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To the New Mom With Chronic Illness Wondering If She Can Handle It All

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So you have a brand new little blessing in your life! How exciting. You also may be apprehensive of whether or not you can handle motherhood while living with a chronic illness. I was there 18 months ago when my daughter Savannah was born. I have several chronic illnesses: narcolepsy with cataplexy, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and chronic hepatic adenomas. Each illness has shaped who I have become today… and I am phenomenal, and so are you! Motherhood is tough in and of itself. We, however, are superheroes!

March 27, 2014: My family surrounded my hospital bedside just minutes from my second liver resection to remove a growing hepatic adenoma from my liver. Suddenly, my nurse exclaimed, “Is there any reason you could be pregnant?” My surgery was canceled — I was five weeks into a very high-risk pregnancy. Finding an OB-GYN willing to help me was challenging, but when I did it made all the difference.

I wondered if I could handle being a mom, being unable to drive, having to take naps and control cataplexy with a baby. Other people worry, too — people to whom it’s none of their business to care about my abilities. My daughter Savannah was born on November 3rd via cesarean section, at 37 weeks gestation.

By this time, I knew I was going to be a great mom. I risked my very life by carrying her to term. What regular person can truly understand chronic pain and extreme narcolepsy and how we deal with chronic illness? Not many; however, this won’t stop them from making their marginalizing opinions known. Try to ignore all negativity. I believe I have the authority to be heard as a disabled mom.

To strangers or even family whom think I couldn’t succeed at motherhood: I shine brilliantly at motherhood doing the very best I can with what I have.

New motherhood was very challenging and still takes a lot of my energy, but is the most rewarding role I play in life. It is shocking to me how much energy and effort being a hands-on mom (who is always starving for sleep and in pain) is needed to get my job as mom done well. It is still a shock that such a beautifully healthy energetic child was grown inside my weak, broken body. I am amazed how I was able to form a brilliant piece of sunshine the world would have never seen if I never bravely faced the negative doubters and woke each day.

My recommendations for new moms and new moms-to-be? Listen to yourself — your body, your strength, your beliefs. Stay positive and ignore negativity, and especially ignorance. 

Rest often! And don’t feel bad if you can’t stop all your medications while pregnant or breast feeding, if you must take your medications to be the best mommy possible.

Keep a quiet home and limit visitors the first few months, but don’t hesitate to request help when you need it. Take care of yourself, and share parental duties with your partner/spouse.

Most of all, know you are never alone. Us chronically ill moms have what it takes to raise amazing people who will bring brilliantly caring hearts to our world.

Follow this journey on Sleepy American.

The Mighty is asking the following: Are you a mother with a disability, disease or mental illness? What would you tell a new mother in your position? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 24, 2016
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