What Being a Mom Has Taught Me About UC
As I write this, I’m lying in bed on a Saturday afternoon, sick with either the flu, exhaustion, or both. My son has chickenpox, just three months shy of when he’s able to get vaccinated. He got it from me; I was blessed with shingles over Thanksgiving break. And before that, I had a nasty cold that my husband shared, and our son has roseola. And before that … well, you get the picture.
Having a baby, especially one in daycare, is a petri dish of conditions. I’m learning that right now — it has been a solid two months since I’ve felt 100%. I even emailed my gastroenterologist to see if I should be doing any extra maintenance for my ulcerative colitis (UC). I’m on immunosuppressants, so we’ve decided that my immune system is absolutely getting its butt kicked by the added germs in our house.
At least it’s not an UC flare, right?
I’ve learned a lot in my first nine months as a mom, but perhaps the most important one is that I need to take it easy on myself: Rest more. Forgive myself more. Listen to myself more. Trust myself more.
This philosophy ties directly into the relationship between parenting and UC — I’ve often struggled with resting enough with UC; I want to do all the same things that my friends can do, on the same timeline, in the same way. And I’ve paid a price for that over the years. But in some ways, I could “get away with it” before having a baby. I know my body intimately when it comes to limits with UC, so I admittedly know when I can cut some corners.
But a mom with UC? Forget it. The lack of sleep, illnesses, screaming fits, lifting and putting down, always “on,” and all the other things that come with keeping up with an infant have definitely put me in my place when it comes to self-care.
Being a mom has taught me that I need to slow down and take a beat before I reach the point of utter exhaustion. I need to be more proactive in recognizing new ways that my body and mind are telling me to take it easy. Parenting is much more mental for me than physical, but in the same breath, the mental and physical have never been more intertwined. Whenever I’m down for the count, it’s a double whammy.
Being a mom has also shed light on just how hard I can be on myself, which is reminiscent of how much I used to beat myself up over mundane things because of UC. Except the difference is that mom guilt sticks to me 24/7, whereas UC guilt was only after certain things (a long run, skipping an event, etc.).
For those reasons, I consider being a mom my much-needed crash course in self-care, all the time, every day, no matter what. In a way, becoming a mom is teaching me how to better care for my UC in any situation, not just when the negative emotions are triggered. And that makes me feel better.