In His Words

Hidden_Identity_by_victoriaemmathompsonWhen it comes to your identity, you can’t rely on other people and you can’t rely on yourself. I was reminded of this a few days ago when Glen and I bumped into some old friends. It’s the first time they’ve seen me since I’ve been pregnant, and the conversation went like this:

‘Aaaaah – there she is! Show me your tummy!’

Bump was duly squeezed – which would be fine, were I not a sociopath who require 2 meters of personal space. As it was, I smiled tightly, and reminded myself that this was someone who’d been praying for us and it was lovely she cared. Thankfully, it was over now.

But she continued:

‘Have you been eating?  I hope you’re not starving your baby’

In some ways this is a fair question, (though the wording was a little – well, ouch). My weight’s been normal now for at least seven years, but I’ve still got a history of anorexia. I could see her enquiry was motivated by real care and concern – but like a ripped scab, it released a flood of insecurities.

Am I capable of being a mum? Can my body actually do this? Will my child’s legacy be neuroses and mental health issues?  Can I accept blessings from God – or will I stuff them up?  Do people think I’m going to neglect my baby? Will Glen be normal enough for us both? …

I swallowed and sent up a silent ‘help me’.  ‘Yes thanks. I’m eating great and baby is healthy and well’.

‘Well you need to: none of that old business’.

Again, I prayed, fighting a rising tide of shame. I’m not who I was.  My mistakes and my past are nailed to the cross:

‘Yes’, I said. ‘No going back’.

We sat down and I took off my coat. Her hands flew to her mouth:

‘Oh. My. Goodness’.

‘What?’

‘You! You’re HUGE!’

‘Er – yes.’ (Apparently the bump is pretty big for this stage but I’m sort of proud of it).

‘Seriously – HUGE’.

I put my coat back on and mumbled something about cheese and pickles.

‘Are you expecting twins?’

‘No.’

‘It looks like it. Are you sure?’

(From under the table) ‘Yes.  Yes, I’m sure’.

Within the space of two minutes I went from shrivelled anorexic to human whale. And yes, her comments could have been more sensitive – but the issues were really with me. I felt like I’d come out of a blender.  Was I too big?  Or too small? Eating too little – or eating too much? The hospital said I was normal…but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. And I couldn’t make it better.

I walked out with Glen and we laughed a little about the conversation.  He reassured me, but the doubts still lingered. At the check-out later I was packing my groceries and I could see the sales assistant waiting.  I wondered: what do I look like to her?  Normal? Or still, somehow, weird? Maybe she was wondering why my bread wasn’t wholemeal. Or questioning the whole-fat milk.  Maybe they were the wrong choices. And maybe, no matter what I did, I was the wrong person too.

I came home, deflated, and resisted the urge to climb into bed and eat wine gums. I thought and prayed about my friend’s words. And I read these:

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song, (Psalm 28:7)

Gradually, my sadness started to lift. I’m not my friend’s words or the ones I use to describe myself.  I’m who Jesus says I am – and His words are full of hope.

Everyone says the ‘wrong’ words at times … and even when they say the ‘right’ words, we can take them wrong too. The truth is, that my friend’s words were spoken out of love and with the desire to bless.  That’s beautiful – and whilst I’ll let some of them fall, I’ll celebrate the intention behind each one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “In His Words

  1. Emma, you’re not a sociopath! :) Or anything shameful in any way….

    I love your story about resisting sugar and turning to the Psalms. I’ve been feeling ashamed recently and I guess it comes from suspecting that other people’s verdicts are critical and I think somewhere deep inside can’t stand that idea.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if it didn’t actually have matter what others said about us because the verdict is already in? And as you say: It is! So encouraging.

    Praying for you

  2. Dear Emma-firstly congratulations and hurrah!! Secondly -oh dear. I’m afraid once you’re pregnant people treat you as though you are public property I have never grasped the whole bump grabbing thing -I found it creepy and intrusive so I think you’re normal. The size thing is another bug bear and the only thing I can say is laugh-I was once told ON THE SAME DAY that I was huge and that I had a very neat bump, so go with the hospital. And I will pray that you will remember the psalm and Christ’s love for you especially post delivery when you are hormonal and weepy (or maybe that is just me and have to be reminded by your father that they don’t ask mode of delivery or type of feeding on UCAS forms). You will be the best mother for your baby as you will love him/her and be funny and teach them all about God and His grace and mercy and cuddle them.

  3. Oh Emma, you’re not a sociopath! When you’re pregnant you seem to become public property and suddenly people think it’s fine to touch you and comment on your body in ways that they wouldn’t if you weren’t pregnant. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with that when they’ve been pregnant, so you’re normal (whatever that means :-P).
    I love that verse – isn’t it wonderful how our Father speaks so gently and beautifully into our hurt and sadness! Remember that verse, and the words you wrote: “I’m who Jesus says I am – and His words are full of hope.” when your baby is born. Unfortunately many people will give you their unsolicited opinion about what they think you’re doing wrong as a mum, and it’s a hard time because it’s impossible not to question yourself when it’s all so new and we don’t really know what we’re doing – but rest on God’s grace xx

  4. Been there myself Emma, and for similar reasons – and these days you are probably plagued by people taking pics of you on their phones. Aargh.
    Your sensitivity to all these things will make you a great mum, and you will get loads right because NOT in spite of what you have been through. Mine are now 10(!!), 8 and 5 and they have all survived having a mum with a history of an E.D. and they are happy and know they are loved. They are also better, less fussy eaters than most of their friends.
    Pregnancy is a journey and a process of adjustment and preparation. When baby comes you will be the perfect mum for your child – no argument whatever you look like/eat/ feel like – as you are now in your pregnancy. I really hope you enjoy it – you deserve to – and try not to feel guilty about your happiness – that’s a gift to accept.
    God Bless.

  5. Thank you Emma – that’s so reassuring. You’re right about happiness being an absolute gift – praying I’ll receive it :-)

  6. I know other folks have said it but I’m afraid all of your experience is totally normal! People, including those at the hospital, seem to have strong opinions about your size and your baby’s and all the things you should have been doing but they all conflict. Just keep reading the scriptures and listening to His voice, He is the only one who really knows the truth and loves you enough to tell you.

    I often feel terrified about passing on my neuroses especially to my daughter. I think the thing I cling to is I want her testimony to be not that she has a great mother but that her mother has a great Saviour xx

  7. Emma, I have lost count of the number of times I have been told I am human-whale and asked if I was carrying twins and been interrogated about what I eat. Your body suddenly becomes more “visible” and so many people feel an irresistible urge to say something. I am sure the brain-mouth filter is weakened around pregnant women (probably something to do with forcefields and magnetism). Thank you for your example of how to handle it – just listen to Jesus.

  8. Hi Lensa – thanks for sharing some of your experiences in this area: that helps a lot. I love your description of the ‘brain-mouth’ filter…I’m not sure I’ve got one! And it’s a good reminder when I hear other people put their foot in their mouths – I’ve done it to them too.

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