Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On food, feeding babies, and myself

It's amazing what having children can bring up in your own life.

Lately I've been feeling increased anxiety when it comes to feeding the Bird. Miranda nursed exclusively up till around 8 months old and then we started giving her little bits of avocado, yogurt, pear, etc. Our pediatrician told us that until the age of one food is more about learning and play than about nutrition. In the past month (today Mbird is 13 months) we've really ramped up the solid food offerings in an attempt to interest the Bird in eating more meals (thus nursing less). Turns out she's a great eater. Really, I don't think there's anything she hasn't wanted to try, and she seems to like just about everything too (even spicy radishes!).

What's it's brought up for me however is rather surprising (though maybe it shouldn't be). Through 7 or 8 years of my younger life (probably from age 12 on) I struggled with some serious food issues. It crept in slowly, without me noticing, or being able to pinpoint exactly where it came from. But I began to treat food differently than I ever had - wanting to eat by myself (singlehandedly destroying our family meal time), strictly eating the same things every single day, hiding food in my bedroom, seeking out images of what I wanted to look like (extremely thin).

Before long I had moved from just "playing" with food (being vegetarian for 4 years & taking the same thing for lunch every day - saltines and carrot sticks, yawn) to totally abusing my relationship with food.  I began a cycle of bingeing and purging (bulimia) and it really took hold of me. In the beginning it was fun, sort of.  Fun in that I had found a way to eat whatever I wanted to - seemingly without consequence.  It felt freeing, and it was totally addictive. I remember a period of time in particular (high school, junior year) I would go home instead of going straight to whatever sport I was playing after school. I'd dig into my stash, eat myself sick, then throw everything up. Then feel so much better. It was a huge release. It was how I managed to get through the day and feel ok with myself. After the b&p I would then head out to go play soccer, or manage football, or paddle in the canal - often extremely light headed and tingling all over, my nervous system awry and my circulation out of whack.

It took me a long time to move out of this phase of my life. I never shared it with maybe more than 5 people - it was terribly difficult to share with my parents for fear they wouldn't understand.  And I'm not quite sure they ever got their heads around it but oh well. Jared was (and still is) always amazingly loving and supportive.  We met in our senior year of high school. I think that was the beginning of when I began to make better choices for myself, to love & value myself more. Jared loved me so much - maybe it was infectious? Anyway, what really pushed me over the edge was when I had a life changing spiritual event two weeks before starting at RISD. I, in the simplest of words, met God on a mountain top (literally - someday I'll tell the story).

From that moment on I was a dramatically changed person. Of course I still had many of the same urges of my past (I was also a big drinker - didya know they don't enforce the drinking age limit in Panama?) but it was as if the slate had been wiped clean. I had the ability to start over, and that meant with food & eating as well.

It's a tough thing sometimes still. There are times I get down on myself and I've occasionally had a relapse (though not for a very long time). I've managed to maintain a decent balance with food and my emotions, and have learned how to enjoy eating. I actually really really enjoy cooking - it feels so much like drawing & painting or any other creative endeavor.  But what's been throwing me off is the growing responsibility of feeding another person - someone who is completely dependent on me for nourishment. Nursing was easy actually - just let the Bird nurse as often as she wanted, whenever she wanted & she would know when she had enough. Feeding her solid food is a whole other story.  How much, how often, has she had enough? In the back of my mind I'm petrified I won't get her enough to eat and she'll be hungry. For some reason I always lean toward that side of things. Good thing Jared is around and has a much more normal perspective on food.

I do worry that I'll pass my food anxiety (though quite diminished from what it was, I still have some anxiety) on to Miranda.  I have to work on myself to not let that happen I know. I also hope and pray that Miranda never goes through the kind of trials I went through with eating.  I suppose she'll have some less than healthy experiences, but I'll try my best to be there for her and guide her on a healthier path.

Now I'm off to check out some resources for healthy eating habits for toddlers. Nothing like a well written book of solid information to give you confidence. And, having written this, I feel much lighter in spirit - whew! Here's to still working through issues you thought you'd gotten over years ago!! ;o)

Have a lovely day,


Klay said...

Devon, that is an amazing post. As a new mom and someone with a different kind of food issue I feel like I can relate, a little. I worry a lot about passing my issues to my son and I often worry about feeding him properly when he stops nursing. Thanks for sharing.

Klay said...

PS - I LOVE your murals and furniture, that is my dream job.

wendy said...

hi devon, thanks so much for sharing so honestly. i really enjoyed reading this post and all the details about your life with miranda (esp now that i'll be a mom soon too) on this blog. i hope and pray too that she won't have to go through the same things!

My Mid-Afternoon Daydream said...

Thanks Klay. Yep, nursing's the best right? Sometimes I feel so done with it, but I'm sure I'll miss it later. Thanks for the kind words - I really appreciate it :o)

Wendy, congratulations! So happy for you!! You're going to be a wonderful mama. I just checked your blog and love the photo of your feet beneath the billowy dress - you have such a great eye.