Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mother's Day Reflection

Today is a day that I have been waiting to come for a long time. Before you get too excited - no, I'm not pregnant. But today is the day that I am delcaring victory over Satan and anorexia - once and for all.

Most people know that I struggled with a pretty serious case of anorexia for most of college. In April 2005, I admitted to my parents that I had a problem, and they supported me through an intense 1.5 year recovery/weight gain process. My parents' unconditional love was the push I needed to get back on the right track.

By June, I had finally gotten enough of a grasp on my eating and my parents agreed I was ready to move to Texas to begin my seminary degree - a huge leap of faith on their part.

For most of my life, I don't think people would have described me as a nurturer. I never really thought I had any of the "mommy" genes. In fact, when I moved to Texas, I was pretty convinced that God's plan for me did not include marriage or children. Coupled with the fact that I knew because of my eating disorder, getting pregnant would be difficult for me and the lack of desire in my heart to be a mom, it seemed logical that God would just want me to be focused on serving Him - not a husband or children.

Even as I shared this with people who asked, though, I still had a story that I couldn't quite shake from my mind...

The summer before 8th grade, I was putting together some family pictures, and I found some pictures of my mom from her young 20's. I'm not afraid to say it - my mom was hot. Terry McNatt did well for himself. Like me, my mom competed in pageants. She only competed at the state level (Miss Tennessee) one year because my dad proposed before she could compete again.

I showed her the picture, complimented her stunning beauty and asked her, "Do you ever wonder what could have happened if you had gone back to compete again?"

She shrugged. "Maybe for a little while...but as soon as we had you girls, I knew that maybe God had created me just for the purpose of being your mom. Someday, I might be a legacy because of you."

I don't think she realized how much those words impacted me. I realized in that moment that God would have to give me a personality transplant in order for me to be a good mother. I wanted the spotlight. I needed the approval of the world. In my mind, it would be failure to say that my life's purpose was for someone else to get the glory.

But "God's plan" (which was really more my plan all along) was completely ruined shortly after I moved to Texas and I met my husband.

James has all the characteristics you could ever want in a father. He's a strong leader, and he seeks the Lord in all areas of his life. He is a natural protector and provider. He leads with such humility that I knew from our first conversation that I wanted to be on his team for the rest of my life. I wanted this man calling the shots for me. And wait a second...I wanted to raise a family with him?

I realized then that I had a long way to go. Case and point? My mother. The definition of a servant, my mom always went above and beyond for me and my sister. We had every need met and most of our wants. Whether sitting at the table with us to make sure our homework was done or driving us to whatever activity of that season, she was always there. She worked as a teacher and came home to work again - dinner, laundry, cleaning, etc. She did every bit of it without complaining - so much that until I began managing my own house, I didn't recognize how hard she worked.

Not to mention, James and I had the additional pressure of my eating disorder looming over us. Sure, I was much better than I had been...but I still had foods that were "off limits." I was convinced if I ever ate them, I would instantly gain 50 lbs.

I remember one day in particular when I came home from teaching at the gym. James had gotten off work early, and he had made chicken tacos. I wasn't there to watch him make the chicken to make sure he hadn't cooked it in butter or anything, so even though I had just finished a tough workout, I insisted I wasn't very hungry. I found a can of tomato soup in the pantry and began heating it in the microwave.

James looked at me with sad eyes. He didn't raise his voice. He didn't get angry. He just said quietly, "You know, I can't marry you until you get this under control."

That was the beginning of Phase 2 of my recovery. There was an urgency there that didn't exist with my parents. My parents HAD to love me...but James didn't. As our relaitonship deepened, I knew I had to begin making some compromises and releasing some control to James over what I ate. It sounds silly, but I wasn't making the best decisions on my own, and I needed his help.

He didn't go to the opposite extreme - insisting that I eat cheeseburgers and greasy pizza every night. But we discovered that I liked pork tenderloin. He began making healthier choices - switching to whole wheat pasta, leaner cuts of meat, etc. I no longer feared eating what James cooked because I knew that he was on my team. He wanted me to be healthy, and he wanted me to be happy.

Through James' prayer and support, we mastered my compulsive nature. Most addictive behaviors consist of thoughts and compulsions. For example, I would have thoughts of how fat I was, and then my compulsive action would be to skip my next few meals. I still battled the thoughts and avoided mirrors to the best of my ability, but I knew that even if I had a bad day, I would never get back to the point of food restriction.

When James proposed, I thought that my relationship with food would never be healthier. I just came to the conclusion that this would always be the area where Satan would tempt me, but I was confident that through God's strength and my husband by my side, I would never walk that dangerous road again.

But immediately after thr ring went on my finger, the question changed from, "When do you think ya'll will get married?" to "When do you want to start having kids?"

Each time I was asked that question, guilt and shame would wash over me. Sure, maybe the person didn't know my history. Or maybe they didn't know that having an eating disorder like mine does plenty of irreversible damage to your reproductive system. But I always felt that fear lingering inside of me.

What if I can't give this amazing man the children that he deserves?

Over the past year, we've seen several of our couple friends become parents. It sparked conversations between us about the names of our children, adoption, and how our parents would handle being grandparents from a distance. We decided on at least one name for each sex.

Our little boy will be Noah, and our little girl is Storie.

It's become easy to pray for these little ones by name. For someone who didn't have a desire to be a mom until three years ago, I must be making up for lost time because I am already crazy in love with my kids...that aren't even on their way yet!

That's why today, on Mother's Day, I want to thank my precious Noah and Storie. Because though they aren't physically with us on this earth yet, they've done something that only God could orchestrate.

They've gotten their mother through her third and final phrase of her recovery from anorexia.

I never thought I would be able to go a day without making sure that my daily calorie intake was equivalent or less than my daily calories burned. I never thought I would be able to look in a mirror and see what everyone else sees when they look at me. I never thought I would ever experience a day of complete freedom of eating when I felt hungry and stopping when I was satisfied.

But over the past three or four months, I started a pattern. If I ever had an anorexic thought, I began praying for Noah and Storie. Seeing their sweet faces in my imagination just made me smile and put my mind where it needs to be - off of myself and on the responsibility of taking care of my family.

So this year, while I am not able to celebrate Mother's Day as a mom, I want to celebrate my precious Noah and Storie, who have helped their mother more than they'll ever know. I can't believe that I ever allowed myself to be so inward focused that I could ever think that raising a child was a wasteful legacy. I am eager to see how God uses the lives of Noah and Storie to do His work.

I don't know how I will be a mom - whether through natural birth or adoption - but for my children, I pray the prayer of Hannah.
"I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I have prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord."
(1 Samuel 1:26b-28)


gailbhyatt said...

What an incredible journey you've been on. I love your teachable spirit and your grateful heart. Your building your own legacy and it's beautiful. Thanks for steering me here. God bless. Gail

Erin and Bethany said...

I cried. And learned. And was inspired.

I too want to treat my body as a temple not only as an act of worship and obedience for my Lord but as a sacrifice and blessing for my sweet future babies.

I love you and miss you so much Michelle!


sarah jo (@pedalprincess) said...

Michelle, thx for your honesty about recovery. one question i have is: how/when did you introduce exercise back into your daily routine without it impeding your recovery?

Michelle Myers said...

Sarah Jo, it took a while. For a few months, I really only lifted weights. However, when I was cleared to exercise, I was still so confused about what was healthy and what was excessive. I FINALLY discovered that working out is supposed to be FUN! I found a workout that I enjoyed, and I stuck with it. Rather than doing what I thought I "should" do, I just stuck with a workout I enjoyed. So my advice to you is - explore different workout options until you find something you LOVE...something you would do even if it meant you weren't burning calories. I wrote about this in my book, so it goes into greater detail. I'd love to help you find your soulmate workout if you're interested. :)