Category Archives: Motherhood

For all the mothers—whatever that might mean

I have mixed emotions about Mother’s Day. Part of me sees the immense value of taking time to thank and appreciate those who gave us birth, who raised us, who taught us, who loved us—whatever motherhood has looked like in your life. These women are strong, brave, and loving and, damn it, they should be celebrated! As a mother, a daughter, a woman, I definitely think that the role mothers play is often undervalued and underappreciated. But part of me feels this day merely sets women up for disappointment, as we are bombarded by social media as to what Mother’s Day is supposed to look like and how your day is just not measuring up.

And that’s not to mention all of the emotions that this day brings up for some. There are many who have lost their mothers, to death, estrangement, or mental illness. There are many who have found the road to motherhood to be more challenging than they had imagined. There are those who have chosen not to become mothers themselves, and find themselves having to defend the personal decisions they make.

Sometimes we forget that motherhood takes on a variety of forms. There are those with more kids than you can count on your fingers. There are those with sons, daughters, or a combination of both. There are those who hope to be mothers one day. There are those who desire to be mothers now, but have had difficulty in their journey. There are those who are mothers, but have never been able to bring their child home. There are those who have had to bury their children, something no mother should ever have to do. There are those who have birthed children, but those children have gone on to live with others. There are those who did not carry a child themselves, but welcomed them into their home. There are those who have joined other families already in progress. There are those who do not desire to have children of their own, but have a mother’s spirit for other children they encounter. There are those who mother as part of team and others who stand on their own. There are those who have used medical assistance to conceive children. There are those who have birthed children through medical procedures. There are endless possibilities for what mothering may look like for you and for others.

As someone who is a part of the chronic illness community and the surgical intervention community, I have seen my share of women who have experienced setbacks and challenges in their motherhood journey.

For those with IBD, there is no impact on fertility and the ability to carry a child, but there are still studies that show these patients are less likely to bear children. This is most often due to concerns over their own health conditions, concerns about the medication they take and also concerns about the heredity of their disease. So even though fertility may not be affected, this diagnosis still influences their motherhood experience.

Thankfully studies show that the risk of passing along IBD to children is low (less than 10%) for couples where one individual has IBD. Furthermore, most medical treatments have also been shown to be safe during pregnancy, and those which are not considered safe can be replaced with other options, if necessary. So if your desire is to have children, talk to your physician about determining the best options for you!

And those who have undergone surgery, whether it be for an ostomy, a j-pouch, or a resection, still have a strong chance of being able to conceive and carry a child, but there is a higher risk of  an impact on fertility. This may eventually require further medical interventions or exploration of other options for becoming a mother.

Fertility is a difficult topic for many women, because the ability to conceive and bear children is often tied to their identity and sometimes their feelings of worth as a woman. I am not saying it should be this way, but this is how it is for many women. I know when my husband and I first decided we wanted to have kids, I was so hard on myself every month it didn’t happen. Every negative test felt like failure.

And in the grand scheme of things, my conception story was much simpler than many women out there. I conceived both of my children following two surgeries: removal of the colon (colectomy) and removal of the rectum/anus (proctectomy). It didn’t happen immediately for us, but conception was not something we struggled with ultimately.

After fairly uneventful first half of the pregnancies, I ended up in the hospital due to intestinal blockages both times. I had to undergo bowel rest, CT scans, X-rays, and strict dietary changes in both instances, and a premature inducement in one. I felt an incredible amount of guilt for feeling that I already was not being able to protect my child and having to make the decision to do something that could be potentially harmful to the baby because of my health issues. It was a deflating feeling and something I have struggled with as a mother.

My story is just one in a vast expanse of mothers all around the world. We all have a story to share. Our journeys to and in motherhood are all different, and difficult and heartbreaking in their own ways. But we are all in this together. So today, whether you are a mother, long to be a mother, or none of the above—You are seen. You are loved. You are in our hearts.

There’s a new girl in town

Everything anyone ever told me about having two kids is true. The past few weeks since the birth of my daughter have been exhausting. They’ve been amazing, but exhausting, too. I have been wanting to share the news for a while, but had a difficult time finding the time (or energy) to sit down and actually do it. So I am woefully behind on this, but here goes…

chandler birth labor delivery mom baby ostomy blockage obstruction pregnancy ibd crohn's disease ileostomy stolen colon stephanie hughesOn July 11, we welcomed a wonderful new addition to our family: Chandler Marie. She was born at 38 weeks and 5 days gestation, nearly a full three weeks further along than my son. Her birth was the result of my body naturally going into labor, and not due to an induction because of a persistent bowel blockage, as I dealt with last time. (You can read the entire story of my first delivery here.)

The abbreviated version of this story is that I started having mild contractions the evening before around 10:00 p.m. I went to sleep and they woke me up a few hours later and we ventured over to the hospital around 3:00 a.m. to find that I was already 5 cm dilated. After 8 hours of labor, I was no further dilated, but then BAM, in the next hour and a half I went from 5 to 10 cm dilated. I started pushing at 1:01 p.m. and she officially entered the world at 1:07 p.m. (Trust me, it was not the same story with my first.) She weighed 7 lbs. 9 oz. at birth.

There were no complications with my ostomy during the actual labor and delivery process. It was essentially a non-factor during that time. And thankfully, as was the case with my first, my body seemed to get back to normal as soon as she was born. I was able to start eating the same foods I had prior to pregnancy with no blockage issues! It’s taken a few weeks, but my stoma is getting back to normal. It was still fairly large for the first couple of weeks and I was concerned that it might not return to its normal size, but at 9 weeks postpartum it seems to be pretty close to the size it was originally and not prolapsed like it had been during my pregnancy.

chandler birth labor delivery mom baby ostomy blockage obstruction pregnancy ibd crohn's disease ileostomy stolen colon stephanie hughesChandler has been doing great, as well. We were able to come home just 24 hours after her birth. She’s been growing like a champ and getting more personality by the day.

I’ll be sure to share a little more about the final weeks of my pregnancy with an ostomy and attempting to avoid another blockage but know I am so thankful that I was able to avoid any further complications with my ostomy and any more hospitalizations. I wanted so much to be able to deliver as a result of spontaneous labor and I was able to achieve that goal, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

These past few weeks have been a big adjustment as I’m now living with a high-energy 2-year-old and an infant. I hope as we get more settled that I can get back into a good routine of sharing information and keeping in contact with all of you. I apologize to anyone that I have not responded to recently and I hope to be in touch soon. Thank you for all of your support and well wishes!

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How to dress when pregnant with an ostomy

I have done a video before about what to wear with an ostomy, but now that I am almost 9-months pregnant, I wanted to talk about how to dress when your stomach becomes more of a focal point. It does become a bit more complicated to attempt to hide your ostomy bag during this time, but I don’t think that means you still can’t dress the way you want. I think it is much more about what you are comfortable with and making your decisions based on that. Here are some of the clothing options I have chosen throughout my pregnancy, but I’d love to know if you have found some other options that I do not cover here!

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The second time around

And how I plan to better manage my pregnancy with an ostomy

Here we go again! We are excited to announce that we are expecting our second child this July! My husband and Waylon and I are so excited to grow our little family. (You can see W showing you where the baby is!)

new baby pregnancy stolen colon ostomy ileostomy colostomy urostomy ibd inflammatory bowel disease crohn's ulcerative colitis

It’s amazing the difference already between the first pregnancy and the second in as much attention you devote to it. With my first, it was pretty much all I thought about, all of the time. This time around, between chasing after a toddler, finishing up my master’s degree and just everything else I have to accomplish in a day, I feel that I’ve had very little time to really just think about it and what all it means. I, myself, am a second child and I suddenly have a whole new appreciation for what that means and my place in my family…

For those of you who followed along with my first pregnancy, you know that I had complications in the end—specifically an intestinal blockage—that led to a series of hospitalizations, a dreaded NG tube, and ultimately to my induction just before 36 weeks when I gave birth to my son. So obviously, we had some things to consider when we discussed the idea of having another child.

So how do I plan to make this pregnancy different from the first? Well, in all honesty, I’m not sure that I can, but I sure as hell am going to try. While I was being cautious with the foods I ate later in my first pregnancy, I realize now that I was not being cautious enough. There were a couple of times that I ate things that were probably a little too risky. Knowing now what the consequences of that can be, I will be sure to be more vigilant in making sure that I avoid problem foods and make smarter decisions. I have already noticed a time or two that I have felt a little blocked up, although nothing that some extra hydration and careful eating couldn’t fix, but it does make me wary about how the next few months are going to go.

I have bandied the idea of going on a mostly liquid diet during the final weeks, but the reality of living for 10+ weeks on a liquid diet when you’re pregnant would not be an easy task. At the minimum, I will be employing a some sort of low residue diet during that time, in hopes that I do not run into the same issues I experienced last time.

But other than some extra caution and some food avoidance, I can’t say that I have done anything differently this time than I did the first time. I have been trying my best to stay hydrated, but that’s a constant struggle, pregnancy or no pregnancy. I am prepared with some larger sized wafers for once my stoma grows, which I expect it will again, and potentially prolapses.

Even with the complications last time, I am still not considered high risk by my obstetrician. I do know they’ll be keeping a slightly closer eye on me, especially as I progress further along in the pregnancy, but the ostomy really doesn’t change any of my treatment, unless there is another complication.

For now, I am focused on trying to eat healthy, but smart from an ostomy stand-point, drink lots and lots of water, and hopefully enjoy a complication-free pregnancy.

(You can read some about my previous pregnancy, as well: All about pregnancy with an ostomy.)