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Crohn’s Disease & Pregnancy: A Chapter on Self Love

In May, I became a mother.

These words still feel incredibly powerful (and slightly surreal), as I wondered and worried (and sometimes even grieved) for more than a decade about whether or not my diseased body would allow me to fulfill this dream. Because I have Crohn’s disease, I didn’t know exactly what the journey to motherhood might look like for me, and this continually filled my mind with an overlapping series of “what if” questions for my doctors, my partner, and most importantly, my heart. While I was (and am) open to growing my family through several different ways, I’ve wanted to carry and deliver a baby since I was old enough to understand what all that meant. I was hopeful (and terrified) that once my Crohn’s disease entered remission, I might be able to safely get pregnant.

My journey with Crohn’s and fertility

Looking back, I wrote here, here and here about some of my journey with IBD and fertility. My husband and I struggled with unexplained infertility, failed fertility treatments, and finally, a successful round of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), all the things that brought to light wisdom my Crohn’s disease has apparently bestowed upon me over the last 10 years. The truth is, I learned during this unpredictable and trying time that I was in fact patient, empowered, and even prepared for unexpected twists and turns, all because of my extensive history and experiences with IBD.

During my pregnancy, and subsequently since my delivery, I have ruminated on and really sat with my thoughts about and relationship with my body.

I was not confident in my body because of Crohn’s

To be honest, I’d never been very confident in my looks or style growing up, and this resulted in self talk that I’m not so proud of looking back. When I started experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s Disease at age 23, I felt like my body had let me down. It was embarrassing, and unpredictable, and it took away much of the fun loving and social parts of my personality and my life. I blamed my body for its’ shortcomings, I swore at it under my breath, I talked ill of it to others.

The quote “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” by Jim Rohn used to irk me. I wondered about those of us who didn’t choose the broken pieces we were stuck with – how were we supposed to take care of our body? How were we supposed to lay down flowers in the places where our hope usually went to die? I didn’t used to be someone who believed that my internal monologue could impact my feelings, or the physical successes or failures I experienced, but during my pregnancy, I challenged that.

Pregnancy brought gratitude to my body

From the moment I took a positive pregnancy test, I started thanking my body. I expressed my gratitude each time we went for a blood draw and my levels doubled, indicating the embryo was likely implanting in my uterus. I rubbed my belly in appreciation before and after each ultrasound, especially the frequent ones as infertility patients in the beginning of my pregnancy. I thought that anything I could do to ask this little baby to grow, to ask my body to house this tiny miracle, I was going to try. It couldn’t hurt, right?

It turns out that my Crohn’s disease was on its best behavior during the time I was pregnant. I received my remicade infusions like clockwork, never skipped any of my oral medications or doctors appointments, and continually said Thank You for the moments that I could take deep breaths, have bowel movements without pain, urgency, frequency, or blood, and for the growth milestones my baby continued to surpass. Coincidentally, I loved my pregnant body (inside and out) in a way I had never loved or appreciated my body before.

When I delivered my daughter naturally, I sang the praises of my this body. This is the same body that I have vehemently hated before, the one I have begged to just quit, the one I have previously felt incredibly betrayed by. I suddenly had this new, undying, overwhelming appreciation for it; for the skin and bones, for the hardworking organs, the blood and tissue, and honestly, for my Crohn’s disease too. This body, this disease ridden small intestine, these arthritis inflamed joints, the one that has battled medications and side effects and tests and procedures and hospital stays for the better part of a decade – it also allowed my greatest dream to come true. And it prepared me for the hard parts along the way.

New challenges and changes with a new baby

As I write this, I am 11 weeks postpartum, and there have been so many new challenges and changes with my body and my Crohn’s disease, but I think about how much this chapter on self love changed my outlook and my attitude towards my body, and I can’t help but smile.

Have you had any experiences in your health journey that have changed your relationship with your body or your attitude towards your IBD? I’d love to hear about them below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.