Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

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.

Thoughts on motherhood & ostomies

Being a mother, in many ways, is just how I imagined it would be. It’s fun, challenging, exhausting, full of love and snuggles. But I don’t think I ever could have imagined how strongly each of those feelings and emotions would impact me. It’s more fun, more challenging, more exhausting than I ever could have anticipated.

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My son is coming up on turning 11 months old this week. As I have gotten to know him over those months, I have learned a lot, both about myself and about parenthood in general. I have found that I can’t take my eyes off of him for more than a few seconds or he will make a break for the stairs. I have learned that no matter how good of a job I think I do at keeping stuff out of his reach, he will always find the one thing he shouldn’t be playing with. I have learned that my son’s laugh is the most incredible sound in the world. I have realized where I’m willing to take risks and where I am not. When previously I would have stepped on the gas to catch a yellow light, I now slow down and wait. Making that light may be worth the risk to my life, but it’s not worth the risk to his. It’s interesting to realize how differently you value and treat your own life as compared to your child’s.

Having a child certainly makes you look at the world differently. It’s as if everything you see is now filtered through a different lens. You think about what’s best for them, and how you can help them learn and grow. It also makes you think more often about the truly important things in life.

This past week, my son and I both came down with a cold. Nothing major, but just enough to where you feel pretty awful and you just want to sleep for a while. Well, as you parents know, kids don’t believe in taking a day to rest. I started feeling poorly after he was doing a lot better, so all he wanted to do was play and explore, while all I wanted to do was to take a nap. As he was staring at me, and starting to cry because I didn’t want to play, I thought about what it would be like if I was feeling run like this down all of the time. Those few days were difficult, but they were nothing compared to what so many individuals with IBD live through each and every day. It’s what I lived through every day for a very long time. It broke my heart to think of what it would be like if I had never had my surgery.

My son makes me thankful for my ostomy every day. It has allowed me to chase him around on the floor without feeling too exhausted. I can now break away for a quick moment to empty my bag, rather than spending a long time in the bathroom. I have the strength to pick him up and carry him around with me during the day.

On my first Mother’s day after his birth, I stop to think about what it means to be a mother. It’s about teaching your child how to navigate this world and to be a good and kind person. You show them how to love and be respectful of others. You give them the tools to make something of themselves and to chase after their dreams. But more than almost anything, it’s about being there for your child. And I am so thankful that my ostomy has allowed me to be there for mine.

From the mother of a Crohn’s disease patient

In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a post from a very special mother. She has been by my side, all of these years, fighting for me as I tried to navigate this life living with Crohn’s disease. Mom, you are such an amazing, beautiful, godly, strong woman and I am so proud to call you my mother. I know I would not be the woman I am without your love and support. Happy Mother’s Day!

One of the greatest fears of a parent is to have something bad happen to their child. I remember watching some telltale signs of weakness in
Stephanie, knowing she was running to the bathroom, and feeling generally lousy. Was it a stomach virus, salmonella, even a parasite? One by one, these were ruled out by medical tests, while Stephanie was getting more tired, paler, and thinner.

Our family doctor wanted her to see a GI, and he ran more tests, while telling me ‘not to jump to conclusions’ when I asked if it could possibly be Crohn’s.
He wanted to try some oral meds, and wait for them to work, while Stephanie continued to get weaker, paler, thinner.

stephanie hughes crohn's disease sick hospital lost weight child kid duke stolen colon ostomy colitis blog family parents sistersUltimately, we wound up with the pediatric GI team at Duke Hospital, and a correct diagnosis was made and treatment begun. My 75 lb. Stephanie, now only 50 lb., would spend the next 25 days in the hospital, and the following year recovering. Mother’s Day 2000, I was happy to have my baby on the mend – even though she was full-faced from all the steroids, hair in complete disarray as so much had fallen out, and now new hair was coming in underneath, but she was alive!

Several Mother’s Days since have been spent at her bedside, or walking the floor praying for strength for her. Mother’s Day 2008, we proudly watched her graduate from UNC Chapel Hill, thankful she made it through, sometimes on sheer will and determination. Mother’s Day 2012 was celebrated at her home, as we tended to Stephanie, just home from the hospital after her Ileostomy. Mother’s Day 2014 – my baby is feeling great, in Italy on a second honeymoon with our wonderful Jarrod.

I may not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow. Happy Mother’s Day to all women who are, will be or have a mother.

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