Luckily, most days I know damn well I’m a good mom. My kid is so cheerful and confident I occasionally wonder where he came from. He thinks broccoli is the best thing ever. He actually likes me. I mean, really likes me. I had my son relatively late in life, six years after I was first diagnosed with IBD. Every so often, I wonder what I would have been like as a mother if I’d had him before. I definitely would have been more physically able. But would I have been as patient? As emotionally equipped? I don’t think so. For all the grief my illness gives me, for the following reasons I do believe that having IBD has made me a better mother:
- MAD POO SKILLZ
Anyone who has children knows exactly what I mean by pooplosions, pootastrophies, and poosasters. It happens. A lot. I cannot believe how much poo can come out of such a tiny body and with such gusto. But I know poo. My life often revolves around it. Thanks to my Crohn’s disease, I got poo covered. And no one can manage diaper rash like someone with IBD.
- MORE SURGERY? IT MUST BE WEDNESDAY
I had three abdominal surgeries before I got pregnant. In my particular case, my surgeon was very clear that I could choose either natural birth or continence. Call me crazy, but I chose continence. And making that choice was liberating. With natural birth off the table, I could spare myself the hand-wringing at the fear of hours of labor and the trauma that my poor vagina would suffer. I’ll admit it; I was relieved. Knowledge of the risks aside, having had the benefit of prior surgeries, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for my C-section. Plus, I already had a big ‘ol scar site the surgeons could reuse, and I love nothing more than being thrifty. And having had a C-section, I can honestly say that labor is for suckers. (And this is a joke, for anybody clutching their pearls in offense).
- IT’S A MIRACLE!
Most, if not all, mothers feel that their child is a gift, a miracle. That being said, most, if not all, women assume that they can have all the children they want, whenever they want. And why shouldn’t they? But I was told that, due to the amount of scarring from my surgeries, I would never conceive. One year, a cheap motel room, and a pitcher of margaritas later and boom! I’m on the bus to baby town. The continuing gratefulness for this unexpected gift is sometimes the only thing that prevents me from donating the little beast to the local circus.
- THE GLASS CASE OF EMOTION
Sometimes, post-natal depression can feel can feel a lot like post-traumatic stress. In fact, you could argue that they’re two sides of the same coin. Although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time, after each of my surgeries I went through a period of grief, anxiety, and profound sadness. Those familiar feelings surfaced again two months after the birth of my son. But thanks to my previous experience with them, I merely peered over the edge of the precipice, rather than falling in. I coped better, found myself quicker, and wasn’t ashamed to get the support I needed.
- I’M NOT NORMA BATES
I couldn’t be a helicopter mother even if I wanted to. I’m too damn tired. As a result, I don’t do anything for that kid that he can do for himself. At 19 months old, he can help put away his toys, unpack groceries, and cook a mean steak. His cocktail skills leave something to be desired, but I think I’ll keep him.
- I AM FORCED TO SLOW DOWN AND SMELL THE DIAPERS
Another silver lining of fatigue. As much as we love swimming and going to the park, there are many days when the best I can do is cuddling and reading. And so we do, a lot. We’re not always rushing from one activity to the next. I have no choice but to spend hours with him in my arms, seeing him, smelling that baby smell, and watching close-up as his personality develops and his baby fat gives way to a little boy. And we love every minute of it.
- I GIVE ZERO F***S WHAT MY BODY LOOKS LIKE
After being repeatedly probed, exposed, sliced, diced, and stapled back together, my days of being vain are over, and I’ve never felt so liberated. A few extra chins of baby fat? Boobs that are starting to search for my pockets for loose change? A scarred stomach so squishy my son likes to use it as a pillow? I celebrate that body and use my time for better things, like building paper spaceships.
- IT’S ALL ONE BIG CRAPSHOOT ANYHOO
Obviously, my life did not turn out the way I planned. I got sick and as a result had to move, change careers, and reconsider nearly everything about my future. As a busy person with a perfectionist personality, it was a bitter pill. But it forced me to change my outlook on life and how I coped with it. I now understand that life is messy, and it no longer freaks me out. If it tidies up with a wet wipe, it’s clean. Food off the floor won’t kill you. Boogers in your hair are a fashion statement. Nothing that kid does can faze me now.
And believe me, he tries.