My little guy Reid turned six months old on September 29th. Everyone always says how quickly time goes, but until it’s your reality…you don’t realize what a blur everything becomes. These past six months I’ve had the fear of a postpartum flare looming overhead. Wondering when my disease was going to re-surface with a vengeance. Luckily, despite having a few rough patches…I managed to stay out of the hospital and keep things under control on my own.
I’ll be the first to admit, mom guilt is real. It’s especially real when you’re grappling with a chronic condition like Crohn’s disease. Wishing you had more energy to keep up around the house, wondering how you’re going to play re-do the following days, weeks and years ahead. There are days and moments that push you and the struggle doesn’t get any easier when you have to care for more than just yourself. Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle. Other days you feel like you can conquer the world. I wish I could bottle up those fleeting feelings of invincibility and use them when I need them most. Because just like when you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s… it’s a part of you for the rest of your life, and so is motherhood.
Here are six helpful tips for conquering motherhood with inflammatory bowel disease:
- Get as much rest as possible
You know the advice you hear all the time “sleep when the baby sleeps”… pretty sure I actually only followed that rule of thumb a few times. But really, try and get as much shut-eye as possible. Especially after that early 3-4 am feeding. If you wake up again at 6 am you’ll at least feel like you’re just getting up for work or something! Work with your significant other to rotate who is getting up in the middle of the night and try to at least lay down, even if you’re not tired. My husband is always great about letting me “sleep in” on the weekends since I am the main caretaker all week. We all know IBD is a fatiguing illness as it is. The last thing you need is to couple that with utter and complete exhaustion.
- Keep all your doctor appointments and wellness visits
Once you become a mom you quickly realize that your needs drop to the bottom of the totem pole. It’s imperative you don’t let your efforts to manage your illness go by the wayside. Even when you’re delirious, take your medications and go to your doctor appointments. I scheduled everything from my GI visits to bloodwork around times I could have a sitter. I didn’t want to bring my son around the germs of a hospital or a doctor’s office (other than the pediatrician) before he was six months old. You’ll also want to attend those appointments by yourself or with a loved one or a friend, so you can listen and focus.
- When you have to go, GO.
One of the hardest things for me has been feeling the need to use the bathroom while feeding my son. I never want to interrupt his feeding or take the bottle away. Generally, when I do that he’s not the happiest with me. But you know what, the baby will survive if you need to take a five minute TV time-out and make a mad dash to the bathroom. In these past six months, I’ve carried Reid in the Rock N’Play and fed him from the door of the bathroom hunched over on the toilet on multiple occasions. How’s that for a visual, folks? Mom goals, right?!
- Schedule a massage…or two
Ladies, I don’t know about you…but one of my biggest “complaints” during pregnancy and after my c-section was back pain. I’ve had two professional massages at the spa since Reid was born and they have done wonders to relieve the stress. Massage and meditation is also beneficial when it comes to keeping stress levels low. For me, stress is my main disease trigger. I know massages can break the bank, so ask for gift cards around the holidays, for Mother’s Day or your birthday. It’s the best treat.
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Oftentimes the days are flying by so fast and you’re so focused on caring for your little one that you look at the clock and realize you forgot to eat the last few meals. For me, I constantly forget lunch. Don’t skimp on nutrition or eat foods that you know will trigger a negative response in your body. Try and meal plan and go grocery shopping on a Sunday so you have food readily available in your kitchen. Make enough for leftovers so you’re covered for lunch.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This is much easier said than done, and I know I struggle with speaking up. But we must. Being a mom is a full-time job in and of itself and then some. It’s the most amazing and the most difficult role you’ll ever get to experience. Know that you have a tribe of loved ones—family members and friends who are on the sidelines just waiting to sneak in and get some snuggle time with your little one. Take them up on it. You need time for you. You need a break to clear your head. Just ask—even if it’s only for an hour, speak up and you won’t be disappointed.
As far as postpartum flares I am thrilled that I’ve made it Reid’s entire life without needing to make an emergency trip to the hospital. (knock on wood!) I was also told by my pediatrician that Reid would no longer have the remnants of Humira in his system once he hit this milestone. We kept a bit of a low-profile these past six months since Humira is an immune suppressant. Reid couldn’t be healthier. Still hasn’t had a cold yet, so I chalk that up to success! It’s amazing how great it feels to just get outside and take a walk, soak in the fresh air and that time with your baby.
When you have a little human who depends on you for everything, it’s easy to put your own self-care and disease management to the wayside. But the funny thing is—we can’t be good mamas if we’re not healthy. So, take that time for yourself. Give yourself time to get into a groove and a routine that works best for you. Then one day, whether you’re holding your baby or just changing a diaper you’ll feel this empowering epiphany come over you and you’ll think… “I got this”… and guess what, you do.