Standing perusing the new born baby clothes in a department store to pick a gift for my expectant friend. I feel my eyes welling up and a lump in my throat. This week would be the week my husband and I would have been expecting to welcome our own rainbow baby. Instead I’m choosing a gift for our friend’s baby, and the enormity of our grief hits me like a freight train once more. In the middle of a busy store. No warning.
My husband takes the present from me and hugs me.
I say to myself; “ It’s just a piece of clothing, ridiculous. Pull yourself together, I shouldn’t react like this”. I was not prepared for moments like this. I was done with this, right? moved on?
This moment felt so permanent, so raw. I wiped the tears from my face. Paid for the onesie and the next day went to visit my friends and pass on the gift.
No one talks about how many emotions one can feel all in the space of a few minutes when you have experienced either pregnancy loss, infertility and are surrounded by either pregnant friends or those with children. You can feel immensely happy for someone and consumed by sadness at the same time and a deep sense of no longer belonging in circles. So much confusion.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriage, ectopic and infertility are all difficult words to speak. People avoid the subject, skirt around the topic or mutter under their voices as if it’s a dirty word. Some people avoid you completely too. I’m sorry if this is your experience, you’re not alone, despite how it feels.
It’s Eating Disorder Awareness week. This weighs heavy on me, one of the topics I rarely see discussed in the ED community/ space is exactly this subject. Infertility, pregnancy loss or navigating pregnancy/postpartum in recovery. The latter I do not feel equipped to discuss because, I have not been there.
However, I have lived through the wrath of infertility and pregnancy loss with an eating disorder. Both, I believe should be spoken about more openly/freely in the space because eating disorders, infertility and loss all have isolation & grief in common. Sadly we are also not immune to these problems. There’s enough shame already and I feel called to open the discussion.
On top of the isolation these issues bring, & speaking from my own experience, they perpetuate the common hallmarks of guilt, shame, loneliness & body dissatisfaction eating disorders feed off. Another difficult and common denominator of these, is that society shies away from & stigmatises them. There’s not a safe space to openly discuss the experience of an eating disorder let alone the often complex complications such as infertility or loss that can be more common amongst our population. Considering 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, that’s a lot of people even outside the ED community that are affected by loss and emotional distress.
Throughout the entire process I experienced intense body loathing. Every cycle failure this intensified. Every pregnancy announcement around me I felt more and more disconnected from myself and my peers.
This, I imagine for a person without an eating disorder is also a common experience. However for someone with an eating disorder, familiar with, the all encompassing viscous eating disorder voice, it was incapacitating. Infertility treatment in itself was incredibly hard, my body changed over night, my hormones reaped havoc with my mood, appetite.
The lack of control. Your body is not your own. Things change in an instant. One minute you’re pregnant, then you are not. The feelings of shortcomings were unbearable. “Why can’t you do this” “It’s your fault”, “you’re a failure” “You’re so broken” We’re all things I repeatedly said to myself.
Infertility, pregnancy loss are not a form of grief readily recognised or accepted by society. I found myself not knowing “what the process was”. How I “should” be. If I was “allowed” to feel what I felt.
Infertility, treatment, pregnancy losses all stirred up feelings of alienation from my body. It didn’t feel like a safe place to reside. I believe this is a common experience with many who go through this, however, personally with the history of an eating disorder it allowed a space to slip into a familiar self-deprecating/punishing state.
For me, a family, being a mum was a strong motivator for my eating disorder recovery. You hear the term “ remember your why” banded about in the recovery space a lot.
For me, the post-pregnancy loss, this term especially, alienated me from my own community for a time. I didn’t feel I belonged in any community and I’d temporarily lost my ‘why’, until, like always happens with recovery, I found new reasons to recover. But for a while, body positivity spaces, neutrality spaces really infuriated me. I needed to know this was okay, but there’s no one who talks about this! I’ve never seen it anyway. It’s ok to feel whatever you feel, there is no right or wrong. What you feel is worthy of compassion. COMPASSION is what I lacked for myself. Compassion is what society lacks at times. And so you need to learn to be compassionate to yourself and to find where it’s safe for you to get the support you need. For me it’s been talking to my husband and my therapist. A lot. It’s been in writing.
Connection is the other thing that humans need. Yet, experiences like this, where you not only feel disconnected from yourself but also with everyone around you, finding a way to remain connected is imperative to healing. Whether it’s online communities, podcasts, blogs, friends, family, therapy or whatever.
Eating disorders are complex entities. Whilst I can only speak from my own experience, I know there are certain themes many of us share. Numbing painful emotions can be one thing an eating disorder promises, at the expense of losing any emotion. However, in a body that no longer feels home and with such grief it’s hardly surprising many of us believe the false promises. Again connection, having people that remind us of our values and show us compassion is so helpful.
I wish, we lived in a society that recognised this grief and there was a space to acknowledge a persons loss and pain. No one should have to suffer the self loathing and loss in silence. Expecting these feelings as a given, and allowing room for them how we heal. Creating a safe space for discussions and environments for healing.
Your grief is real and you are worthy of help and support.
The way your experience affects your body matters, you matter.
Thinking of anyone experiencing complex body related grief especially during this EDAW.
These are my own experiences and opinions and whilst I want to make my posts relevant to as many people as possible it is impossible to do this in a single post.