Tag Archives: life

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.

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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5 years: The resentment anniversary?

It has been 5 years since I had my surgery to get an ostomy. It’s funny, I’ve been looking forward to this day because 5 years seems like such a good marker of time. And my ostomy has made such a profound impact on my life, that I felt like it would be a time to celebrate. Five years of not living with active Crohn’s disease; five years of being able to take part in the activities I want to; five years of not living in fear of finding the closest bathroom. But this has ended up being an interesting anniversary for me.

If you look back at my previous anniversary posts (One, Two, Three, Four), they are mostly filled with gratitude and hope. This year, I feel a bit more resentful and not wanting to celebrate my ostomy or what it has given me the past few years. I have not gotten into it yet on my blog, but I will soon tell you the full story of my second pregnancy and the complications that I have been having due to my ostomy. In a nutshell, I just returned home from spending a week in the hospital due to a pretty severe intestinal blockage. It’s actually pretty amazing that I did not end up requiring surgery in order to relieve it. Currently, I have a catheter inserted into my stoma to help ensure it does not collapse or get squashed between my uterus and my abdomen. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. I feel exhausted.

And now I am on a nearly entirely liquid diet, which is not only boring, but I’m hungry pretty much all of the time. Plus, I’m worried about getting enough calories during the day, not only to support myself, but to support my baby, too, who is not due for another 11 weeks. Top it off with a 2-year-old who I am home with much of the time and just don’t feel I have the energy to keep up with him, and it’s also difficult to move too much without hurting myself.

Suffice it to say I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself recently. I think I’ve been going through a mourning period of having to let go of the plans I had for this pregnancy and the hopes I held onto for a spontaneous birth close to my due date. I had wanted to spend these final weeks relishing the time I have with my son before he’s joined by a sibling and enjoying our life as a family of three. But none of that is going to happen the way that I had planned.

But you know, I’ve also realized that life usually does not go the way you planned. I am not the first woman to deal with complications during pregnancy or concerns about taking care of her other child. I also see how blessed I am that we’ve been able to handle the issue with this catheter, despite how uncomfortable it is. I am blessed to be home with my family, able to move around, and I’m not confined to bed rest at the hospital for weeks, as many women deal with during pregnancy. I am blessed to have amazing family and friends close by who have dropped everything to help us out and make sure that we have everything we need.

So instead of being resentful today, I am trying to focus on the many positives that I have going on in my life: I have a beautiful new baby on the way that I am so excited about and my ostomy played a huge part in me being able to do that, other than dealing with the blockage issues I am healthy, I am not confined to a hospital bed, I have amazing support to help me get through the coming weeks. And I know whenever this baby arrives and in whatever fashion that we will cherish the time we have together. When I think back to when my son was born, and the four weeks I had expected to continue being pregnant, I am thankful for that extra time we had together. And I’m glad to live in an area with some of the best doctors and hospitals who I know will take the best care possible of my little one, no matter what happens.

This anniversary is a little different from the ones previous, but it may end up being one of the most significant ones I experience. Life is not always going to go the way that you want, and it has a way of trashing many of the best laid plans, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost or that we should just give up. My ostomy has given me a great 5 years, and I look forward to what it will allow me to accomplish and experience in the future, despite the discomfort it may be causing me for the time being.

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.)