When a family member is diagnosed with IBD the same week as you, it can be sort of a saving grace.
My cousin’s wife, Alisa DeMarco, was told she had Crohn’s disease a matter of days before I was in July 2005. At the time, she was one of the only people I knew who had the condition—one of the only people I could confide in who could genuinely understand my reality. At the time of diagnosis and throughout your patient journey—these bonds and relationships are the glue that keeps you together.
Now, nearly 14 years later—her and I have come a LONG way. She’s on Remicade. I’m on Humira. We are both mothers. We are both wives. Alisa didn’t allow her disease to stop her from following her personal or professional dreams. In 2013, she left corporate America and founded Tekhni Wovens. As an IBD mom and successful business owner, her perspective and ability to overcome the odds is something we can all admire and look up to. This week—an interview with a woman I’m lucky to call family.
NH: What inspired you to create Tekhni Wovens?
AD: As a full-time working mother who enjoyed caring for my children with the help of wraps and slings, I quickly found myself as part of the babywearing community. Over time I shifted from consumer to manufacturer, designing textiles when I didn’t find what I was looking for— a fashion-forward aesthetic in easy-to-wear blends at accessible prices.
NH: As a woman with IBD, a mom of four, and a wife–how do you balance leading a successful business and keeping your disease symptoms under control?
AD: Balance is a hard ideal to maintain– and I am not always successful! I multi-task everything, stay on top of my biologic infusions, rest when possible and, plan my diet loosely around a mix of SCD and low gluten eating. Getting help is difficult, but I feel lucky to have a supportive husband and local family network. My travel schedule wears me down– but thankfully most of my disease symptoms are well controlled.
NH: What advice do you have for fellow IBD’ers who have big dreams but are hesitant to go after them because of their disease?
AD: Your dreams don’t have to be an all or nothing pursuit! Tekhni started as an idea to make a better product and help support my family… and evolved into multifaceted business with accounts worldwide. However, it took years, and many winding paths to get there. Know that there’s no deadline or requirement for any passion you want to pursue. Start with an idea, and break it down into bite-sized pieces. Your disease is only one small part of your identity, and cannot prevent you from planning and dreaming and accomplishing daily tasks on your own timeline.
NH: Why are you passionate about babywearing?
AD: Babywearing and attachment parenting are very close to my heart– they are natural extensions of our mothering instincts. They help me care for my young, closely-spaced children while working full-time and managing a household with a husband who is often away for work. Babywearing helps me effectively multi-task and meet my all children’s needs at the same time. It also helps address postpartum depression, by syncing mother and baby, and raising oxytocin levels. I believe babywearing is a necessity that should be taught to every single expecting parent and caregiver!
NH: Why is babywearing so beneficial for those with IBD in particular?
AD: Babywearing is a perfect fit for people with autoimmune diseases– it helps you hold, carry, and comfort your baby while taking weight and strain off of your back and hips. For difficult days, it can literally be another set of hands. And keeping baby in proximity leads to less crying, less stress, and more rest for both baby and mother. As a bonus, a variety of baby carriers can be adjusted to accommodate an ostomy or j-pouch.
Stay tuned to my Instagram account (@nataliannhayden) for a giveaway on Friday, May 17. We’ll be giving away a Studio Tekhni Ring Sling! The winner will be announced on World IBD Day (May 19). Good luck!