An Orri Alumni client shares her honest experience of navigating her eating disorder recovery alongside being a mother.

Being a mother in general is all kinds of terrifying, amazing, filled with so much love and self doubt. Would I be good enough, would I be strong enough, would I be able to make them happy?

Becoming a mum changed so much for me. I’d spent years being ambivalent about recovery, and although I was definitely on the recovery path when I first got pregnant, these two little beings have helped me stay there.

“Becoming a mum changed so much for me. I’d spend years being ambivalent about recovery… these two little beings have helped me stay there.”

In our home, no food is bad. I try very hard not to use food as punishment or reward, so when after several weeks of being taught about the ‘Hungry Caterpillar’ at school (and running out of fridge space for ‘interesting’ pictures of caterpillars to be proudly displayed), my daughter started talking about bad food on the way home from school. After gentle probing about this and re-establishing that no food is bad, that all food is fuel, I was ready to storm up the school and rant. I felt so angry. I find it so hard negotiating society’s teachings and my own history, when all I want to do is protect my kids.

I struggle with being over cautious, especially with my little girl. It’s so difficult to work out what is normal childhood stuff versus eating disordered behaviour. My eldest went through a phase of lining everything up on her plate, a habit to this day I’ve struggled to get rid of but thought I’d hidden it enough. I had to reach out to someone to talk about it to reassure me before I descended into self hatred and blaming myself for things that aren’t even an issue. She’s still quite limited in her intake. I’m trying not to make a big deal about it – she eats enough, but I do worry and I am so scared of passing on my own issues. I still have thoughts, and I still have limited behaviours, one day I hope I can get rid of them completely, the thoughts are easier to ignore when I focus on what I want and what I would lose.

Kids have no filter, they say what they think. Last week my daughter lifted my top and lovingly pointed to my stomach and said it was squishy. My eating disordered brain that lurks inside had already set out the next week’s restriction. But the mum in me looked at her and saw how happy she was, and how much she loves me for me, how much she really doesn’t care that my belly is squishy – of course it is, I’ve had two kids! Restricting would ruin that, would sever the relationship I have with them because with an eating disorder, life is consumed. Nothing is more important. There is no headspace for hide and seek, or picnics in the park. My youngest lifts up my top when he’s tired and snuggles into my squishy stomach and goes to sleep, and that is priceless.

“… with an eating disorder, life is consumed. Nothing is more important. There is no headspace for hide and seek, or picnics in the park.”

They have an innocence and freedom about them that I really wish we held on to for much longer. They are so proud of their own accomplishments, want to show me everything they can do. They inspire me to let go a little. I used to be so self conscious and wouldn’t even dance alone… but now we whack up the volume and dance around the living room together, (hoping the neighbours don’t see)!

Being a mum is hard. Sometimes, I just want to sit on the sofa with a coffee and stare at the wall I’m that tired, or go to the toilet without being accompanied, take the washing out of the machine without being ‘helped’. Sometimes it’s hard to summon up the energy to be enthusiastic about a random rock they’ve found, or the 39th time they want to show me the same stuff. But being a mum has taught me so much about myself. How strong and how resilient I actually am. How it is so important to ask for help – that making mistakes is part and parcel of life… and that’s okay. I am not perfect.

Being a mum myself has strengthened the very weak relationship I had with my own mum. We’ve gone from barely speaking to her being one of the biggest sources of support I have when it comes to motherhood.

I had parents evening last week, and the teacher was telling me all about her academic work, and when she asked if I had any questions. I asked is she happy, is she kind? They said she’s always smiling and laughing and is very thoughtful. I am so proud of them, that’s my only goal for both of them, happy and kind. If that’s what they can accomplish in life then I’ll be the proudest mum there is. 

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