Adulting with an Autoimmune Disease is not the best thing. It’s not really a good thing. It’s the amount of responsibility, pressure and stress that makes it harder to deal with. You have work, bills, marriage/relationships, children and the news. But such is life. Some of us with autoimmune diseases choose to not have children. Some of us choose to have them. It’s totally a personal preference, that I have no opinion on one way or another. There is no wrong or right. Every situation is too personal. Every reason is too personal. It’s not up to me to decide the fate of your family. What works for me, may not work for you. And vice versa.
I am one of those patients who chose to have a child. Although, I like to say, I was chosen to have a child because around the time of conception I was practicing birth control & was told having a child would probably not happen without help. That being said, I didn’t really have a plan in place on whether I would go back to work or stay home. Naturally because I was in a space of denial about my disease and because the only stay at home mom I knew was my mother in law and my great grandma…I planned on going back to work. But that isn’t exactly what happened. And because I was hell bent on getting back to film production, I wasn’t prepared for the option of staying at home and what that entailed. I also wasn’t prepared for the blessing it was for me and Hippo.
The best plan is to have no plan. Okay, maybe draft a plan in your mind, but don’t get married to it. Things change. I think living with an autoimmune disease prepares you for last minute life changes all the time, so this is a no brainer. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you may not be able to get back to work after the baby. At least not your old job/career. You just might have to make some adjustments. I wish I had created a plan for both scenarios, staying at home and going back to work. Being prepared is always a great thing, being stubborn about plans is not. Get the difference?
Okay, so you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. Sit down with your partner and weigh out all the pros and cons. It’s thought, financially it is usually easier to go back to work. But if your body cannot
physically handle going back to work after having a baby, then it could actually be more financially taxing trying to go back to work. If you begin to exhaust yourself, you’ll end up in a flare. That can lead to more emotional stress. And God forbid you are hospitalized. That carries a horse of a different color all together! You begin pushing yourself unrealistically. Next your partner is taking care of everything. But this time it seems a little unnecessary because you’re in this predicament, not because of the disease, but because you have pushed yourself too far. You’ve worn yourself thin. You know that saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup!”? Well, I had an empty cup I was trying to force coffee out of. Seriously, I was dressing up as Superwoman, pretending to be her. But my costume was falling apart. For a hot second, while my son was an infant I went back to work part time in a restaurant. I took care of a baby and a home all week, then went to work on the weekends, only to go back home on the weekends to take care of a baby and a home. All while flaring, losing weight and suffering from postpartum depression. At the time I no longer had insurance, so I was literally spending every other weekend in the ER and paying for extra medication to subdue the flare, instead of my maintenance regimen. Now, if I had just stayed home and focused on the house and the baby, which is stressful and exhausting in itself, I would have been better off emotionally, physically & financially. But again this was my experience with UC attacking my body. Some patients have a baby and do well. My cousin, who has Crohn’s, was hospitalized briefly after having her son, but with a proper Remicade treatment, she was able to go back to teaching. That is what worked for her family. Staying home worked well for my family.
Both situations can bring guilt or stress. Not realizing that really, it’s just a change that you are uncomfortable with. Babies bring change. They will bring change into your life physically, emotionally and financially. They will also change your disease. You have to be prepared for all of it. At the end of the day, it’s all going to work out! I found myself stressing so much about being home and not doing my part by not going to work, that I didn’t realize I was doing my part by taking care of our child, taking care of the home and concentrating on my health. Staying home didn’t make me any less of a woman. Going to work didn’t make me any less of a mother. Having an autoimmune disease didn’t make me any less of a woman, wife or mother. They are all just different ways of living your life. Whether you decide to go back to work or stay home, you should know five things:
1. You Can Always Change Your Mind
If you do end up going back to work and don’t like it or it’s too hard on your body, then stay home. Most people assume that you aren’t able to have a stay at home parent, but that isn’t true. For the most part you will have to make sacrifices, financially, but it can be done. Or you can find a way to work from home. Think about your health and your family first before the idea of a career or the idea of staying at home.
2. Don’t Listen To Your Friends
None of my good friends offered their opinion because they knew it was a decision between me and my son’s father. This is a personal decision that you will have to live with, not them. It’s like breastfeeding or cloth diapers. You decide what’s best for you and your family. If someone is making you feel bad about your decision, they aren’t your friend.
3. Make The Most Of The Situation
If you choose to stay home, take the opportunity to homeschool your kids and focus on your health. Make it your job to be healthy and a mommy. Don’t think about what you aren’t doing and focus on what you can do. Keep a schedule that works well with your health needs. A healthy mommy, is a happy mommy. A happy mommy, is a productive mommy. A productive mommy, is a healthy mommy. See how I did that?! LOL!
4. Make Sure You and Your Spouse Are 100% On Board
Don’t just decide that you wanna do it because it sounds good. Weight out all the pros and cons. Talk about why you want to go back to work and why he/she wants you to stay home and vice versa. Talk about the possibilities that come with staying home (loneliness, exhaustion, etc) and going back to work (guilt, babysitting, etc). Talk, talk, talk! You have 9 months to hash it out, so get to it!
5. Join A Support Group of Moms In Your Situation
When I was staying at home, I joined a group of moms that I didn’t really have much in common with. In fact the only thing we had in common was that we had infants and we stayed at home with them. It didn’t help. I felt even more isolated being in a room with them, than at home having Hippo stare at me. I didn’t know it at the time, but there are plenty of FB groups and Moms groups started by moms with Colitis, Crohn’s, Ostomies & J-Pouches. I’ve found that I can also relate to moms with Lupus, Diabetes, MS, AIDS & Cancer, before I can relate to a healthier mom. It’s like being a single mom with only married mom friends. Sure you love each other, but you don’t really understand the other’s life. There are plenty of groups with moms who work that get together for playdates on the weekends and mom’s night outs. Find those moms and enjoy new friendships with them.
How did Staying At Home, work out for me? I honestly feel like I spent most of my time thinking about not wanting to stay at home, that I didn’t see how great it was. But luckily for me, hindsight is 20/20. In the 3 years, Hippo had me exclusively to himself, I was able to teach him how to read, write and speak. We also bonded greatly. I was able to provide home cooked meals everyday that I wasn’t very sick. I was able to focus on some philanthropic work I really wanted to do that helped some people that were less fortunate than my family. I also learned a lot about myself as a mother, when I wasn’t really sure I could ever be one. I found a whole new respect for stay at home mothers. It’s an incredibly hard job because you are never off. There isn’t a decompressing drive to and from the office. You are never away from your co-workers…they follow you into the bathroom! LOL! I kept the baby on a schedule and I treated my days like a work day. Each day had a different agenda and reason. From kid to housework. The amazing blessing was I saw just about every single moment of his development. Except for that one week I went to New Orleans and his teeth came in!! I sat on the bathroom floor of my bed & breakfast and cried. Oh and then there was that time he started crawling while I was in the hospital for a week. Kids! They have no respect for your eagle eye watching! HAHAHAHA!!! But all in all it was the best decision for my family. Jaxon had issues with his eye and a couple of other things that I was able to stay on top of because I was home and I’m a nut about researching.
I know some of you were hoping that I would have a definite answer of what you should do. I’m sorry I don’t. But I never really think there is a definite answer to anything, really. Lives are personal. We can’t fix them with a blanket answer. Don’t worry, everything is gonna work out fine! You’ll be great! Even on the days you don’t feel you’re doing enough, trust me, you are!