Category Archives: Out of the Bag

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All of your ostomy questions answered: What is an ostomy? How do you shower with one? How is a colostomy different from an ileostomy? What about sex with an ostomy?

Everything you wanted to know about living with an ostomy, we’re letting it all out of the bag!

Bowel obstruction during pregnancy, earlier than expected

Just a few days shy of being 28 weeks pregnant I got a bowel obstruction. Intestinal blockages are something I dealt with during my first pregnancy which resulting in my son being born at almost 36 weeks. (You can read more about my experience with blockages and my son’s birth story.) This time, the issue came up a full month before it had my previous pregnancy, which really threw me off. I had prepared for the possibility of a blockage and had determined to switch up my diet at 30 weeks, in hopes of preventing one from occurring, but obviously this one did not wait that long.

I woke up in the morning feeling horrible and I called my mom to pick up my son because I knew I would not be able to take care of him. I was hopeful that with some bowel rest, physical rest and hydrating that things might start to clear up. I was actually a little unsure as to whether or not it was a bowel obstruction because of where the pain was. With my first pregnancy, the obstruction was just a few inches from my stoma, so the pain was concentrated in the lower right portion of my stomach. This time, it was across the top of my stomach. I ended up spending the entire day in bed, but things only felt worse as the day went on. I was in pain, throwing up, and could hardly stand up. I actually ended up calling an ambulance to take me to the hospital, which was the first time I’d had to do that since my surgery. I had hoped that by traveling in an ambulance that I would get checked right into the ER, but that was not the case and it ended up being a much bigger deal because they did not want to transfer me to the Women’s Hospital at this point, which is where I went with any issues during my first pregnancy. But I won’t bore you with all of the details of finally getting admitted to the right place for both me and the baby.

ng tube hospital intestinal blockage bowel obstruction ileostomy ostomy crohn's disease ulcerative colitis ibd inflammatory bowel disease Once I did admitted to the Women’s Hospital, the first order of business was getting fluids and a fabulous NG tube. (I’ve written about getting an NG tube previously, so I’ll refer you back there for more on that experience, because this one was pretty much the same.) There were lots of tests those first few days, which included a couple of X-rays and a CT scan. As a pregnant woman, this is a difficult decision to make on how to handle the need for radiation, as it can be harmful to the baby. Thankfully, I was already in the 3rd trimester at this point, which means the baby’s internal organs are formed and the radiation poses much less of a risk. I still did not like having to go through that, but I also know that I have to be healthy in order to provide what my baby needs. The CT scan showed just how blocked up I was. The doctor showed me the pictures and my entire small intestine looked like fat sausages (that’s the best way I can think of to describe it). I have no idea what a healthy intestine looks like on a CT scan, but even I could see that this was not what it was supposed to look like. And that explained why I was having pain across the top of my stomach, because that’s how far the blockage extended.

I do not remember a whole lot from the first days, but I know by my fourth day there they tried inserting a catheter into my stoma, which is what they ended up doing with my previous pregnancy. This helped incredibly and I finally started getting some output from my stoma and some relief from the pain. The next day they were able to remove the NG tube and I started being able to consume some liquids and eventually some very bland hospital food. Thankfully, things continued to improve over the next couple of days, and even though I was still in a lot of pain, I was able to function.

Of course during this whole time they were monitoring my baby closely, but thankfully there were no complications in that capacity. I was dealing with some mild contractions while I was there, which is likely due, at least in part, to dehydration and just to the stress of the situation. It was not anything that turned into an actual issue. Honestly, the baby seemed very unfazed by the whole ordeal.

ng tube hospital intestinal blockage bowel obstruction ileostomy ostomy crohn's disease ulcerative colitis ibd inflammatory bowel disease son family pregnancyI ended up spending 7 days in the hospital with this blockage. It is actually pretty amazing that I was able to avoid surgery considering how blocked up my small intestine was. I am so thankful that it was able to pass due to the NG tube and the catheter without having to go through a surgical procedure, especially at 7 months pregnant. Probably the most difficult part was being without my son for that time. I stay home with during the week, so it’s usually just me and him, and it felt horrible not being able to be there for him during this time. He finally was able to come visit me once I started feeling better. I’m grateful to my amazing family who stepped up and made sure he was taken care of during this time. In the end, I left with a new low fiber diet plan and a catheter sutured to my stomach, but more on that later.

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Dealing with intestinal obstructions

I am never not surprised by how debilitating an obstruction is. It’s so much more than an obstructed feeling in your stomach. For me, it makes my entire body ache. It makes me feel run down. More often than not, my first sign of an obstruction is simply feeling bleh. (Yes, I believe that’s the technical term.) Even before noticing a lack of output or stomach pains.

This morning, I woke up not feeling great. Sort of nauseated and tired. It wasn’t until after breakfast (which I didn’t eat) that I noticed my bag filling up with liquid. That’s when I realized why I had been feeling run down, even last night. Now it’s the afternoon and I haven’t eaten anything all day, but I have emptied several bags of liquid output, and everything hurts and I really wish I could curl up in a ball and stay there, praying that it passes. However, I have a 15-month-old, so that’s probably not going to happen.

I have written about blockages a couple of times in the past (See: My first major blockage – which still makes me laugh that I considered it a “major” blockage. After having a major blockage later on, trust me, it wasn’t. And see: Intestinal blockages during pregnancy), but since they are an ongoing concern, I wanted to address them again.

So how do you deal with an intestinal blockage or obstruction?

blockage obstruction intestinalThe first step is doing what you can to avoid them. You do this by hydrating (which I have not been doing well) and by watching what you eat (which also could have used some work this week).

But once you have a blockage of some sort, the next step is to get back to hydrating. Whether you’ve been staying hydrated or not prior to the obstruction, do it after a blockage starts. A blockage can be caused by dehydration and it also causes dehydration by pushing out only liquid output. Hydration can be helpful in getting the blockage to start moving again, as well as simply helping you stay healthy outside of that.

Next, be cautious what you eat. If you’re anything like me, you likely don’t want to eat anything anyways, but if you are hungry, I suggest sticking with non-solids, such as smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, etc. This way you can continue to take in nutrients, but these foods shouldn’t add to the blockage that has formed.

From here, there are a few things you can try… Massage your stomach. This can help get things moving, possibly even break up a smaller obstruction. Use a heating pad. Of course be careful of putting heat on your skin, but the warmth does help your muscles to relax which can get food moving again. Take a warm bath. Another way of trying to relax your muscles. You can also simply wait for it to pass, which it will sometimes.

A lot of blockages can be taken care of at home in these ways, but do be willing to go to the doctor or hospital if things get worse. Severe blockages can lead to more complications, so if you feel that the blockage is not going to pass easily, the hospital is your next option. Only you know your body, so pay attention to the signs it gives you. If you start vomiting or are dealing with extreme pain, it’s time to get medical help. The hospital will make sure you are staying hydrated and getting the nutrients you need, even if you are unable to eat anything. They may opt for using an NG tube, which is not pleasant at all, but it really does work. If a blockage gets too severe, they may consider surgery, but that’s a last option.

Once a blockage passes, you may still deal with some lingering issues. I like to call it an “obstruction hangover,” because the next day I usually still don’t feel quite right, even if I am feeling a lot better than before. I try to take it easy, drink lots of water and stick with either liquids or easily digestible foods. And usually after that, I feel back to normal.

I hope you never have to deal with an intestinal blockage, but if you do, these are some of the things I have found along the way that have helped me get through them. For those who have been through an obstruction, what has your experience been? Do you have other tips that might help somebody get through a blockage?

Finding love with an ostomy

Every so often I will hear a conversation about romantic relationships while living with an ostomy. Often someone will say they were left because of their ostomy, or that they’ve resigned themselves to being alone because no one could love them now. And I have one thing to say to them: STOP IT. An ostomy does not make you unlovable. It doesn’t make you anything other than another human with your own set of experiences. That ostomy is simply a symbol of the life you have lived and who you have become through those experiences.

Now full disclosure before I get too far into this: I was married when I went through surgery to get my ostomy, so I have not gone through the dating process with one; however, I believe what I am writing is true no matter what point you are at in a relationship.

Sometimes, it’s not the ostomy.

StephJarrod_hands copyWhen you go through something that necessitates getting an ostomy—whether it’s a chronic condition like IBD or some sort of trauma—that’s a lot for a person to handle. It may bring up feelings of “why me?” or resentment towards God or the world. Constant pain can make anyone feel frustrated. Having difficulty after surgery can lead to depression, feeling sorry for yourself, and lashing out at others. All of these can cause issues in a relationship. If you were someone whose partner left after your surgery, I am not at all saying that you are at fault. What I am saying is that going through this can change people, and when people change, the relationship changes and sometimes that relationship no longer works. So, if you were someone who was left and you felt they left because you now have an ostomy, there may be a lot more at play than simply that. Continue reading

Adventures in mommyhood (with an ostomy)

I have a hard time believing, at the moment, that my tiny little baby is going to be one-year old in just two months. Everyone always told me how quickly times goes by, but I am still shocked at how quickly it does. This week, we were blessed with the arrival of my first nephew, and when we went to meet him at the hospital, I was taken aback by how tiny he was and how I could hardly imagine my son being that size just 10 months ago.

These months have been a growing time for me, as well, as I learn what it means to be a mom. And while I know I having an ostomy has no bearing on the kind of mom I am, I do see some areas that are a little different for me. So I thought I’d start a new series. An OstoMOMmy series, if you will.

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I will plan to talk about any instances I find in my life as a mom that have been impacted by my ostomy and consider ways to deal with it or things I have learned from it. And I’d like your help, as well. In a series like this, I want to make sure I am writing about things that actually impact other people’s lives. So I’d like to know about your questions or ideas for topics.

What questions do you have about being a parent with an ostomy? Are there certain activities that concern you about raising a child or that you’ve already experienced? Are there things that you think will be different as a parent with an ostomy? Are there certain scenarios where you, as a parent, have had a different perspective because of your ostomy? What other parenting topics would you be interested in hearing more about?

I have a couple of topics in mind, but I figure this will be a series that I will write about as it happens, whether it happens often or only sporadically. Please comment below or on my Facebook page with your questions or topic ideas!