Infertility and Body Shame

Love-Letter to Body_2Three months before my wedding date, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, placed in drug-induced menopause and told I would never bear children. I was 21. My soon-to-be-husband and I were devastated at this news. We hoped for a few years that my condition would improve, but after 5 surgeries in as many years and 3 rounds of drug-induced menopause, my body entered natural menopause when I was 26.

That’s when I began to hate my body. I felt that my body was a traitor, a betrayer, that it had unfairly taken my God-given right to bear children away from me. So I began to punish it – subconsciously, but punish it the same. I became the epitome of good health by exercising regularly and eating healthily. I was on a mission to prove to my doctors – and my body – that I could be ‘normal’ and ‘healthy.’ Unfortunately, my Inner Mean Girl is a perfectionist and my “health kick” soon turned into an eating disorder; my exercise routine became a minimum two-hour-a-day obsession and my list of ‘bad foods’ became so restrictive that I was barely eating enough to keep a bird alive.

Fast forward 9 years.

When I was 35, my father was diagnosed with cancer. He quickly deteriorated and I made the decision to spend the summer helping my mother take care of him. Something happened that summer that forever changed my life. After being in menopause for 9 years, I got my period. My doctors told me it was impossible, a fluke. You can’t cure yourself of menopause, they told me. 28 days later, it happened again.

That summer my mindset began to shift. As I watched my father die, my own body came back to life. And I was grateful. Having been raised to think my menstrual cycle was “The Curse,” I never dreamed I would be so happy to have it back. I began to see my menstrual cycle for the gift it is – my body’s ability to renew itself each month, my ability to create and give birth to life.

After my father died, my husband and I decided to try to have a child. After 3 rounds of in vitro fertilization, I realized that while my menstrual cycles might have come back on line, my endometriosis was still preventing pregnancy from happening. Feeling betrayed by my body once again, I gave up, gave in, and let my eating disorder take over – punishing myself and my body for my inability to bear a child once again.

Two years later, my husband and I finalized our divorce. No longer worried about not being able to bear him a child, I allowed myself to let go of the dream of having children. I stopped punishing my body. I stopped exercising obsessively and started eating foods I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in over a decade. I allowed myself and my body time to grieve – the loss of my father, my marriage, my fertility – I allowed myself time to heal.

One day I took a long, hard look in the mirror and I realized I needed to heal my relationship with food, my body, and myself. So I took a vow and I wrote a love letter to my body, letting it know all the things I was grateful for – cellulite, muffin top, wrinkles, scars, adult-onset acne and all. I made myself read that vow and that love letter to myself every day for a month. You know what happened? It started to sink in. I began to actually be grateful for things I once loathed. I began to see myself as beautiful, my body as a work of art, a sacred temple of Divine crafting.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your body, I invite you to listen to a free call I did on 7 Sacred Steps to Body Love. You can sign up for the replay here. You’ll get a copy of my vow and love letter along with the call. Then write your own vow, your own love letter. I can’t promise you that you will heal your relationship with yourself overnight, but I can promise you that if you do this daily practice for your body for at least 30 days, you will begin to see yourself in a different light. You will heal your relationship with your body and with yourself. You too will learn to love your body and the woman you see in the mirror.

 

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