my story

hi, i'm tiana

SIT DOWN WITH A HOT CUP OF COFFEE AND REALLY GET TO KNOW ME. IT'S A LONG STORY.

a little word from me to you

I'm so glad you're here and wanting to get to know me more! I respect you as I do my friends and family, and before I go any further, please know that I mention things that may be triggering or distressing for those who have experienced disordered eating habits, anorexia or miscarriage. These topics are a big part of my journey and I want to share this with you so you get a true understanding of my personal story. However, if you think reading this may not be right for you or supportive of your journey, or at any point you feel upset or uncomfortable, I kindly ask that you please leave this page and seek support from a family member, friend or someone else you feel safe talking to, if that's what you need.

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my childhood

I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. I grew up in a very warm, loving home alongside my older sister and younger brother. Being a reserved and quiet girl, I was bullied by others from a very young age.

I ended up being bullied for over half of my schooling, with majority of it taking place during my primary education. It was one of the first main roots of my anxiety. As my anxiety grew, I kept to myself for the most part, extending my comfortability to a small group of two friends throughout high school.

Being young and pubescent, my weight fluctuated - in a completely normal and developmentally appropriate way, might I add - but I quickly became riddled with insecurity because of it. At the time, I was constantly asking myself "What's wrong with me?", "Did I eat too much last night?". I didn't want to give anyone ammunition that they could use to bully me, considering how much bullying plagued my early childhood.

As I grew older, my anxiety worsened, creating a fear that no one would ever fall in love with me as I was, and that my appearance would be the reason why. This fear saw my unhealthy relationship with food start at the young age of 14.

I was still just a kid. I shouldn't of been preoccupied with how much my thighs touched, the stretchmarks I had from growing up, what the cute boy thought of my body, how thin I was or how much my ribs showed. But there I was, secretly counting all of my calories and doing crazy workouts in my room, the bathroom and in the shower - all to try and be smaller and thinner.

I didn't realise at the time, but this was also one of the first manifestations of my OCD. Only through therapy several years later as an adult, have I come to realise that me obsessively controlling how much food I ate, was actually me compensating for other things happening at the time that was completely out of my control. You know, the whole "Don't focus on the things you can't control - focus on the things you can control?". Yeah, I took that to a very dangerous level.

I was so obsessed with my body image that I had this constant mantra of "eat less, weigh less". I honestly thought that weighing less would instantly make me feel so much better, so much happier and more content - but that was so far from the truth. What started as a small desire to lose weight became a dark obsession that spiraled out of control quicker than I could have ever thought possible.

Reducing my intake less and less, I ended up eating way less than what my baby needs.

It was exhausting - trying to convince myself and others that I was living a healthy lifestyle while hiding my eating disorder from my parents AND trying to finish my senior years of high school PLUS my tertiary education at the same time. Wow, what a mouthful.

But, I did it. I was hardly functioning, but I did it. I quite literally floated through my final year of high school, crippled with anxiety, depression and a severe eating disorder. My vision became blurry, my brain was foggy and the only memories from that time that I have are poor ones because of it.

After graduating from my Diploma of Beauty Therapy in 2015, I started an at-home beauty salon, if only for a little while. My parents have always been so supportive of me, to the extent that they renovated a room in their home to allow me to pursue this passion.

I've always been that person who's jumped from one passion to the next, never quite getting far in one before moving onto another. When something doesn't give me what I want when I want it, or when it starts getting too hard, I have the tendency to move on pretty quickly in the hopes to find the next best thing. It's a bad habit, and one that I'm now trying to challenge.

I also had a YouTube channel, which proved relatively successful and still to this day is something I would love to get back into. I found it so much fun and a way to showcase my creativity online. But a lot of it was just me trying to convince myself and others that I was healthy when I clearly wasn't.

enter my husband

Part of my high school education required that I did work experience, which is actually where I first met Jesse. He supervised me during my placement, allocating me tasks et cetera. I vividly remember sitting in the manager's room on my first day, waiting to meet the person who would be overseeing my placement. And there he was - this tall, handsome man with striking blue eyes.

Okay, okay, I know you came here for a story time, not a romance novel - but I always smile when I think of the first time we met. It was so perfect and almost instantaneously, I had this gut feeling that something was going to happen between us at some point - not being sure when or how, but I just knew.

Anyway, you know how I said I have a diploma? I never actually used it. I ended up passing up a great job in the industry to secure work where I did my placement - AKA, where Jesse worked. And that gut feeling I mentioned? It was the deciding factor in me taking this job too. Yes, you read that right. I chose that career because of a boy (and clearly, I don't regret it).

We had been talking online before I started work, sending flirty messages to one another. He gave me so many butterflies that I was so flustered whenever I saw him around the office. After a few months, we started officially dating and a year later we moved in together.

I was still struggling with my body image and eating disorder in the early months of our relationship, but I never spoke to him about it. I was so ashamed of it but still somehow thought that what I was doing was healthy and okay. As our relationship got stronger, and our love for one another grew, the negative relationship that I had with my body and food slowly started to fade.

I'm so fortunate that I was never hospitalised or admitted for my eating disorder. I was well and truly close to that point, however, the only thing that I can attribute my healing to is Jesse and his love for me. I had to be loved before I was able to feel that love for myself.

In August 2020, we got married in the sweetest, most intimate wedding celebration with our closest friends and family. We had originally planned to have a large wedding with all our extended family (our dad's both have 6 siblings, so it would've been huge), but pandemic restrictions at the time meant that we had to reduce our numbers. If I had to do it again though, I wouldn't have changed any of it. It was absolutely perfect.

our journey to parenthood

When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of being a mother. I loved playing with my dolls and even had a diary where I wrote down my favourite baby names in the hope to have one of my own one day.

After we got married, we started trying to conceive. Less than 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant, something didn't seem right. I started passing very small amounts of coloured discharge. I had always doubted my body's ability to conceive, so I thought this was the start of the end. I went to the doctor and was told it was nothing to be worried about, but over the following week it increased and its colour changed. I was cramping on and off, speaking to nurses over the phone who assured me that it was likely not cause for concern. But my gut was telling me that something was still not right. I tried to convince myself that it was probably just my anxiety, and it was all going to be fine, but I couldn't get rid of the thought and possibility that I was going to miscarry.

I was 6 weeks and 6 days when we went to the hospital. We had our fingers and toes crossed that they would be able to do an ultrasound and give us the reassurance that we needed. My bloods were taken and came back perfectly normal for where I was in my pregnancy. They did an abdominal ultrasound where they said they saw what looks like an early heartbeat and that it appeared to be nothing to be concerned about.

The next afternoon, I had my dating scan which was moved forward considering our hospital visit. I was nervous, but tried to relax - after all, I was told at the hospital that it looked promising. The sonographer was relatively silent throughout my scan, occasionally saying things like "You're almost there" and "You're doing great", but I knew it wasn't good. She left the room to speak with the doctor and I began to cry. Jesse was holding my hand, trying to be optimistic. She returned to explain that what she saw was "not what they would expect to see at this stage in the pregnancy". We cried, I screamed and had an anxiety attack in the carpark, in total disbelief that this was actually happening.

Jesse was so incredibly supportive, trying to help me while feeling his own emotions too.  I don’t know how he did it, but I am so eternally grateful for him in every way possible.  I was wailing and empty.  I never knew I could make the sounds that was coming out of my mouth and even found it hard to stand.  Jesse was trying to hold me up and move me to our bed to sit down but I just wanted to sit on the floor.  I wanted to throw things.  I wanted to hit things.  I wanted to not feel how I was feeling because that feeling was just so terrible.

The ultrasound report was sent to my doctor, but she was on holiday for a week so we didn’t have anyone to explain the results to us and what we could expect over the next few days and weeks to come.  We were lost, however were able to pick up a printed report the next day, having to read it ourselves and try to make sense of it.  Thankfully, Google was able to explain a few things for us, even though what was being explained wasn’t good.

A molar pregnancy. I had never heard of it before.

I quickly found myself down a wormhole, with words such as "very rare", "cancer" and "chemotherapy" coming up online. I was so scared and overwhelmed, but Jesse was my rock throughout it all.

A molar pregnancy is very rare, effecting around 1 in 1500 pregnancies. There are two types of molar pregnancy - complete and partial. Mine was complete, where an embryo doesn't develop at all. Basically, my egg didn't contain any genetic material but was still fertilised and implanted in my uterus. The cells that would normally form the placenta multiplied and grew into a large tumour of placental cells instead.

Fortunately, we were referred to one of the most knowledgeable specialists in this condition, so I knew I was in good hands and would be treated quickly. I was 9 weeks pregnant when I finally had a D&C. Those three weeks of knowing my diagnosis and having to continue to carry an nonviable pregnancy felt like months. I just wanted it removed so I could begin to heal. My HCG had reached extremely high levels, making me feel incredibly nauseous, but once I had surgery, I felt instantly better.

We were told that there's a lot of follow up involved after a molar pregnancy, and that I would need weekly blood tests to monitor my HCG levels and ensure they return to normal. In 85% of patients, HCG levels will fall to normal and no further follow up is required. In 15% of women, some abnormal cells remain and continue to produce HCG and their HCG levels will not return to normal or may rise.  If this were to happen, it can turn into a form of cancer and further blood tests and imaging (like x-rays) would be needed to see if it had spread to any other parts of the body, like the brain or lungs.  Several courses of chemotherapy would be needed and the follow up afterwards would take even longer.

I was incredibly fortunate, and my levels returned to normal as expected and no further treatment was necessary. I was advised to avoid pregnancy for a further 6 months, which we followed, before trying to conceive again.

the birth of our daughter

In December 2021, we found out we were pregnant with our daughter, Eloise. We were filled with so much excitement, but I was very anxious given our previous molar pregnancy. I had an increased risk of having another molar pregnancy, about a 1 in 100 chance, so the thought of the same thing happening again weighed on me heavily.

Almost 2 weeks after we found out we were expecting, I started passing discharge again which quickly turned from brown to pink, then to red. It was like déjà vu. The same thing was happening on the same timeline as before. My anxiety compounded and before I knew it, I was almost 5 weeks pregnant at the hospital, again looking for an ultrasound and reassurance that everything was fine.

They were so helpful and kind. Although they couldn't see a heartbeat because of how early I was in my pregnancy, they reassured me that what they could see on the scan appeared normal and as expected for the gestation I was. However, they noted a small subchorionic hematoma, which was causing the bleeding. Fortunately, over the following weeks, the hematoma reduced in size before it disapeared completely.

We found out we were having a girl at 10 weeks after opting for the Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT). I quickly started thinking of names for our little girl, and after our morphology scan at 20 weeks, we decided on Eloise. There was just something about seeing her on that scan, in 3D with so much detail, that it felt more real.

In that scan, it finally registered that I was carrying our unborn baby and I was her life supply and the only one responsible for protecting her. My OCD reared its nasty head again not long after this scan, and everything started feeling like a life-threatening thing that could potentially harm Eloise inside me. My biggest fear was contamination - from food-borne illnesses to dirt and bacteria. Having a food blog at the time was particularly difficult, as it would take me an hour to make a simple meal or salad as I'd spend so much time tirelessly washing all my fresh ingredients, fearing contamination with listeria or salmonella. I also refused to eat take-out, eat at a restaurant or eat meals made by family because I couldn't confirm exactly how everything was prepared. It would take me forever to shower, because I never felt clean enough. I constantly had red, dry, cracked and bleeding hands from washing and sanitising my hands so much, because I feared almost everything that I touched.

To this day, I feel like I never got to really experience pregnancy, and relish in those sweet moments growing Eloise, because I was so consumed and fixated on my compulsive behaviours and addictions.

I knew that what I was experiencing was not healthy, and started seeking help from a psychologist who specialises in pregnancy, postpartum, loss and being a parent. Getting in touch with her was one of the best things I have done to this day. She reassured me that I wasn't alone in this, and that my anxiety and compulsive behaviours stemmed from my drive to protect my daughter at all costs. It took me so long to have the courage to even attempt to challenge my thoughts and behaviours, and before I knew it, my daughter was born and just like I thought - my worries about food preparation and contamination quickly diminished.

Eloise's birth was full of trials and tribulations. I laboured for 30 hours before she was eventually born via emergency caesarean. I didn't feel overwhelming love for Eloise when she was born. It doesn't make me any less of a mother, nor does it mean I don't love her now. She is my absolute biggest love and I would do anything for her. I can't even describe how much I love her, but at the time she was born, I was so exhausted and medicated that I had no mental or emotional capacity to comprehend what had happened, how she was actually here and what emotions to feel. I felt like a shell with no soul. I was so weak that I couldn't hold her, going in and out of consciousness, vomiting, sweating and feeling so disgusting.

If I could go back, I would tell myself that it's okay that I didn't feel the feelings I thought I would feel when Eloise was born, and it's okay for those feelings to take a while to flood in. For me, once my medication wore off and I was able to think clearly again (as clear as you can think being sleep deprived, that is), I started to process my emotions and thoughts around my birth experience and talk about them, which really helped. Speaking with my psychologist helped me heal and validate my emotional wounds even more, but it will always be a memory that I won't forget. It reminds me that I went through hell for my daughter to arrive earth-side safely, and that's being a mum - putting your child first always - and although I wish my birth story was different, I would do it again and again for her to be here.

motherhood so far

The first few weeks were overwhelming, exciting yet filled with so much emotion (some good, some sad).

I was just starting to process my birth story and what happened, while learning how to take care of my little girl who was so vulnerable and completely dependent on us. That, paired with the stress of learning how to breastfeed and ensure my baby was getting enough milk, saw me get so swept up in my anxieties that those first few weeks and months were such a blur that I don't remember fully. I was putting in so much mental energy to try to do what everyone says "you should do", such as trying to get her to sleep anywhere that wasn't on me, that I was missing the sweetness of the newborn period.

While I thought my OCD was gone for good after she was born, it quickly manifested in a new way. When caring for Eloise, I became obsessed with timing her feeds and how heavy her nappies were (to the point of weighing them) - to name just a few. For one anxiety that went away, I gained two more. It felt never-ending and all-consuming, and I had to realise and accept that this is who I am - I'm wired in a way that focuses on fear rather than logic. Since accepting this, I've become much more aware of my intrusive thoughts and behaviours and have been able to successfully challenge them. Again, not all of the time - I know it's going to be something I'll have to work on for the rest of my life.

At the time of writing this, I'm almost 11 months postpartum and I feel completely different. I feel like myself, I feel like I've got my stuff together and I know that I'm the best mum for Eloise. I'm loving this new season of my life. It took me a long time to get to this point - and starting to accept my new body (again, it's a work in progress), find healing in the decision to stop breastfeeding and allowing myself time to grieve the loss of the birth I thought I would have were all part of it.

I've finally found my purpose - being a mother, a wife and homemaker. I love to bake, I'm finding more appreciation and love for life's simplicities and just feel so content in my life. I love the feeling I get when I snuggle my little girl in the mornings once she wakes up, hearing her giggles and belly laughs when I do something silly and the appreciation from my family when I cook a delicious meal for us to share. I also know more about myself and my wiring than I ever thought possible, and accept that each new phase of motherhood will unlock new fears and worries. But I've been through it before and have come out shining on the other side - reinforcing that things aren't going to be scary forever and that I have the strength to overcome it. I'm grateful for experiencing what I did during pregnancy and postpartum, because it reminded me of how powerful my mind is and that with support and love from those around me, I can navigate it with compassion and acceptance.