and I had slept and was finally OK. The day that I realized that having her had been the best thing that I had ever chosen to do. Ever.

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Postpartum mental health issues do not go away overnight – not even after a 5-day stay in the psychiatric unit. I still struggle sometimes – even now, months later. But, that is ok. Because everything is going to be ok; I believe that. Even though every day is not a good day, I still know – beyond any shadow of a doubt – that having my daughter was the right thing to do, no regrets, and that these days are so much better because I have her.

If there are any new mothers reading this out there – whether struggling with postpartum mental health issues or not – here is what I want to say to you…

Mama, those early days, they are so dark. They are so hard. They are heavy and long, endless and slow. You go ahead and cry; it’s ok to grieve. It’s ok that this is too hard. It’s ok that you are overwhelmed. You are in the thick of it right now; even though people keep telling you that this time is going to fly by, the truth is that it will be so slow right now while you’re doing these days. And you have to do every single one of these hard days, mama. Each one. And it sucks. And it is too hard. Too much. And, mama, if you are drowning, scramble hard to get help. Even if it feels like failing. Even if it feels all wrong. Take the hand. It feels like failure, but it’s not. It’s the right thing.

Remember this: you are important. You. Apart from your baby. Apart from your significant other. Apart from anyone else. You are important. You.

This is not your new forever. I promise.