Eating Disorders

Carried by Hope: Eating Disorders and Fertility


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“If this doesn’t work, you need to blame your eating disorder.”  I know my eating disorder is to blame for so much that has gone wrong in my life.  I understand what anorexia has done to my marriage, my relationships, my self-esteem and my body, but I wasn’t ready to hear those words from my therapist.

At first, recovery was a minute-by-minute struggle. Slowly, it got easier.  But never easy. I have fought this illness through sheer desire and determination to get better.  To be a better wife, a better teacher, a better auntie, daughter, sister. I chipped away at my ED piece by tiny piece.  At times, this strategy worked.  At other times, I stalled out and remained stuck in one place.

My physical body has been slowly rebuilding itself from the destruction of malnutrition and over exercise. I was getting healthier; but I was not yet getting healthy.

My mental standing has improved by leaps and bounds since I’ve been working on my recovery.  I still fight ED thoughts everyday, but I have learned strategies to combat them and those of my anxious mind as well.  I can laugh and relax again.  But I want more.  I want to be a mom and I want to give my husband the gift of being a dad.

Throughout my illness, I was on birth control pills so I still got a “period” every month. After two years of working on recovery, my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby. I stopped taking the pill and expected to get pregnant right away.  I never imagined we were about to start another long fight. Our marriage was tested from the very beginning when anorexia took over our lives in the first years of marriage.  Nothing had come easy for us.


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For two years, I was off birth control without getting a period.  It became my new obsession.  In my mind, gaining weight was no longer the main marker of getting healthier.  Now everything hinged on regaining my cycle.  The desire to have a baby became my new focus.  My doctor finally referred me to a fertility specialist this past winter.

The specialist didn’t seem so concerned about my devotion to exercise and said we could go forward with treatments at my current weight.  If this doctor, whose job it is to make babies, thought I was fine, then I must be.  So I continued to keep up my exercise and ignored my primary care’s directions to cut back in order to gain more weight.

This past March, after having some tests done to make sure there was nothing physically preventing us from having a baby, I started my first IVF cycle.  After many hormone shots, blood tests and ultrasounds, the day finally came to retrieve my eggs and form embryos.  We were filled with such a sense of hope a few days later when we had our tiny embryo transferred into my uterus. I ultimately did conceive, but had a very early miscarriage.

The experience of fertility treatments is a roller coaster of emotions. We felt such joy and hope and then it all crashed down around us.  This was followed a couple of months later by a new cycle in which we hoped to transfer an embryo that was frozen from the first cycle.  It ended in frustration when it was cancelled due to a polyp in my uterus that needed to be surgically removed.

Finally, I sit here today, five days after my second transfer. I am once again filled with hope, but I am so scared of this feeling. I know how it felt the first time and I do not want to feel like a failure again. I want to be a mother. I want my husband to be a father.  I am terrified that this could never happen for us. I don’t want to imagine the worst, but it is impossible to avoid the thought.

I will find out in nine days if our little embryo has developed and will turn into a baby for us to love. Even if I am pregnant, there will be thirty-six more weeks of worry that I can carry a baby to term and give birth to a healthy little person.

I know that I will take care of myself if I am pregnant.  I will not do anything to risk the health of my baby. But the big question is if my body is up to the challenge.

My therapist has been recommending that I take a break from all exercise. She thinks that my body (and my mind) will heal greatly if I take this giant step forward. In the past month, I have decreased my exercise time significantly. It took my therapist and my doctor getting very firm with me to do so. Since my transfer five days ago, I have only walked; I have stayed away from the gym, from running, from lifting weights.

I am taking care of myself and this tiny embryo.

I do not want to think about the chance that this transfer will fail. But at the same time, I feel like the dream of pregnancy and motherhood is nothing but a fantasy that will never come true. If this cycle does not succeed we will continue to fight. We will continue to go forward with treatments.

I must continue to limit my exercise and to move forward rather than slip backwards.

I worry that I will find comfort in my eating disorder and revert back to my unhealthy behaviors in order to deal with the pain. But I am ready to kick anorexia to the curb for good. If I am not pregnant, then I must make choices that will help me achieve my goals. I can blame my ED for this lack of success, but I will not blame myself.

Amy is a full time mom and former teacher living in Massachusetts. She enjoys reading, running and playing with her kids. She strives to use her story of recovery to help others suffering with eating disorders.

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  • My thoughts and prayers are with you! I can only imagine what you must be going through. Keep the faith!! Your therapist is right- stay away from the gym. Meditate for anxiety relief and if you don’t know how to find a class in person or online to help with meditation. I was an exercise addict and suffered with anorexia for 10 years. I went into treatment and completely stopped exercising for 3 months and then barely at all again after I was discharged. I was so extremely fortunate to be blessed with my son who is now one and a half. YOU CAN DO THIS! Do NOT give up the fight! Kick ED past the curb! Kick him over the cliff and into an endless ditch! Lots of love and good thoughts to you!

  • I saw your post….I am mother who went through 11 rounds of ivf and battled bulimia for many many years. NEVER EVER EveR GIVE. UP!!! I admire your courage….stay strong and and know you are not alone….

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