Lawrence hopes to encourage conversation around navigating pregnancy with a history of an eating disorder.
By 2019, British model and self-love advocate Iskra Lawrence felt confident about the strides she’d made in her eating disorder recovery. Then she got pregnant.
“I was like, ‘how am I gonna handle this? What might come back up?'” she tells Shape. “One of the hardest things for me during recovery was how I dealt with control — and I knew that with pregnancy, there would be zero control.”
While Lawrence, a brand ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), was dealing with anxiety about the journey to motherhood, she also felt pressure to act like nothing was amiss. “You’re meant to be super grateful you got pregnant — and you are!” she says. “What terrified me most was sharing anything that seemed like I was complaining because there are women who would do anything to be able to be pregnant. It’s tricky getting that balance of like, ‘hey, should we talk about some of the challenges or the potential negative side effects to your mental health?’ People just don’t really wanna go there because it can be uncomfortable.”
Now that Lawrence is on the other side of pregnancy (her son, with partner Philip Payne, was born in April 2020), she wants to bring attention to a lack of resources available for those with eating disorders who may be contemplating motherhood. (Related: The Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health Issues No One Is Talking About)
“Recovery is not the end of the journey with your eating disorder — It’s purely a choice that you’ve made that you continue to try and follow,” she says. “So you never know what season of your life could be triggering for you or could bring up past trauma or just feel like a new challenge that you haven’t experienced before. I was definitely anxious and I looked to read as much as I could and see if there was any information out there, which I didn’t feel there was. The duality is really tricky: people don’t want to seem like they’re fearmongering because there are already enough fears during pregnancy.”
While navigating pregnancy in recovery, Lawrence leaned on her loved ones for support. “What I knew was that regardless of anything, I had to be very honest with the people around me about how this could be triggering for me,” she says. “And I used all the tools that I had from recovery, like always checking in with my gratitude list. I’m sure people think like, ‘oh, what does that do?’ But it really can help because if I feel any kind of dark cloud about to come over, remembering why I’m grateful for everything my body can do is really, really helpful.”
Lawrence was also surprised to find that the pregnancy motivated her to care for her body in an unprecedented way. “I was very excited to know that I had someone literally inside me, part of my body, that needed me to nourish myself really, really well,” she says. “So I had to eat. And it’s tricky because toxic diet culture can be so extreme in talking about calories and micronutrients — but you do need to eat and fuel your body with high-quality nutrients. So I found it easier in a sense, having a baby inside of me — it was like a selfless dedication. I wanted to eat these fresh, nutrient-filled foods to nourish my baby. And I moved a lot during pregnancy because I knew I was doing a home birth and it was going to be unmedicated — I did a lot of research and found exercise really helps you to be strong during your birth.”
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