I always wanted to be a mom. When I was little I played with dolls and thought I would get married young, have a bunch of kids and spend my days carting them to all their activities just like my mom did!
Welllllll, I'll be 38 in a couple weeks, married for thirteen years and the only children I have are my two gigantic dogs.
I did get married young by the standards of today. I was 24 and we had a lot of life to live together! We moved to NYC and I assumed we would try to have kids within a couple of years. Obviously this did not happen! Here's why.....
First and foremost I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was just out of high school. I had severe cramps and pain, so bad that I had to take strong pain meds to fight it. I don't need to get into all the gory stuff about it because this blog is not about endo, but suffice to say, I had my first surgery for endo at 19 years old. I had to go into forced menopause and put on birth-control to curb the endo. I was told it would be very hard for me to get pregnant because of the endometriosis and I also had a uterus that was tilted. Going into marriage my husband new this, but we were young and invincible and who really thinks they truly can't have kids? I was also Christian so I thought, if God wants me to have a kid I will have one!
When I moved to NYC after we were married a lot of things went wrong. Marriage was WAY harder then expected. We had a rough go at it. I was alone in a huge city, no family, no friends, no church and a marriage that was hanging on a spider thread. I was young and had the coping skills of a two year old. (not THAT bad but you get the idea haha). Well, the way I chose to cope with it all was through control. Control of my body. Diet and exercise. Long story short, this lead to seven years of anorexia, extreme and compulsive exercise and...........you guessed it, no periods.
You can't get pregnant if you don't have a cycle. You can't have a cycle if your body is so malnutritioned it is in survival mode so it shuts down the ability to have children because the body wouldn't be able to handle it. You can't have children when there is a lack of intimacy because of the body dysmorphia and body hatred that comes along with anorexia. You can't have children when it is impossible to connect with someone else emotionally because after all the counting and measuring and exercising you have nothing left to give another person. You can’t have children when you are stuck in the obsession of your own body, control and thinness. Hardest of all, you can't have children when your marriage is in such a bad place that having children would be a disservice to the child
Seven years I lived in the hell of anorexia and all the consequences I just talked about. It’s easy to talk about how the body suffers from food restricting, over-exercise and stress but we rarely discuss how it effects fertility from all the different angles.
People would ask when I was going to have kids. I would just think to myself, I don’t even have a period and why the heck would I want to get FAT. Because my life was consumed with my eating disorder and idolizing being fit and perfect there was no room for healing let alone getting healthy enough to have a baby. Endo + Anorexia = a total fertility mess.
Fast forward seven years and my eating disorder was finally bad enough that it was get treatment or roll the dice with a heart attack and die. By the grace of God and God alone I chose treatment. (I have to share the story of why it was God alone! It’s awesome!!) At this point I was 30 years old and about to embark on another long journey, but this was one of recovery.
Recovery was HELL. I often refer to it as living in satan’s butt-crack. (although it is 100% worth it!) I gained 100 pounds, was basically on bed rest for over a year and to say my body had a hard time healing would be an understatement. I don’t think there was one part of my body that wasn’t effected by trying to eat again and recover. Wanting to have a baby during the past six years was the FARTHEST thing from my mind.
It took seven months into recovery for me to get somewhat of a period back. Then it was off and on and wonky for about a year. I maaaaybe could have gotten pregnant then, but real talk...would you want to get pregnant when your body is completely out of wack, heavier then ever, swollen and in pain? Probably not! Oh, and lets go back to the endo. When you don’t have a cycle you don’t have endo issues. So when my cycle came back so did my endo. Within a few months of having regular cycles again the pain became unbearable and I was back to doctors, birth control and within another two years I had a second surgery for it.
Lets talk about this from an emotional point of view.
For a long time I didn’t really care if I had children or not. I was lost in my eating disorder. Then when I began to come out of my eating disorder the consequences were severe and painful. I was getting older and wanted kids. My marriage was healing thanks to therapy and a God that can work in us if we are willing, but my body was in no condition to conceive let alone carry a child. My mind wasn't fully there either. My doctors all told me to not even try because they weren’t sure if my body was able to nourish another being and mentally they weren’t confident I could handle it. I was also at that prime age where EVERY PERSON I KNEW WAS HAVING BABIES....even my sister who was seven years younger then me, and if you are an older sister you understand this pressure.
There was a day I will never forget. I was laying in bed, yet again trying to get the swelling in my legs and sides to go down so the pain would subside. I had just had terrible reflux because I ate my full meal plan, and I was wearing tights and baggy dresses because nothing fit. I then got THREE phone calls from three different people excitedly letting me know that they were pregnant. ALL IN THE SAME DAY! &*%*&$#*&$#&*$&#*@#!$&. I smiled the most genuine fake smile I could. Said all the right things. Then cried in bed.
Another issue was that while I recovered my body gained unevenly. For the first couple years I had a big belly because the weight went straight to protecting my organs there first as they healed. So....I looked freaking pregnant for a long time. Yep, you know EXACTLY where this is leading. People would congratulate me on my “pregnancy” because of course I looked pregnant and everyone knew me as a super thin crazy exercise fein so there would be no other reason I would be getting bigger in the mid-region other then that I HAD to be pregnant. NOPE. Wasn’t pregnant. Was recovering from my eating disorder. I stopped leaving the house during this time because I would have panic attacks out of fear that someone else would comment on my body or “pregnancy” that didn’t exist.
This was a VERY hard time in my life. Through God’s strength I was able to celebrate other people and their babies while struggling physically and mentally with my own recovery and fertility issues. To say this was hard was an understatement. It took many nights of prayer, asking God to give me peace where I am at. I even asked him to take away my desire to have kids because it just hurt too much. What’s amazing is that overtime God really healed my heart in this area and I became genuinely happy for other people and was able to accept my current situation. I mean it! When someone told me they were pregnant I was ecstatic for them! Sure I had a twinge of “I wish” thoughts, but I read this quote once and it was and is still so true... “Until it’s my turn, I will keep clapping for others. It’s really that simple.” I live this out. I also figure that when it is finally my turn, all the people I clapped for will in return spoil me with an amazing shower and all the gifts on my registry hahahahaha.
I will give this piece of advice. If you see a couple that has been married for thirteen years and they don’t have kids, they either don’t want them, have tried and miscarried or they can’t. If they don’t bring it up to you or you aren’t close enough with them to know which one of those it is....talk about something else. It’s not easy to be asked why we don’t have children when my answer is as painful as what I described above. It's even harder on my husband.
Fast forward to 2021.
After six years in treatment/recovery, I would say I’m 90% recovered from anorexia. A lot of my health issues have healed, my swelling has finally stopped and the overshoot weight is slowly but surely coming off. Mentally I feel like a different person. I’m more confident, my values are in solid things, I can deal with stress and conflict appropriately and life is really just going good! I no longer have major panic and anxiety attacks. My marriage is in a solid place. I also eat freely and exercise normally. A big thing I always thought was I NEVER want a child of mine to suffer from an eating disorder or have fear foods. If I want my child to be healthy and free, I have to be healthy and free. I can’t tell you how much it hurts my heart when I hear kids/teens diet talk. (another issue for another day!)
Since I am doing so much better my husband and I (both in our late 30s) decided we needed to talk seriously about having a family. We either do it now or be that couple that travel and are the awesome aunt and uncle.
We both decided we didn’t want to miss out on having a family of our own.
The problem was, do we try for our own or do we adopt?
I’m going to go ahead and keep it 100 with all of you as I always do. Don’t judge me too harshly.
My body has been through a LOT.
I do still have long term health consequences from being anorexic and it isn’t easy. I’m healthy but my body has a hard time using nutrients correctly and I have auto-immune and bone issues from the trauma of it all. I still have endometriosis. I had surgery last year because of the pain from it again and how do I say this.....my uterus isn’t the best environment for a pregnancy. My doctors have already talked to me about a hysterectomy.
To be honest, I always kind of kept an open mind that if I recover from anorexia maybe I would try and get pregnant. Do all the things. Try the treatment. Whatever it took.
Now that I’m here....I just don’t want to do it.
I worry that when I say that I seem selfish.
Hear me out though. I have spent the last FOURTEEN YEARS either anorexic or battling to recover from it. This has been really hard on my body in every single way. I’m just kind of done with my body. I don’t want to put it through more. I don’t want to do IVF or IUI or have timed intimacy that will cause me more anxiety and more negative thoughts about how my body doesn’t work right. I don't want to get off my medication and have two months to try before having to get back on it again from the pain of endo. I don’t want to have surgery just to clean out my endo and scar tissue just to have negative pregnancy results. I don’t think even mentally I could handle that.
You may think, “Well Sara, there is a chance that it COULD work though!!”
It’s true! It could! Except at 38 I’m considered geriatric when it comes to pregnancy (which can we get a new term for that?!?!?), and with all the other stuff I’ve shared it just is a journey we think is ok to pass on. Especially when we can do this beautiful thing called adoption!!
After a lot of talking my husband and I decided adoption was the road we wanted to pursue. It wasn’t an easy decision and I certainly will not be sharing our convos haha! Instead of money on fertility stuff we were going to put it towards adopting :) (Side-note - absolutely ZERO judgement to others that make the choice to pursue that path. It was just not right for us) It may not be a pregnancy of my own or our genetics, but God LOVES adoption so therefore we love it too and it is a wonderful way to grow our family :)
I was nervous about the process because to complete our home study we had to do some interviewing and honest to God these people probably know my underwear size at this point haha. (Thank you Joy! I stole that from you hahaha) This also means they will know about my anorexia diagnosis and everything that came along with it. I could have felt shame and insecurity (which I did a smidge) but I also felt empowered that I made it through something so horrific and was proud of my story!
I was asked some hard questions and had to have my treatment center and doctor sign off that I’m in a good place and will be a great and stable parent. It could have been humiliating to do that, but again, I’m PROUD of my road and where I am at! I worked hard and put the work in so that I would get to a place where I could be a great mom! God has been with me every step of the way and I fully believed that if he wants me to adopt a child he will make the home study go smoothly despite my anorexic past.
Guess what? He did EXACTLY that! We completed our home study without a hitch! It went very smoothly. Many people talk about how hard the homes study process is but I actually found joy in putting up fire drill signs in my home and opening up my hardest years for someone to dig around in if it meant that my husband and I could finally have a family!
So here we are! We have finished our home study and we are now waiting to be chosen by a birth mom or receive an emergency placement! I have PRAYED and PRAYED for this child. I have prayed for my healing and prayed for my marriage and God brought us to this wonderful place.
Seven years ago I never would have dreamed I would have come this far in my recovery. Yet here I am!!
You want to know something crazy?
The first blog I ever wrote here was called He’s In The Waiting.....
I shared about how God was with me as I waited for my body to heal, the coping skills to actually work, for the freedom He promised me. Not in my timing but His, He brought me to this place of healing. Yes it took hard work, eating, resting, therapy, dietitians, 900 pills a month when things were bad and a lot of tears, but God was there the whole time helping me one day at a time and giving me the strength to choose recovery every day and every moment. Now I’m here!! Now I’m in a new season of waiting that I never thought I would live to see!
I’m waiting for the child that God will bring into our family. I’m thankful and grateful for the birth mom that considers us. I’m confident that our time will come. I will continue to fix my eyes on God as all the questions and emotions come up because if anyone can testify that God is able to do amazing things in a life that chooses to live for Him it is me!
I want to encourage you to keep going in your recovery! It is a long process and it can be an ugly one. But freedom is possible! KEEP GOING!!!!
Also, pray for our little one and his or her birth parents as they make probably the hardest decision of their lives.
WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!!!
- Sara -