a hospital and a house separated by a lake shaped like a colon

What it was like to be hospitalized as a mom

Last updated: November 2019

When you live with Crohn's you learn to expect the unexpected. The unpredictability of the disease is a constant reminder that the joy from your day can be robbed in an instant. As a mom of a 2-year-old and a nine-month-old who has lived with Crohn's disease for more than 14 years, I've learned to read my body and listen to the symptoms rather than tuning them out. Recently, I noticed a change in the way I had been feeling. I was making countless trips to the bathroom. Every time I ate food I felt gnawing pain my abdomen, my intestines felt like they were on fire. I constantly felt the need to burp or pass gas. I knew. The tides in my remission seemed to have been changing.

A hospital visit for Crohn's pain and urgency

After two days of dealing with the pain and urgency, I told my husband a visit to the hospital may be imminent. Since I became a mom in March 2017, my greatest fear has been having a flare-up and being hospitalized, away from my family. But as the pain worsened and I could barely walk and couldn't stand up straight, I waved the white flag and knew it was time.

My mother-in-law rushed over to watch the kids. My husband left work. I sobbed as I fed my kids lunch, knowing that once they were down for naps I would be leaving the house for an unknown amount of time. I cried as I laid them down in their cribs, hoping and praying there was nothing major going on that would sideline me from them. As my husband rushed me to the hospital, I felt incredibly anxious and was starting to hyperventilate.

A hospital visit for Crohn's is triggering

When you've lived with IBD for years and gone through countless flares, procedures, and surgery, going to the hospital can be a trigger. It's a stark reminder that you are not ok. You are not what's deemed "normal". You have a disease for which there is no cure that is wreaking havoc on your GI tract and no matter how well you think you have it tamed, it can knock you on your butt in the blink of an eye.

After years of going through triage and explaining my patient journey to nurses and doctors, I'd like to think my elevator speech and grasp of my illness is quite impressive. At least I like to hope so. Given my history of bowel obstructions, I was almost positive that wasn't the culprit. As the nurses got my IV started and started pumping pain and nausea medication, I waited for the CT scan. Every time I get rolled back for any type of scan or scope I fear the worst.

In the hospital with kids at home

Even though I've been down this road in the hospital many times, this time was different. This time I wasn't "just" Natalie. This time I was a mom. This time I was a wife. This time felt heavier. But this time there was a twist. Rather than dealing with a Crohn's flare, my symptoms were actually that of a bad GI bug. Unbeknownst to me, when you have IBD and have also had a bowel resection, I was told by my doctor that a GI virus can attack you more seriously than a typical person. My son had been vomiting days before with the stomach flu. Being his caretaker and also being immune-compromised led me to this place.

Grateful for this sickness rather than a flare

This GI bug resulted in hospital admission, but only for one night. That night I thanked my lucky stars that for once I was staying overnight not because my Crohn's was causing problems, but because I was sick. Yes, it was hard to be away from my family. And yes, it was brutal being so under the weather. But I felt grateful that my first time going to the ER and being admitted while being a mom wasn't for anything major. It gave me a sneak peek into what it will be like in the future when my Crohn's flares and how we will navigate that as a family. But for now, I'm grateful for the perspective and proud of myself for listening to my body when it needed me to slow down so it could heal.

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