One of my biggest fears as a mom with Crohn’s disease is my next flare up. I know how it goes. It’s going to come out of left field. I’ll start the day feeling well—going about my business taking care of my son and then it’s going to happen. The relentless and all too familiar pain will take my breath away. I’ll call my husband, frantic, scared and emotional. My mind will race. This can’t happen. I can’t leave my baby. I can’t walk out this door doubled over in pain and not know when I’m going to be back home. This flare up will be worse than any I’ve encountered in the past. This time it’s not just about me anymore. It’s about him.
I dread packing a hospital bag with the necessities. It makes my stomach turn to imagine kissing his little cheeks and handing him over to someone else as my husband races me to the emergency room. As much as I hate to think like this and don’t like to be a Debbie downer, I know there will be a time it’s going to happen. Since Reid was born almost eight months ago, I’ve told my husband that my goal is to stay out of the hospital until Reid can physically walk into the room to visit me. I know that’s a hopeful goal. It’s been 27 months since I’ve been hospitalized due to my Crohn’s. I feel like a ticking time bomb. When will the next time be?
As parents, articulating chronic illness to little ones is difficult. You want to protect them from your pain and pretend all is perfect. You don’t want them to worry or think you’re unhappy or sick. On the rough days you hide behind a smile. When you’re hospitalized, wearing a gown, attached to an IV pole and looking less than stellar…how do you pretend? How do you protect your little ones from the unknown? This isn’t the mommy they know and love. Kids are more intuitive than we give them credit for.
As my son grows up I want him to look at me and be inspired by my strength. I want him to think of his mama as being a tough cookie. I want my injections and nightly medication to be a part of our normal routine. Something he doesn’t think twice about. I never want him to worry or wonder the next time mommy will have to go to that place that keeps her overnight. I want to make light of colonoscopy preps and blood draws and let him know that just because mommy has a disease, it doesn’t stop her from living a full life.
As a new mom, I can’t anticipate all the questions and all the emotions that will come with each passing year. What we can do as parents with chronic illness is be open and communicate. As much as we want to protect our loved ones from knowing how deep our pain lies, sharing and allowing them to be a part of our patient journey is important. It’s a big part of who we are and God forbid someday they too inherit the disease, we have to set an example that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it doesn’t have to rob you of living a beautiful life.
As I write this and look at sweet boy on the monitor, sleeping peacefully in his crib, I am thankful for another healthy day at home. And I’ll be thankful for every single one that I get. While I dread that next flare up, I have the best reason ever to fight like hell and get back home.