Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stared in the full-length mirror. It was one week following the birth of my first child and I did not recognize the body staring back at me. What happened? It was like my beautiful baby bump was now a deflated balloon of excess skin. I did my best to talk myself off the critical voice cliff,
- “Look at what your body has been through.”
- “You gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy.”
- “It is going to take time for your body to get back to normal.”
“What a load of crap,” I thought to myself as I continued to stare at the body before me. How do those women get those ‘pre-baby bodies’ back so fast? How do they get back into their ‘skinny jeans’? Oh that’s right, they are celebrities with nannies, chefs and trainers and let’s not forget they are also airbrushed.
Of course, that logic did not occur to me in that moment. I was a new mom; logic did not exist. So I did the next best thing – I gave myself a Therapy Timeout and texted my therapist:
SOS. New mom in need of couch time.
I realize not everyone has her therapist on speed dial (although in my opinion, we all should), but I do. Therapy saved my life. I am in recovery from an eating disorder, a battle I fought for nearly 15 years. While you may flinch at the thought of struggling with an eating disorder, I look at it as the greatest gift God gave me. The lessons I have learned in the process of recovery are blessings I hold very sacred.
Despite having zero logic or brainpower in that post-bath meltdown, I knew I was taking out my exhaustion and anxiety as a new mom on my body. I needed extra support from my therapist during that difficult life transition. My poor body was always my go-to focal point, something I could control when life seemed unmanageable. I couldn’t change the sleepless nights, therefore, why not change my body. Plus, the media, baby websites and baby apps were all focused on losing the baby weight so that is what I should focus on, right? Not to mention my other ‘new mom’ friends were all on Weight Watchers, Paleo, Atkins or the latest juicing cleanse.
There was no way in hell I was going back to my old patterns of restriction and abusing my body with crazy crash diets for the sake of skinny jeans. I was determined to establish a new pattern because I wanted my baby boy to grow up seeing his mother as a confident and balanced individual. Not confident because I am a certain size, confident because I know who I am and what I stand for. Balanced in body and mind, knowing that sometimes balanced means messy and out of order.
Of course, that is easier said than done. As moms we are expected to take care of the kids, clean the house, cook dinner, go to work and oh yeah, look like a Real Housewife of Orange County. We literally kill ourselves to look perfect. Our bodies become the battleground for the anxiety spiraling from our daily lives. We place our needs on hold to take care of our family. However, my recovery has taught me the opposite. I have learned the best way for me to take care of my family is to first take care of ME. Yes, a very foreign concept in our ‘Moms Do It All’ culture.
Today, my son, Manning, is a busy two-year old who loves trucks, golf and his bulldog, Lilly. I am a proud mother who pays no attention to the size of her jeans, but rather the peace in her heart. Recovery has given me the gift of awareness, something that is so lost in our hectic lives. We are all doing the best we can and often make unhealthy habits to cope with the anxiety: busying ourselves all day, over exercise, under exercise, too much ‘Mommy Juice’, food, diet and the list goes on. We have so much pressure to multi-task our jobs, babies, spouses, pets, house and a thousand other to-dos. There isn’t time for us.
Well I have a secret: there is time for us. We have to make it! Taking care of you is pivotal in keeping your body and mind balanced. When you can heal the anxiety and turmoil within, everything else will fall into place. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this piece from a pristine office with polished silver in my kitchen. As my fingers click away, I am surrounded by Southern Smash boxes, a disaster of an office, a farting bulldog at my feet and a house littered with tractors, dirty socks and dishes. And that is OKAY! I have learned to reprogram my once perfectionist brain to do what I can and accept that sometimes ‘good’ is good enough and that there will always be laundry to do and dishes to clean.
So next time you beat yourself up for the house being messy or gaining back those five pounds (side note: consider throwing your scale away! We will save that for another blog), stop and think about what is really going on in your life. Do you need to ask for more help? Do you need a girl’s night? Do you need some quiet time for yourself? Make the time for you – no one else can. Give yourself the gift of a timeout. I guarantee you will come back saner, happier and your family will thank you for it.
McCall Dempsey, founder of Southern Smash, is an eating disorder survivor and passionate recovery advocate. After a 15-year battle, McCall sought treatment at the Carolina House in December 2010. Since then she has made eating disorder awareness and prevention her life’s work and passion. McCall travels the country, sharing her story of hope and healing with audiences everywhere. From high school auditoriums to treatment centers to corporate meetings, her message of authenticity and embracing your inner-uniqueness transcends all ages.McCall also writes the popular blog, Loving Imperfection. Her writing has been featured in various national print and online publications, including Women’s Health Online. She has also appeared on HuffPostLive.com multiple times. McCall resides in Baton Rouge with her husband, Jordan, and is the proud mother to her precious son, Manning (2).