10 Ways Crohn's Disease Prepares You for Pregnancy
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an IV…”
I nonchalantly look around the room and notice I’m one of two women in the newborn class at the hospital who raises her hand. Then I start thinking about how scary it might be for all the completely healthy people who’ve never stepped foot in a hospital as the patient, who’ve never had pain medication or surgery, who’ve never experienced a hospital stay with their husband. That’s when it hits – battling Crohn’s disease for more than 11 years has prepped me for this journey and given me confidence going into delivery.
Here are my top 10 reasons why:
10. Packing the hospital bag.
So many people stress over what to bring and what they’ll need. Normally with a flare, I’m bent over in pain rushing to throw together loose odds and ends in a bag, on a whim, with no rhyme or reason. You know what you’ll actually use (comfy pajamas without a waistband, a phone charger, face wipes that allow you to wash your face without getting up, your own shampoo, etc.) and what you’ll never touch.
9. Dealing with frequent bathroom breaks.
In the first and third trimester you constantly need to take bathroom breaks. As a Crohnie, you’re used to scoping out where the bathrooms are in public places and know what it’s like to be woken up in the middle of the night when you need to use the bathroom.
8. Your condition is not invisible.
Once you start showing, complete strangers, friends and family alike treat you like you’re a VIP. Everyone wants to help you, hold doors for you, give their seat up for you, bend over for you, help you reach for items at the store, you name it. When you’re in pain or uncomfortable, there’s no need to struggle in silence because everyone loves helping out a preggo woman. Whereas when you’re struggling with Crohn’s symptoms you look healthy to bystanders and can cover up symptoms if you want to.
7. Stretchy pants.
Forget the days of having to worry about your skinny jeans or that belted dress restricting your stomach and giving you stomach pains – living in stretchy maternity leggings and dresses for months on end is heavenly. I’m keeping those bad boys post-baby to wear when my Crohn’s acts up!
6. Handling diet restrictions.
If you’ve encountered a Crohn’s flare you might expect a nutritionist at the hospital or at your GI’s office to talk with you about what to avoid and what you can eat. You’re used to a list of foods (fruits, veggies, anything fried, caffeine, nuts, popcorn, etc.) that hang over your head as possible kickstarters for inflammation. I swear – since my Crohn’s diagnosis, if I even try to have movie theater popcorn, I get the same look from my family as I would if I asked for an amaretto stone sour while pregnant! When you find out you’re pregnant and need to refrain from sushi, large doses of caffeine, lunch meat, alcohol, unpasteurized cheeses, etc., it’s a walk in the park because you’re used to having willpower when it comes to refraining from certain foods and drinks, even if they are your favorite.
5. Living with pain and discomfort.
The back, hip, and rib pain that comes along with pregnancy as your joints and ligaments loosen up from the relaxin hormone and prepare for childbirth is eerily similar to what it feels like to be on 40-60 mg. of prednisone. As someone with chronic illness you’re used to tough days and not feeling 100 percent.
4. Needles are no big deal.
From IVs to blood draws to giving yourself Humira injections, etc…you become desensitized to needles and don’t stress over it. While an epidural or spinal block sounds daunting, it’s just another shot to you. You know how it feels to get pain medication and how your body responds to certain drugs. For instance, I know I’m not a fan of Morphine and will ask for some Dilaudid and Zofran after my C-section if that’s the route I end up going.
3. Previous abdominal surgery.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, 75 percent of Crohn’s patients will require surgery at some point in their life. If you’re like me, you’ve had a bowel resection and already have the “C-section scar,” so you know what it’s like to heal from abdominal surgery. My doctors told me healing from a C-section will be much easier than the removal of 18 inches of intestine, along with my appendix. It’s sounding like I’ll be having a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks. If I hadn’t gone through my surgery in 2015, I feel as though I’d be very anxious and apprehensive about going under the knife to bring my baby into the world.
2. Comfort with your caretakers.
Between multiple hospital stays with my husband by my side, along with my family and my in-laws, I know who I can count on and how those closest to me respond during health situations. During the newborn classes the instructor mentioned how many husbands have to stand in the corner of the room during delivery or can’t witness a C-section, with many fainting or passing out. I’m comforted by the fact that my husband is my rock and his support, compassion and patience always get me through everything. I know he’ll be holding my hand and keeping my eye on the prize until our son is born.
1. Going to the hospital for something good.
This is the best part of all! Whether you were just diagnosed or you’re a chronic illness veteran, this is one of the few times in life when going to the hospital is for a great reason. Whatever pain you endure is temporary and whatever recovery is needed is all a result of bringing a life into this world – a child you get to love and adore, a new member of your family. This is one of the few times your pain has purpose.
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Photos by J. Elizabeth Photography