motherhood and ibd: how i learned to love my body, again
By Natalie Hayden
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. There was never a time I second guessed that decision, not even after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 21 in 2005. Prior to my inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis, I was a picture of health. I never even had an ear ache growing up. I was an avid soccer and basketball player, who lived for the adrenaline rush of sports. When you’re blessed with the gift of health, you never stop and question if you’re going to feel well when you wake up in the morning. You have a feeling of invincibility and strength that is quickly taken from you the moment you find out you have a chronic illness. An illness for which there is no cure.
Facing your illness and dreams head on
I discovered I had Crohn’s disease two months after graduating from college. It was a dark and difficult time in my life. I questioned whether I would ever be able to follow my dream of becoming a television news anchor. I wondered if I would ever find someone who would love me. I felt isolated and worried that marriage and my dream of being a mother would never come to fruition. But, rather than allow the disease to take away all that I had strived and hoped for, I chose to allow my disease to be a part of me, but not all of me.
I landed my first television job three months after my diagnosis and moved eight hours away from home to Minnesota, while on 22 pills a day. I went on to work in television for a decade. I dated and fell in love, had my heart broken and realized through flare ups and hospitalizations which guys could handle being with someone who had Crohn’s disease, and which could not. I found the love of my life, got married and welcomed a son into the world 15 months ago. All this, while going through several hospitalizations, a decade of biologics, a surgery that resulted in the removal of 18 inches of my small intestine and nearly 13 years of taking on the unknown that each day brings with IBD.
How IBD gets you ready for motherhood
Here’s why IBD prepares you for motherhood. Pregnancy symptoms can be brutal. But, they have a beginning and an end. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The nausea, vomiting and fatigue are nothing new. When you become a mom and you battle IBD, you have a newfound reason to be strong. Your child will motivate you, inspire you and push you through the painful days. You will do everything in your power to stand up to your disease, manage it well and stay out of the hospital.
Even though motherhood can feel like groundhog day at times, the moments (both good and bad) are fleeting. You will look at your little one and at your body and be amazed at the miracle you created. You’ll go from thinking that your body is only capable of hurt, to feeling like a superwoman. It feels amazing to go the hospital for a good reason. When I got my c-section, that abdominal surgery and recovery felt like a piece of cake compared to what I had endured with my bowel resection.
You are so much more than a woman with IBD. You created life. It’s an emotional journey filled with gratitude. Motherhood has enabled me to see that I am so much more than my disease. It’s empowered me. Yes, juggling a chronic illness and the fatigue and pain that comes along with it can be daunting and overwhelming, but you’ll learn to adapt. Never be afraid to communicate when you need help and be proactive when you feel symptoms creeping in. Just like you’ve grown with your illness, you’ll continue to grow as a mother. A mother who happens to have Crohn’s disease. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.
About Natalie Hayden
Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 34, is a former TV news anchor with Crohn’s disease living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Her blog, “Lights, Camera, Crohn’s: An Unobstructed View” covers everything from overcoming struggles to celebrating small victories. Natalie’s focus is to inspire others and connect with those battling IBD in an honest and transparent way. As a passionate health advocate, journalist, and mom, she strives to show there is more to life than your diagnosis and illness. You can follow Natalie’s journey on Instagram at @natalieannhayden.