‘I know how you’re doing it,’ she whispered, then laughed and walked away. I felt my cheeks burn in embarrassment. How could she know? I was 15 years old and had been caught.’

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“She looked at me and shoved her finger down her throat in the middle of the hallway of my high school. ‘I know how you’re doing it.’ She whispered, then proceeded to laugh and walk away. I felt my cheeks burn in embarrassment. How could she know? I was 15 years old and had an Eating Disorder and was cutting myself multiple times a day. I had been caught by a fellow peer. When it started spreading, I pushed my Mother to let me drop out of school. When I told the Dean of Students, he promised me I would ‘be out on the streets, selling my body and doing drugs.’ He didn’t care to ask why I was dropping out or if I was okay. This memory has been engraved into my mind, clear as day, even as a successful 27-year-old wife and mom of two.

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

As the years passed, I have struggled with anxiety, depression and my relationship with food. When I was 16 I spent some time in the hospital to learn how to cope with these things. I also saw a therapist on a weekly basis that had said something that resonated with me at a young age. ‘A person spends a lifetime searching for what was once lost in childhood.’

Somewhere in the mix of these things, I met my high school sweetheart. You see, he loves to fix things. And boy, did I need fixing. He supported me through my dark times, and I knew I needed to start making changes not just for myself, but for my relationship.

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

Binging and purging was my way to go, so when I stopped purging and continued to binge, my weight climbed quickly. We got married when I was 19 in 2010. A few days before my wedding day, my dress had to be let out because I couldn’t control myself. I weighed over 230 lbs. 60 lbs heavier than just a few short years prior. I was drinking, smoking and eating my way through the depression and anxiety I felt with failed coping mechanisms that just didn’t work for me.

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A couple of years into our marriage, my husband and I wanted to grow our family. We started to try to conceive, and years went by with no success. I got diagnosed with PCOS and was told it would be very hard for me to have children. One thing I could do to help was lose weight, stop drinking and stop smoking. I started weight loss right away. At this point I had climbed up to 280 lbs. I wasn’t going to stop drinking or smoking. I spent a lot of time at the bar, and sleeping in the next day to make my hangover go away. Once I got up, I did work out though! So, I thought ‘progress!’ I lost weight. About 60 lbs worth. Still no success in pregnancy, so I stopped smoking. I still drank because I did not want to give that up. Throughout these months that turned into years, I would relapse with my Eating Disorder and Self Harm. I would lock myself in the bathroom while my Husband would pound on the door, begging me to let him in. I wouldn’t.

It was always so hard to hear my friends say things like, ‘I don’t want to upset you, but I’m pregnant!’ I was truly, always so excited for them. I felt terrible that even my friends felt uncomfortable telling me the most wonderful news. You better believe though, I would come home and throw some cold ones back and cry myself to sleep about why it couldn’t be me.

In November of 2015 I couldn’t believe what I was staring at. My heart pounded, and my mind raced. A positive pregnancy test. Was this real? Was it a faulty test? I took another one just to be sure. Still positive! It read 2-3 weeks pregnant. My baby was so tiny, but he or she was there, in my belly. My husband and I were so excited and told our closest friends and family but kept it a secret from others just in case. We had our annual White Elephant party on December 22nd that year, and I even made pretend drinks for myself to fool everyone that did not know. I was sure I was going to do this right. I had the friends that knew sneak me into the bathroom to rub my belly and cry tears of joy with me. ‘We love you so much already little one!’ The next morning, I woke up to spotting. And the spotting turned into heavy bleeding. I went in for bloodwork, and I in fact, was miscarrying. I will never forget when my Husband came home from work with pizza. He wanted to make me feel better, and comfort food was the way to my heart. He walked in the door, and made eye contact with me. I had spent all day staring at the wall in my living room and crying on and off. He dropped the pizza on the floor and started sobbing. We held each other for a long time. We then decided we were going to go climb in bed with our pizza and not yet wrapped Christmas presents and exchange gifts two days before Christmas. Anything to bring a smile to our faces.

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I was a restaurant manager at the time. Our biggest day of the year was Christmas Day. I had to labor my baby while managing a staff and running a packed restaurant. At night, I would rock back and forth in pain and sob as my husband rubbed my back. Not only did I have to lose the one thing I’ve always wanted, but why did it have to be so painful? I told myself, I am doing it right this time. I am going to make a healthy baby with my Husband. I stopped drinking and continued to get healthy with my eating habits and work out routines.

In February of 2016, just two months later, we got pregnant with our sweet Eleanor. I was petrified. I was so careful. I didn’t want to work out because I didn’t want to hurt this baby, but I tried to be good with my eating habits. In April, my husband’s father had a stroke that he did not recover from. It devastated us beyond words, and that’s why we named our sweet rainbow baby Eleanor. It means ‘the bright one.’ She was the light at the end of the tunnel. The reason we kept moving forward. With this devastation, came food. Lots of it because of I was pregnant and would lose it for sure, right? I gained all the weight back and tipped the scales back at 280 lbs. My water broke at 39 weeks and I knew the color wasn’t right. It was brown. Eleanor had aspirated her meconium in the womb and was struggling. We found out the cord was also wrapped around her neck twice. I remember the Doctor turning to me and saying, ‘Emily, we have to get this baby out now!’ They threw scrubs at my husband and wheeled me off to a C-section. She was born not crying, and I didn’t get to see her. She was in the NICU for a week due to low oxygen and an unidentified infection. Even after finally having my miracle baby, I couldn’t even feed her for the first 3 days of her life. I didn’t get to hold her for almost 48 hours. Now she is a healthy and sassy little 2-year-old that is in the middle of potty training. I couldn’t be more thankful for her.

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

I started to work out 6 months postpartum, and quickly dropped the weight I had gained and then some. I got pregnant with my son, Edison, in February 2018, and chose to make healthy decisions this time around and trust God. I only gained 3 lbs, and it was okay’d by the doctor because I was still considered overweight. I stayed active and don’t worry, I still enjoyed my cravings! I was scared to give birth and share my love with Edison. I didn’t want Eleanor to feel like she was being left out. How was I going to do it without giving up a piece of myself?

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

He was a scheduled c-section and born healthy. Within a couple of weeks, I lost 20 lbs. I was officially the lightest I have ever been without an eating disorder. It was very difficult for me to find balance of having a 2-year-old and a newborn. Bonding with Edison was something that came harder than I thought it would. He has reflux, which caused esophagitis, and he also was diagnosed with laryngomalacia. He was a fussy baby that cried all day and didn’t sleep at night. Between my daughter begging me to pick her up and I couldn’t because of my incision, and him screaming almost constantly, tears would continuously flow from my eyes throughout the day. I wasn’t sure if it was postpartum depression or just feeling overwhelmed.

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

Edison’s pediatrician gave me a test for PPD, and then told me my results were to seek help. I felt so embarrassed. Almost like that girl caught in school again. My cheeks lit up, a wonderful trait of mine that happens too often with my anxiety. I told her I was fine and went home. I was supposed to have it all together. I am supposed to feel blessed and thankful for my kids that took so long to conceive. I knew I had to do something for myself, to gather sanity again. I felt on days, that hurting myself could be the answer and I knew I couldn’t do that to my marriage or my children. I knew if I could just get to 6 weeks postpartum and start working out again, I could channel my anxiety and depression. I got cleared by the doctor and 6 weeks postpartum on the dot, I pressed play. There is something about channeling my strength within my workouts that keeps me centered. I take just 30 minutes to my day, and make sure this happens. I blast music and have a dance party in between reps with my 2-year-old, while my buddy boy rolls around on his tummy time mat.

Courtesy of Emily Stuart

He is almost 4 months old now, and I am feeling like myself more than ever. I have lost almost 100 lbs in a NATURAL, and HEALTHY way. My family and I are learning a routine, but most importantly, we are loving each other. My heart is no longer overwhelmed with stress, but with an abundance of love and gratitude. This is not to say I don’t have my moments. Don’t we all? My Grandfather used to say, ‘What you confess is what you possess.’ And by golly, I confess that my family is everything to me. They are the reason I chose to be healthy, not only physically but mentally. I want to teach my kids it is okay to be sad, but lets find a way to dust ourselves off and keep moving forward. Living your life is everything, and everything is brighter when you’re living your life.”

Courtesy of Emily Stuart
Courtesy of Emily Stuart

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Stuart of Mount Vernon, Ohio. You can follow her journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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