On three separate occasions in the past few weeks, I’ve been confronted with the discussion of individuals who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, specifically Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, deciding to have children. I realize this can be a controversial topic and, as you probably know, I am currently 8 months pregnant with my first child, so I understand the process that you go through when making that sort of decision. I understand why there are those who might decide not to have children themselves, whether due to their personal desires or due to concerns about their own or their children’s health. And while all of this played a role in our process, I wanted to share some of the reasons why my husband and I made the decision we did. And that’s not to say that this process should look the same for everyone else. This is a deeply personal decision, one that no one else can make for you and one that no one should ever pass judgment on.
I have always wanted kids and have never really considered not having them. Since I was much younger than I am now, I have wanted to be a mother and to have a family. Both my husband and I come from family-centric homes and we’re still very close with all of our family members. I don’t think I have ever truly considered not being a mom at some point in my life, whether through natural means, medical assistance or adoption. I think it’s something that is built into who I am and what I desire out of life.
I was healthy and not on any medication. I am thankful that I have been in a good place over the past few years. I went off medication nearly immediately after my surgery in 2012 and have not gone back on anything longterm since that time, so there are fewer complications from that to consider. My recent blood work shows that all of the markers that are monitored in individuals with Crohn’s disease are within the range that they should be and I’ve felt great for the vast majority of the past three years. I also have only had two major surgeries, and both of these were done laparoscopically, so they were minimally invasive and less likely to produce scar tissue. So essentially, I knew that I had lower risk of issues with the actual pregnancy, while at the same time knowing I am in a good, healthy place to be able to care for another person.
I did not want Crohn’s to take this from me. Crohn’s disease has taken a lot away from me over the years, and this was something that I was firm on not wanting to give up. I was very aware that pregnancy might not happen easily or me, or at all, and my husband and I were prepared to explore other options if that was the case. But I did not feel that I could give up my dream of being a mother because I’m living with IBD. I just couldn’t let it have that, too. And I don’t think any man or woman deserves to be told that they shouldn’t have kids because of an illness. These people have already compromised enough in their life that if they desire to be parents, I don’t think anyone has a right to tell them otherwise.
We don’t know what causes IBD. And therefore, we don’t know how it is passed on. While studies have shown that people who have an immediate family member (parent or sibling) with IBD are more likely to be diagnosed with IBD, we don’t have any solid genetic evidence of it being hereditary or explaining why one child might have it and another does not. What I really mean by this is that we don’t currently have a particular gene or hereditary marker that we can test for and know if it will be passed along. Still, many people who are diagnosed with IBD do not have any family members, immediate or otherwise, with the disease, so we know it’s not a strictly hereditary disease. I hope that this is something we continue to find out more about and can better prepare us for making sure our children have the best chance of leading a healthy life.
I have faith and I do believe in God. However, I do not believe that God gave me Crohn’s disease. I think that sickness and disease are simply a byproduct of the society in which we live. But I do believe that God has used this disease to shape me into the person that I am and has helped me to still lead an amazing life even with this disease. So I pray every day for this child to never know what it’s like to live with Crohn’s disease, but even if he does, I know that God will help him through, just as he’s done for me.
I never wished I wasn’t born. I have been through some really tough times and some depressing times, but I have never once thought that I wished my parents had never had me. I love my life and I would hate to think that my parents would have considered ending it before it even began simply because I would have Crohn’s disease. Even if my parents had been told 100% that their next child would have IBD, I hope they still would have had me. So how could I not offer the same thing to my child? And while I know it would be one of the most difficult things I would ever have to deal with if I found out my child had Crohn’s disease, they would have the world’s biggest advocate in their corner, who would be there to help them through it, every step of the way.