I’m a mom. I’m a mom who became a mom while she had an eating disorder. I’m a mom who couldn’t become a mom without in vitro fertilization because she messed up her cycle so badly she didn’t have a cycle anymore. I’m a mom who became a mom because God knew a long time ago she was made for more than being a mom with an eating disorder. I”m a mom who loved her children enough to leave them so she could become a mom without an eating disorder. And she became the mom God meant for her to be because she trusted God to hold her children tightly while she realized the true meaning of the word.
I didn’t want children. That was my mantra when I became old enough to realize I might have to have kids someday. I didn’t really mean it, but I was a selfish single adult who liked her freedom. But while I was busy experiencing the world in Central America, God was preparing two friends to become husband and wife. When Benj and I got married, we enjoyed the first couple years of child-free life until life changed focus from selfish childlessness to the desire to be parents. But by then ED had taken a firm hold, and we could not become the parents we increasingly desired to be.
And it was my fault. I had allowed ED to take control of whatever part of my mind and body he wanted to, and that meant taking away my monthly cycle. We worked our way through the fertility doctoring process (which is a God-sized story in and of itself), and God blessed us beyond measure with 4 healthy boys. Micah Jay in 2007, Jamin Paul and Eli Matthew in 2009, and Isaac Jon in 2011. Benj and I never used the word ED back then. We knew my running had messed up my system enough to cause this, but we didn’t know ED. We didn’t talk about fault or guilt or blame. We simply walked through the in vitro process for five years and knew that God had blessed us beyond measure. The girl who hadn’t wanted children became a mom of four boys.
I love my boys. I loved my boys from the moment we found out the in vitro had worked each time. I enjoyed pregnancy. ED let go of me to an extent while I was pregnant. I had permission to eat a little more. I still exercised during my pregnancies as long as it was allowed, but in a more sane way. I was the epitome of a healthy pregnant woman. But the moment pregnancy ended, ED stormed back in and recaptured his throne. I lost baby weight in record time. I prayed every night that feeding time would work just right to allow me to get out of the house to run in the morning. I remember mornings that Benj would call me with a screaming child in the background because our stubborn Micah refused to eat from anyone but Mom. But Mom wasn’t there. Mom was running.
I loved my boys, but I loved ED more. I pretended to myself and to everyone else that I was a good mom. What an amazing mom – you push those boys all over town in that stroller. What a wonderful mom – you take them to the park in that stroller everyday. What a wonderful mom – you pull them in the bike cart so often. What a great mom you are. And behind closed doors I exercised while they napped; I got crabby at them when they interrupted my exercise video; I got babysitters so I could swim laps. Yep, what a good mom. I fed them corn dogs while I ate tuna. I made them mac and cheese while I ate vegetables. I let them play while I remained isolated in my ED thoughts.
I loved my boys. But my boys didn’t need a mom with an eating disorder. They needed a mom who was 100% present and available. They needed a mom who didn’t have a heart capable of stopping at any moment, who felt free to eat what they ate and who didn’t fall asleep on the couch before they went to bed at night. They needed a mom who was home in the morning when they woke up, who didn’t create chaos and anger each morning trying to get out the door on time, a mom who didn’t ignore her husband and treat him like he was paranoid, scared, and angry for no reason. My boys needed a mom who loved them more than she loved ED. My boys needed a mom in the present, who didn’t need to isolate and hide in order to appease ED, who would take them to McDonalds because she didn’t feel like cooking, who would stay at play group over lunch so they could eat pizza with everyone else. They needed a mom who could be a godly mom, who loved Jesus and led by example.
I loved my boys enough to let them go. When Benj made me pack my bags for Melrose, my boys were my biggest reason for not being able to go to treatment. But that was a lie. I used them. I allowed ED to use my children as an excuse. But through my stay at Melrose, being a wife and mom became my biggest reasons for staying. The more I learned about ED, the more I realized his lies, the more I embraced the tools to fight him, the more freedom I experienced from his grip, the more joy God fed my soul – all of these things led me to understand how essential my treatment was for me to be the mom they needed.
I love my boys and now I love them the way a mom needs to love her children. I hear them instead of allowing their needs to be drowned out by ED’s rules. I see them instead of being blinded by ED’s compulsions. I hold them without ED standing in the middle so my grasp remains loose around them. I give them the place in my heart that ED had stolen from them.
Please hear me, I have always loved my boys, but now I love them with clarity. They don’t have to fight for their mom’s attention. They don’t have to accept divided attention. I understand deep in my soul the joy of being a mom to my Micah, Jamin, Eli, and Isaac. I love them. I love them so much it hurts. I almost wasted God’s gift of motherhood. I let them go so I could come back whole.
I am a mom. I am a mom recovering from her eating disorder. I am a mom with a heart full. I am a mom who understands that 9 years ago God knew the mom I was meant to be. I can’t live in regret for the years I’ve lost to ED. But I hold my boys tighter, I laugh with them louder, I teach them stronger, I set an example more clearly. I share God with them more deeply and urgently. To help the boys understand why Mom was in treatment we told them my heart had to get better. That was not a lie. God broke my heart sitting on a bed as I watched my husband walk away. He broke my heart so that he could rebuild it, designing my heart as his home to be filled with his deep joy, and an important part of that joy was 4 boys who loved their mom blindly, not knowing a piece was missing from her old heart. My heart came back whole. And now truly, I am a mom.