When I was little, I fit the stereotypical idea of what a little girl is pretty perfectly.
I loved beautiful things that sparkled.
I didn’t enjoy getting dirty.
I loved to play dress up and preferred wearing skirts and dresses.
I took ballet lessons, loved all sorts of furry animals, was very tender-hearted, and I had an affinity for collecting baby dolls and playing house.
Every year for Christmas I requested some type of baby doll. My sister always asked for dolls that grew hair, or did something interesting. But not me. I just wanted pretty baby dolls that I could dress up and push around in a stroller. I even started saving up my money to purchase designer collector dolls that usually cost over $100. I remember my excitement as my Mom drove me to the special boutique after I had saved enough money to buy a new doll. Even as I got a little older, perhaps too old to really play with dolls, I still loved collecting these special baby dolls. Looking back, I think I did actually just love baby dolls, but I also believe that from a very early age what I really wanted in life was to be a mom. And playing house and having baby dolls took me to a magical world where I really was one.
Years later, as I was fighting a devastating eating disorder, I remember my therapist saying to me on our first or second visit, “Why do you want to get better, Whitney?” And with tears running down my cheeks, all I remember telling him was, “I’m afraid if I don’t get better I won’t ever be able to have children.”
Months and years before our visit, I didn’t care what my eating disorder did to me. It coldly consumed my every waking thought and even crept into my deepest dreams at night to the point where I didn’t have time to nurture anything else in my life. I never even thought about the little girl who had once loved to play with baby dolls and dreamed of being a mom. But, by the time I was sitting in this therapist’s office, I was ready to change. I had come to the realization that if anorexia and bulimia didn’t kill me, they were going to make me miserable for the rest of my life. Somehow, this deep rooted dream of becoming a mother someday gave me the motivation and courage to fight my distorted way of life and get better when nothing else did. On my last visit with my therapist before I moved back home after a year away in college, he told me that he had never seen someone progress so quickly over our time together.
The next few years I continued to fight with disordered eating and the quest to make peace with my body and food. When I married my sweetheart Jeff, I was doing pretty well but still had some issues with these things. Motherhood was now even more on my mind and I was still so afraid that those years of abusing my body would make it difficult, if not impossible, to get pregnant. Imagine my surprise when after a year and a half of marriage we were expecting our first little girl. I was completely shocked that it happened so quickly and without some type of intervention. Somehow my body was capable of carrying and nurturing this amazing new life after all I had done to it. To me, she was a miracle. The changes my body endured over those nine months didn’t really bother me. I wasn’t worried about how much weight I had gained and whether I would be able to lose it all. I was just grateful to actually BE pregnant, and planning for this new baby now consumed my thoughts and dreams that were once filled with my eating disorder.
This may sound cliché, but the day Monroe Olivia was born changed something in me. My husband Jeff and I prepared for months to learn the tools we would need to have a natural birth. And after eight hours and much encouragement, we reached our goal. Again, my body had done something I didn’t think it could. It had given this new perfect little being a place to grow and flourish and delivered her safely to me all on its own.
Motherhood is my greatest calling, and I feel lucky to be very fulfilled by being a mother and a wife. Its often challenging and difficult work, but I love it. I knew from the time I was pregnant that there was no more room in my life for restricting food and being obsessed with my body size if I was going to raise a little girl who loved her body and had a healthy relationship with food. How could I teach her these things if I was still consumed with my own insecurities? I needed to be the one to show her the way, not just express my wishes in words and hoped she followed. This is not to say that if a child develops an eating disorder it’s all because of the example of the mother. But we do live in a world where many mothers struggle to have a healthy body image and a wholesome relationship with food, and because of this they can’t model these things to their children. I know this relationship is so important, and my husband and I have talked often about what we can do to try and ensure our children, especially our daughters, can develop a healthy body image in a world that makes it very difficult.
Three years after the birth of my first daughter, I am “patiently” awaiting our next little one to be born in October. My body and I have struggled over the last couple years since Monroe was born with illness from an undiagnosed sick gallbladder–which was finally removed a year ago. It’s a battle I am tired of fighting, but again I have found myself humbled by my body’s ability to heal and again nurture a tiny human being.
As mothers, we have so much pressure placed on us to be and do so many different things. But I feel like the greatest gift I can give my children is to be the best version of myself possible. For me that means a mother who loves herself inside and out. I am far from perfect, and I am bound to make many mistakes. But I hope one day, like my wise mother often says, my children can look at my life and know I raised them the best I possibly could.
Happy Mother’s Day this month to all the amazing women out there!
Be kind to yourselves, you are doing the most important work there is.
Whitney graduated from the University of Utah in
Health and Promotion.
Learn more about Whitney HERE.