I Learned to Love Myself by Loving Them: What I Have Learned from Being a Mother

Of all the stories I have ever told, all the advice I have ever given, and all the words I have ever spoken, this one will be the hardest. It will reveal me not as a doctor but as an individual. As a mother who always feels guilty, a daughter who always feels remorseful, a wife who always feels inadequate, a friend who always feels subpar, and as woman who always feels unsure. It will reveal me: my fears, my insecurities, and my limitations. Despite knowing most answers to any pregnancy, fertility, or gynecologic question, I certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to life, motherhood, and pretty much everything else in between. I struggle, just like we all do to fit everything into my day, to be present in the moment, and to do the very best I can. One of my biggest struggles has been accepting myself, specifically, my physical appearance. For years, I have stared at myself in the mirror, hating the girl that looked back at me—everything looked wrong. From my head (hair too frizzy) to my toes (why do I have those bunions at age 20!), I could find something wrong.

Admittedly I have always been your typical type-A, OCD individual. Always trying to score higher on the test, run faster on the track, and push harder in my life. I always strived for perfection, be it on an exam or in my appearance, so I was, in many ways, your typical setup for an eating disorder. I never felt smart enough, thin enough, or good enough. I wanted (and unfortunately still do) to control nearly every minute of my life, both the big and the little things. Starting in my sophomore year of college, I began my battle with anorexia and restrictive eating. I limited what I ate and whom I ate with. I also amped up my exercise and ran a minimum of six miles per day, no matter what. I also cut off connection with several of my friends and alienated myself from family members. I didn’t want anyone to see me eat, ask me about food or comment about my size.  Ultimately, with help, time, and endless support, I gained back the weight and learned to deal with the many of the issues fueling my disease…sort of. I could eat regular meals, exercise an “acceptable” amount, and re-enter the world. However, in retrospect, my true healing did not begin until I had children and could see the power and potential that our bodies held. Loving another individual so unconditionally and knowing how integral I was in the creation of their life allowed me to respect and appreciate mine so much more.

I am not going to lie. I found pregnancy and the post-partum period very difficult. Watching my body change, although for a better cause, was not easy. Some days were harder to accept than others, particularly after the babies were born. I can remember many a day standing in my closest thinking, Is there anything here that can hide my stomach and tush? I yearned to just look “normal” again, to be my old self. But the more I thought about this, the more those dark days came rushing back. They were anything but normal! It was a life where I beat myself up for every cookie and piece of cake I ate. It was a life where I stared at the scale and hated the number, no matter how low it was. It was a life that I couldn’t go out for dinner with my husband if salad wasn’t on the menu. And it was a life before I had my two beautiful daughters.

Why, no matter how thin I was, would I want to go back to that life?

While I still look in the mirror and think my tush could be smaller, my thighs thinner, and my stomach flatter, I have stopped hating my body. I have stopped criticizing myself for every carb I ingest or for every piece of candy I chew. I realize now how unhealthy this practice is and how negatively it affects me and my daughters. When I heard my older daughter ask, “Are you going running so you won’t be fat?” I nearly died. I know she will grow up in a world where body image is paramount and girls are still judged more on their appearances than their brains, but I want to do everything I can to teach her to be strong, to be proud, and to be confident. I can start by respecting myself, seeing the power in my actions, and loving myself for all that I have accomplished.

I am choosing to share my story because I want to encourage honesty, openness, and realness. Our site is based on two real women, with real lives and real problems, offering real advice. The first step in this process is the sharing of our realities, both the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, and the losses and the gains. So here is who I really am. I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a doctor, and a girl who often feels insecure, unsure, and afraid. But I am also a girl who, with the help of others, has come to respect herself, appreciate herself, and love herself. I want to share my voice with you and offer a real perspective on medicine, motherhood, and most importantly, how we feel about ourselves.