Tag Archives: parenthood

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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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.