IBD Motherhood Unplugged: The peaks and valleys of raising three littles in a pandemic

For IBD mom, Suzy Burnett, reflecting on the past year and half of living through the COVID-19 pandemic causes her to feel flooded with emotions. She knew having three children under the age of five at age 41, while dealing with the ebbs and flows of Crohn’s disease, would be challenging. She delivered her son, Guy, just as COVID cases were starting to soar. Now, she’s able to look back on how her family adapted and thrived, despite the difficult circumstances of living through a global pandemic with a chronic illness. I’ll let her take it away…

Like many families, we’ve worn masks, stayed at home, literally have seen no one except our wonderful neighbors, and made sacrifices to ensure the safety of ourselves and others.  We made the difficult decision not to send our 5-year-old to kindergarten, rather, enroll her in virtual 4k from the confines of our home. Our 3-year-old also didn’t attend preschool a few mornings a week like we had originally planned. We have noticed the lack of socialization has impacted her the most. Our 15-month-old is just now meeting family and friends for the first time.  He takes stranger danger to a whole new level, but we know he’ll warm up in due time. 

My husband, like so many others, started working from home. What was once thought to be a temporary safety precaution, has become a permanent situation. He continues to work in a room without doors while the wee ones race around playing superheroes. Noise canceling headphones have become a lifesaver.  All of us together at home, day after day, month after month. Our bond has grown deeper, and our Burnett Party of 5 has survived. I can honestly say we live fuller, laugh harder, hold each other longer, and love deeper.   

Dealing with the lifting of the mask mandate

Just as we were beginning to get used to our personal version of Groundhog’s Day, the mask mandate was lifted.  This is a huge milestone, but with that brings excitement along with anxiety. My husband and I are both vaccinated, but our 3 young children will have to continue to wait their turn. To say we’re trepidatious about starting to acclimate back into society is an understatement. We’ve been in our little bubble on Welcome Drive for more than a year.  I don’t think things will ever get back to “normal,” per say, but we’re looking forward to what our “new normal” will be. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start to be more present, and we have the opportunity to give precedence to things that matter most in life. Things will be a little different than before, and we will always remember and carry the weight that was and will forever be COVID. 

We will continue to have our groceries delivered as well as basic necessities, because it’s unclear who is vaccinated, and I’m not going to rely on the honor system of strangers to keep my kiddos safe. However, I am beyond the moon ecstatic that our girlies will both be doing outdoor soccer and playdates with other vaccinated families. My husband will continue to work from home, but this is a change we welcome and greatly appreciate. It has given us time as a family we never knew we were missing. Our oldest daughter, Lucy, will finally be attending kindergarten…….wait for it….IN PERSON. I am so proud of her. She’s sacrificed so much these past several months. She’s handled herself with grace and class far beyond her years.  We’re planning our first family trip in over two years, and I am completely overwhelmed at the mere thought of the happiness this will bring.

Coming out stronger than before

It has been months of peaks and valleys, but our mountain remains strong.  On top of enduring the pandemic, we lost our family cat, Miles. He was a furry friend to our littles when they couldn’t see their own friends. My dear Grandma Connors was called amongst the angels, and now she protects us from above. I also recently almost lost my sister due to a post birth hemorrhage, but now she rests safely at home with her baby boy. And I am recovering from a nasty bout of C.difficile. Yes, the one time I left the house I picked up a bacteria from the hospital.  Through it all though, we’re stronger than ever before because of our strong family foundation. 

My point in saying all of this is that we all go through our own struggles. Life is so unexpected, and often we can’t choose what we’re dealt. We can, however, choose how we handle the storm. We’re so grateful for our health, happiness, and each day we’re given. Take NOTHING for granted because every day is a gift.  Everyone has been impacted one way or another these past few years, and now it’s up to you to see where your ship will go as you navigate life with IBD and in general.  As the tides of the ocean swiftly change, so will the moments in life. Savor the moments.

Connect with Suzy on Instagram: @crohniemommy

Check out her blog: Crohnie Mommy

5 Helpful Day-to-Day Tips for IBD Moms

Hey IBD mamas and moms-to-be—this article is for you! With Mother’s Day this Sunday, I wanted to share 5 of my “life hacks” for taking on motherhood while living with IBD.
IMG-1309As a mom of a 2-year-old and an almost 4 month old, I’m in the thick of motherhood right now. While it’s an amazing season of life, it definitely has its challenges. A toddler, a baby, and a chronic illness. Ah, I’m exhausted just reading that myself! While it’s far from easy—I’ve found some ways to help embrace the ups and downs and everything in between.
Here are my 5 helpful tips for IBD moms: 
1.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
By verbalizing your pain and communicating openly with family and friends, you open yourself up to a network of support. Don’t try and be a martyr or a superhero. In the end the only person you are hurting is yourself. A few hours to yourself will do wonders for your psyche, you’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed and you’ll be a better mom because of it.
2. Stay on top of daily disease maintenance: your medication, your doctor appointments, blood tests, and annual scopes. 
Moms have a reputation for putting themselves on the bottom of the totem pole. When it comes to chronic illness, lapse in taking medication and managing your illness can set you up for a flare up. IMG-7462No one wants to be hospitalized or deal with pain. Give yourself the best chance for having feel good days and make your disease management a priority. If you feel symptoms presenting and you’re concerned, alert your GI immediately. Be proactive, nip each flare in the bud as best you can.
3. Busy boxes for the win!
Once you have a toddler—or more than one child, these are lifesavers! Look up ideas on Pinterest and create boxes to keep your little one busy when your fatigue is overwhelming or when you’re in a lot of pain. I went to Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Target and created fun boxes for Reid filled with everything from puzzles to coloring books to sensory activities with noodles. I made a busy box for each day of the week. You can do so very economically!
4. Practice self care as often as possible.
IMG-9834Yes, I know. Self care. We hear it all the time. It’s something that’s constantly talked about, that seems unattainable. But try and do something each day for yourself, whether it’s taking a shower, eating a meal sitting down, going for a walk outdoors with your little one and keeping your phone on silent, reading a book before bed, you name it. Try and find the moments in your day when you can unplug and relax. Practice yoga and meditate during nap time instead of doing the dishes or laundry. You owe it to yourself!
5. Give yourself grace. 
Motherhood is an incredible experience, but it’s not easy. Add chronic illness to the mix and it becomes even more difficult. Don’t beat yourself up on the days you aren’t feeling well and need to stay indoors and lay low. Stop comparing yourself to the mom who seems to have it all together on social media. We all know we have hot mess moments, that’s life. Focus on all the happiness and joy you bring to your little ones life. You are their world. IMG-8890You were given this role and this family because you were meant to have it and you were destined to live this life.
Bonus Tip!: Wear your baby. Baby wearing will do wonders for your joints and your wellbeing. Not only does baby love being close to you, it helps give you a bit of a break whether you’re out and about or at home.
On this upcoming Mother’s Day and always, I commend every woman for their efforts. You are remarkable. You are a warrior. You are a guiding light for your loved ones. And you deserve to be celebrated for all that you do, day in and day out.

Help manage your IBD in the palm of your hand: Oshi Health launches first all-in-one mobile app

Managing inflammatory bowel disease is no small feat. Whether it’s determining which foods and drinks are your triggers, tracking your fatigue, staying on top of medications, keeping all your doctor’s appointments in order…the list goes on, and it’s a lot. Oftentimes as patients, we have so much to juggle in our everyday life that we can lose sight of when our bodies give us signals that a flare up is on the horizon. It’s can be easy to hide behind a smile and ignore symptoms. Your normal is different than the average persons. Your pain tolerance, perspective and the way you experience life are unique. Most people don’t have to put so much thought into meal time and think of bathroom breaks as a stress.

This is where Oshi Health’s new mobile app comes in. Logo with DARK letters OSHI HEALTHThe app features tracking, curated learning, and expert Q&A. Click here to watch a short YouTube video about all the app has to offer.

As a blogger and patient advocate, I’m thrilled to be one of the contributing writers featured on the app.  You’ll find new articles from me pertaining to dealing with the diagnosis, friendships, relationships and motherhood with IBD. The exclusive content features real-life s  buccess stories, easy-to-understand information on emerging treatments, and delicious IBD-friendly recipes.

Keeping track of daily factors—such as sleep, diet and exercise, along with symptoms can help us better understand the causes of our flare-ups and how to best achieve remission.

The all-in-one app’s features include:

  • Fresh Content: Daily doses of inspiration and information
  • Tracking: Short-term and long-term trends including well-being and symptom scores
  • Integration: Compatibility with leading fitness devices, sensors, and wearables
  • Reminders: Helpful notifications to stay on track with IBD wellness
  • Surveys: Bi-weekly progress checkpoints
  • Expert Q&A: Professional feedback from gastroenterologists and medical professionals
  • Security: Best-In-Class data privacy with state-of-the-art encryption

“Oshi is a free mobile app that empowers individual control and understanding of IBD wellness. DanWeinsteinOshiHealthOshi has the potential to significantly improve lives with smart tools to manage and control Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” said Daniel Weinstein, CEO, Oshi Health, Inc. “Oshi’s easy-to-use, best-in-class tracking and insights tool will allow patients to work with their physicians to uncover hidden patterns to figure out what triggers flares for their unique bodies.”

The app’s “Ask the Experts” feature further supports your digital experience as a patient or a caregiver. A team of gastroenterologists and health professionals will provide moderated feedback on key questions. You can find answers to your questions right at your finger tips from sources you can trust.

As someone who has battled Crohn’s disease for 13 years, I’m excited an app like this is on the market. I wish I had a tool like Oshi when I was initially diagnosed. A tool that recognizes my needs and concerns. A tool that empowers me to be my own best advocate and stay on top of symptoms. This app is great to have in your back pocket as you attend doctor appointments. You can look at all your information you’ve tracked and be able to communicate clearly what your needs are and where your concerns are. We now have the power to advance our own health care and give our gastroenterologists a clear look at the back story of our day-to-day lives. It’s easy to use, intuitive design, makes managing IBD feel like much less of a chore.

OSHI is now available for download on the Apple App Store or Android Google Play.

Apple iOS: https://bit.ly/Oshi_iOS

Android: https://bit.ly/Oshi_Android

Click here for more information about Oshi Health.