There is a part of my life which I’ve not shared with you fully. The past few weeks I have felt called to do so, as I am becoming living proof that a story can be revised. This is a story that's seen me in deep vulnerability, shame, guilt, heartache but now, hope. This is my darkness, in an otherwise incandescent life. It may not relate to you directly, but it is my wish that you may all be reminded that hardship can be managed. These words have been in progress for 12 months, and I would still not say they are absolutes. They are simply an expression of many temporary moments and feelings that have, and continue to, change on a daily basis. They are my own frustrations and fears and the mindset changes I’ve made along the way. It is also an act of owning my Story, expressing myself, and loving all of me by sharing this publicly. And to any woman who is going through the same, I hear you, I see you, I feel you, from my very core. Please feel free to reach out in common bond.
This is a long post, but please don’t let that make you close this browser window. The badge of busy should not see the art of blogging die unread, or deny you the words you may need to hear for the sake of a few minutes more “work time”. Bookmark me if you need to and come back for it. Let’s go.
Part 1 - Shame
There is no greater shame I have felt than messing with my body by becoming underweight and jeopardising my natural ability to have children. To be physically unable to do what the female body is created to do feels like I have shunned my very being, my gender, my purpose. So I write this for all the women out there who may be struggling with the same, as this is too important to keep silent.
To quote the wonderful Brene Brown, the venom of shame is that it tells us “you are bad”. As a being. Fullstop. Guilt on the other hand, allows for change and forgiveness. All we carry is the temporary wound of “you did bad”. Darling, you are too divine and powerful to carry such a burden of shame. And in releasing shame we invite in hope. When I started writing this, I worried that I might never see the a glimmer of hope. But that has changed along with my mindset, and I am now currently navigating a new land of hope not shame. The story is not yet over, so I’m writing right alongside you Goddess.
I started taking the pill at 15 and like most teenagers I cursed my periods, wishing they weren’t there and loving the ability to “skip” using the pill. I never thought back then that I’d be wanting a period so badly now. The addiction of disordered eating, overtraining and shedding weight put my body into amenorrhea. This is a state in which menstruation stops because your body detects it is not in fertile health to successfully nourish and carry a baby. Our bodies are such smart vessels. To this day 5 years on, I still cannot say I have had a regular period.
The chaos of eating disorders is that they are all consuming - logic, causality, and consequence are so alien that they may as well be in a parallel universe. But once those universes align, the regret and shame is real. As I approached 30, planned to buy a home with my husband, and witnessed friends entering parenthood, it suddenly hit me how much I wanted motherhood too. And how ashamed I was that I had taken that option away from myself, and my husband (snowball to include my parents and brother who wouldn’t get to be grandparents and uncle).
Name the feeling I’ve had it. Shame. Guilt. Stupidity. Worthlessness. Blame. Fear. Selfishness. Jealousy. Desperation. Anger. Frustration. Impatience. Entitlement. Hopelessness. #allthefeels
Young ladies reading (or parents of) - you may not even know if you want kids yet. And you may choose not to. Both are fine, but your ability to make that choice by living in natural balance is SO much more significant than chasing a body on Instagram or the Victoria’s Secret Catwalk. There is only one of you. Let it be you in all its glory, that time of the month included.
I remember a weekend away with girlfriends included period and pregnancy talk over champagne in the hot tub. Sounds so lush doesn’t it? But it was a real eye opener to suddenly have so much “baggage” when it came to the conversation. I felt such emptiness and pain to not have the power of choice. I felt left out, alienated, isolated, and that I couldn’t relate to my sisters anymore. I no longer wanted to be “the broken one”. I made a commitment to rewrite that story of being broken and in need of fixing. I consciously shifted my desperate mindset of forcing a solution to my problem. Of replacing the control over food, with control over my fertility, into a mindset of gratitude - embracing myself as full and in flow even without my flow (ironic I know).
Part 2 - The Pill Puzzle
I came off the pill with this rather “pie-in-the-sky” idea that it would just flick the switch and relatively soon my period would be back on. It will be 12 months in 4-days from posting this. Whilst it is hard to admit it, I must ask “how could I expect such a change after being on it for 15 years straight?!”
12 months versus 15 years.
I believe we do not get the right information about the pill as young women. At least in my experience. I commend any GP or health professional that approaches it with more holistic long term education. For my friends and I it was a quick fix, prescribed young when we know very little about our fertility and reproductive health. We were not advised to take breaks from it, to know the timing and characteristics of our natural cycle, nor how we should approach coming off the pill and planning pregnancy once we choose to. There is so much about my own body that I did not know, and am still only now truly understanding!
I had such blind faith in coming off that pill that after only 2 months without change, I saw a specialist. At this point I had done 2 years of food psychology coaching and continual effort to gain weight. To someone with an eating disorder, putting on weight is not as delicious as it seems. I battle with the need to put on weight because the fear of it left its scar on me. I’d step on the scales and feel like a child awaiting a stern word from my father in fear of the result. I know to those who have not been there that it sounds counterintuitive - if I want it so bad just do it right? Yes and no. All I can say is it took 4 years to truthfully become at peace with seeing that number rise. So imagine my horror after the mental mind-fuck of gaining weight, when I stepped on the scales and was almost back at my lowest weight. It was crippling. It was real trauma. A feeling similar to that of losing a loved one. Not fear. Not even shock. But deep trauma. How did I not know you ask? I had ceased weighing myself to overcome my obsession with numbers that I used to control my disorder.
I was sent for an ultrasound to ensure my uterus and ovaries were appearing as they should. It’s strange to see that screen which usually holds heartbeats and forming fingers of an unborn child, as an empty space. A big black hole. I hoped that the next time I sat in that chair the hole would be filled. I am happy to say that my ultrasound and hormone tests came back confirming the factory was indeed still there, it just needed reawakening. But how?
I’ve had everything suggested to me - fertility coaches, energy healers, books, supplements. You name it, I’ve heard of it and probably dabbled in it. Numerous people recommended acupuncture treatment and this one tugged at me to give it a go. And it gave me yet another marker of hope. In just three weeks my therapist responded to my pulse with “your body is getting ready for something”...
Then I relocated 90 minutes away...
Part 3 - Breaking the Cycle
I had to start the whole process again. To a new doctor to explain my story. And of course, different doctors = different opinions. This one warned that my previous test results may not be a reflection of my natural health as they were taken too soon, and the pill was still in my system. “Be prepared for this not to happen for another 10 months” she said. So I went back to the weighting game. We had bought our first home, and got a puppy - my husband and I were now nesting and carers for another life. We wanted a family and we’d started it. Game on. I felt shifts in other areas of my life the more I released the despair and obsession over making “it” happen. My husband and I were having fun in a more childlike way, as if embodying the very thing we want to create. I began to experience what I think were signs and signals from my body of things repairing. See? I still second guess them because they feel so foreign after so long without. Like my body speaking to me in a different language.
There was of course the fear I didn’t want to speak. What if after all this, it still doesn’t work? One of my coaches asked “was I ready to love myself even if a baby was not meant to be?” That was one of the hardest questions and honestly, I wasn’t ready to go there. But I also felt determined that it IS on the cards for us. A friend suggested it wasn’t happening because we weren’t ready yet, and in getting our puppy, we needed to experience him first. Testing our sleep, our commitment, our patience, attention, schedules. We accepted the test, as the world answering our call in another way than we intended. I wrote back then (in November) that “We will be learners and lovers of growing to the change. It is coming. Spring has sprung. And Summer will see me rise.”
But Summer delivered another blow. No change in my hormones. No physical progress. My initial reaction was “all that hard work and I’m still stuck”, but I quickly saw such negativity would undermine and disrespect my desire to be fertile. My doctor said, “keep putting on weight and wait”. Weight, wait, weight, wait, wait. WAIT. For what? I knew in my deepest being that I had made progress regardless of what showed up on a test. So I made the decision to break that cycle. I was done waiting.
I walked home and asked myself again “Is it now time to think about what happens if this is not meant to be?”. I cried behind my sunglasses but answered honestly. “Whatever happens, I will still live an amazing life. I will fill that space with other goodness that I am grateful to have.” I spent that day in bed sobbing. Releasing and shedding the 5 years of emotional turmoil I had accumulated and carried. It was ugly. It was snotty. It was dark. And I wasn’t sure when or how I would get back up. Until my husband came in, lay beside me, stroked my hair and said “It’s time to get up babe.” We cancelled plans, opened a bottle of rose, sat in our yard and talked. Like really talked. We opened the gate to another level of communication as a couple which we have not looked back from.
The next day I called a fertility specialist and booked the next available appointment in 6 weeks time. I bought fertility supplements. I started learning about fertility and joined a fertility group. I dove into a deep exploration of my femininity and my cyclic nature as a woman with my coach. And it was here that I began to find a different love for myself, as a mother to be. Not on the scales, not in the blood tests, not in a period. After a few weeks my intuition nudged me to call the specialist only to find a cancellation for the next week, bringing my appointment forward to the day of my husbands birthday. And that day hope was born.
Part 4 - Hope
I went into that appointment assuming it would be like most others. Focused on my weight and deficiencies, and a heavy air of structured responsibilities on my shoulders. But it was the opposite - it was light, playful, and hopeful. My husband and I laughed. The doctor seemed un-phased by my weight. He allowed the past to the be the past and took me for where I am right now and what he could do to help. His respect for me invited a new level of respect for myself. This, coupled with the womb-love work I was doing with my coach, allowed for another layer of the body “blame and shame” to melt away. I was looking at myself, my body, my femininity with awe, gratitude and appreciation.
Upon completing a course of drugs to stimulate ovulation I returned to the ultrasound machine, this time with my husband by my side. The space that previously seemed so dark, empty and unwelcoming, was now a space simply waiting to be filled. A home waiting to be inhabited. We were searching for a healthy follicle, grown and matured enough to release an egg. Nothing on my left side. I glanced to my husband determined not to let the disappointment wash over me. I cracked a joke, and a seemingly good one as both my husband and the doctor started giggling. This sent a Mexican wave of laughter between us, escalating to the point my ultrasound picture was jumping and wobbling with my fits of giggles. Finally settling on my right side the picture became blue “and there it is, you’ve got yourself a follicle there”, the doctor said it so nonchalantly I almost missed it. We got what we came for. We got physical progress.
The next step was to wait. But this time waiting felt so different. It felt empowering and full of hope. A period or a positive pregnancy test by April 12. Today. As the day drew closer and still no sign of bleeding I must be honest, I felt that flame of hope flicker and falter. But I was determined not to conclude the worst before it could be told. I even wrote an ending to this post with the words we wanted to hear. But it would seem this story is not over yet. The disappointment is suffocating but I’ve had neither expected result. My body hasn’t functioned the way we’d hoped. It is a massive curve-ball and I cannot tell you what is next. We just continue on.
What I can say is that I’m now in a conversation with my body not an argument, and I am letting her lead the way for the first time. I am not there yet but I can happily say I have gone from years of venomous hatred toward my belly, to living in love, awe and respect of her and what she, one day, will do.
And so we continue on...