By Nikki Phipps
At first I thought nothing of it, I was used to the sudden, forceful vomiting, but after nearly three months of continuous dizzy spells, I finally decided to make a trip to the doctor’s office. To my surprise, I was given a pregnancy test and confirming my mother’s suspicions, it was positive. As the nurse handed me a complimentary diaper bag filled with vital information and samples for newly expectant mothers, all I could think about was getting fat. Here I was, an unmarried teenager, being told that I was going to be a parent. At only ninety pounds and accustomed to nearly starving myself to stay that way, I was in total shock. Being pregnant itself wasn’t the problem, what the pregnancy was going to do to my body is what terrified me the most. I was given prenatal vitamins, and the doctor specifically asked that I not weigh myself in an attempt to both ease my anxiety of gaining weight and to prevent me from obsessing over it.
It didn’t take long before the unusual cravings kicked in—grapefruit and yogurt, pickles with potted meat, and cheese Danishes. I eventually gave in to the cravings, though I always limited the amounts. I feared the weight gain. In my mindset, I was already fat enough. As time progressed, however, I had a sudden change of heart. In fact, when I heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, I realized how important my health was. This was no longer an issue about me; I had another life to think about now. I knew I had to eat; I forced myself to eat. By the time I had reached five months into the pregnancy, I was shopping for larger clothes; and for the first time in my life, I didn’t care. Most of the weight was focused in my belly, which by now felt as if it would burst.
During my third trimester, I endured playful comments from family and friends, such as “you waddle like a duck” and “you look as if you swallowed a basketball.” In the beginning, these remarks bothered me; I wasn’t used to being so large. They weren’t used to seeing me so large. My tummy was fat; I knew it, but my child was in there. I was determined not to let those old insecurities about my weight take over again. I had a new reason for living. I had a new reason for eating. As my due date neared, I started feeling anxious and began having bizarre dreams. One night I dreamed that a twenty-foot rooster came into the house and snatched my baby right out of the crib. I woke up panic stricken and ran to the nursery. The crib was empty! Terrified, I dashed outside and began screaming in the chilly, midnight air when all of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the sliding-glass window. And there it was, my bulging fat belly. I was still pregnant! I was convinced that the food I was ingesting was the culprit; I stopped eating. How wrong I was. The following night I had another dream. This time I gave birth to a litter of beagle puppies? It wasn’t the food after all. It was just me.
Three days after my birthday, I went into labor. It started out painless enough, and I foolishly thought, “This will be a breeze.” Thirty-six hours later—including three trips to and from the hospital—I finally gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl (no puppies). In total, I had gained 20 pounds. Of course, to my surprise, I lost the majority of it once I had my daughter. However, that’s when the monster within began to take over again. I wasn’t 90 pounds anymore, which was already too big in my mind’s eye. I stopped eating. It took me years to realize that the reason I was not eating had more to do with how I viewed myself than the actual weight. Six years after the birth of my first child, I had my son. Just as both of my children are different, so were the pregnancies. With my son, I had no morning sickness. I could eat anything, and I did. I even gained twice as much with him than I did with my daughter. How was I able to do this? I began looking deep into my past and noticed a pattern of behavior. Each time I was pregnant, for instance, I was happy. I was content with myself; I had a purpose.
I have had a lot of emotional issues over the course of my life. I suffer from mild depression. Each time I was depressed, upset, or just not happy with my life, I stopped eating. The worst point was after my marriage ended. I felt like a failure. I dropped down to just under 80 pounds—I’m only 4 feet 11 inches. I looked the worst I ever had; yet, no one said anything. My friends didn’t want to hurt my feelings. My co-workers didn’t feel it was their business. My family didn’t know; I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t know how bad it was myself until I ended up on the floor of a fast food restaurant, not breathing and paramedics by my side when I finally came to. At that time, I hadn’t eaten in a week. Weeks crept into months, and I slowly began to change my lifestyle. I focused on my children. They needed me, and they needed me to be healthy. We moved—again. I got another job, one that made me happier. I began to feel better about myself. I began to eat again. I won’t lie; this wasn’t easy. There were times then as there are times now when I have momentary relapses. This always seems to happen at my lowest points. However, overall, I’m healthy, and I have since realized that it’s okay if I’m not 90 pounds anymore.5e2