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I have Crohn's disease and I'm going to be a mom

What it feels like to find out you're pregnant after years of battling chronic illness.

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For the first time in more than 11 years, I have a lot more than Crohn’s going on in my abdomen… I’M PREGNANT!! It’s amazing to finally be able to share these exciting words with you and offer insight into what it’s like to carry a child while living with a chronic autoimmune disease. I just surpassed the 13 week mark on Saturday and we found out Baby Hayden is a BOY! He is due on April Fools’ day.

Prior to getting married in June, I underwent a colonoscopy in May to see if I was in remission (with family planning in mind). While Crohn’s presents differently in every patient—the general rule of thumb for prospective mothers is to conceive only when you are in a remission state. If you’re flaring or have active disease present—oftentimes that can carry on throughout the pregnancy. For many—pregnancy hormones slow digestion and in turn the disease is silenced. This makes me want a family bigger than the Brady Bunch! (just kidding, Bobby!) Lucky for me, three weeks before the wedding—I was told I was in remission. I attribute my remission to the removal of 18 inches of diseased intestine in August 2015 and making the decision to go back on medication once I was healed, even though I dragged my feet at first.

While the news of being in remission was exciting to hear—I always take the results with a grain of salt. The year before I was told the same thing… and ended up hospitalized with a bowel obstruction 10 days later. All I could hope and pray for was to stay in remission long enough so that we could try to start our family after our wedding.

I described this time period as “racing my remission.” I was fearful –wondering whether we would get pregnant before the disease would strike again. On my wedding day (June 4) I was symptom free; despite all the hustle and bustle of the day…talk about a Crohn’s miracle!! Then, we were blessed to find out at the end of July that we had a baby on the way.

To say we feel elated and over the moon is an understatement, as any couple wanting a child feels when they find out they are going to be parents. It’s truly hard to put into words how fortunate we feel. Of course we won’t feel a true sense of relief until he is safe in our arms. I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always worried about whether I would out-do my disease in time to and beat it to the punch when the time was right for me.

It was such an incredible sense of relief to see the positive sign on the pregnancy test and have it all confirmed at the OB a few weeks later. While there’s no telling if I’ll flare while pregnant (a constant fear that looms over me), so far things are going great. Since I’ve been pregnant there have only been six days where I felt symptoms of Crohn’s… it’s incredible not to feel the symptoms that have been a part of my life for so long. I can only hope and pray this continues until I deliver. I traded Crohn’s issues for pregnancy symptoms, but I consider those more than worth it—especially knowing they are temporary!

As a Crohn’s disease patient and mom-to-be, you’re considered high risk. I try to look at the bright side of it all—we have three specialists watching over baby and me…and we get to see our little one through more ultrasounds!

Over the years I’ve come to realize how little information there is about women who’ve been pregnant with Crohn’s disease… or any autoimmune disease for that matter. I started this blog with the hope that I’d be able to share this journey with the public and make a difference. (We found out the news of the baby two days after the blog went live, so you can imagine how anxious I’ve been to share this update!!) Through this journey of pregnancy and motherhood, I am going to offer a voice for the women out there who are going through the very same thing and have the very same questions. Whether it’s to stay on medication, deciding to breastfeed, if you should plan a vaginal or c-section delivery, etc…the list goes on and on, there is SO much to consider.

While I don’t have all the answers of course, I will explain to you what I’m learning along the way and the reasons for my decisions. The blog won’t focus solely on this—but, I feel my experience can help pave the way for those in my shoes. In the meantime, if you have questions or topics you want me to cover—don’t hesitate sending an email to lightscameracrohns@gmail.com.

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Photo of Chris Dorrow

Hi Natalie,

First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS on both your upcoming motherhood and on getting married ( my wife and I recently got married this past July as well).

In relation to your post, my mother was also diagnosed with Crohn's at the age of 18 and gave birth to me approaching her 21st bday. Apparently I was a pesky and very slow delivery, which kind of highlights a few of my traits today :) I've spoken to my Mom on several occasions about what it is like to have Crohn's and give birth and the biggest thing on her mind (as I'm sure is with most Mom's) "will my child be OK? and will my child be born with Crohn's as well"?

Fortunately with today's technology, these questions can be answered quite simply (although the ethics behind this is still up for discussion). Genome sequencing and the ability to download your entire DNA structure in the matter of minutes gives us unprecedented insight into these daunting questions stated above. As an technology and innovation enthusiast, I would be interested to know if the community of pregnant mothers with diseases would feel more comfortable knowing the answers, or if the access to such predisposition knowledge is crossing the line of "available information".

Wishing you all the happiness and health for you and your family.

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