Everyone knows that becoming a parent is all-consuming. Suddenly your own needs play second fiddle to the tiny person you are now completely responsible for. You will gladly sacrifice anything for them: showers, proper food, money, your social life…
But if you have a chronic condition, the reality is that your own health needs affect and restrict the way you would like to raise your kids. This is the life I have lived for the past five years. I know first-hand that this conflict of needs causes tensions, difficulty and guilt.
But in my experience it can also be a source of development, love and unexpected joy. So I have decided to write about my journey juggling three autoimmune conditions with the hardest, most wonderful task I have ever undertaken – parenting.
I am 30 years old and married to a wonderful, supportive husband. Since having my son I have not returned to work, aside from the odd freelance job.
I have had Type 1 Diabetes since I was 16 and have been very deliberate in not letting it control my life. But from the moment I saw those two pink lines telling me I was pregnant with my son, how I look after my body mattered a whole lot more. Suddenly, the state of my body didn’t only affect me.
Four years ago, shortly after the boy (let’s call him Small) was born, I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a horrible autoimmune condition which has caused a whole range of new issues and restrictions in our lives. The name can be deceptive as it isn’t just about dodgy joints. I have lived with horrible pain, fatigue and other symptoms for long periods of time, and that has obviously had a major impact on the things I have been able to do with my children.
Fast forward three years and little sister Tiny, now a cheeky one year-old, was born. As far as we’re concerned, she’s our miracle, as we never expected to have any more children with the diabetes and RA to deal with. Both children seem to be completely healthy – and we are immensely thankful for that.
My third (and hopefully final) condition is a fairly recent development. After some tell-tale symptoms and multiple positive blood tests, I finally admitted to myself that wheat wasn’t my friend and started a gluten-free diet. I don’t yet have an official diagnosis of coeliac disease, but my body is certainly thanking me for losing the bread! (UPDATE: in July 2018 I did get a confirmed diagnosis of coeliac disease)
It sounds cheesy, but I really do feel that I have learned so much as I have muddled through this difficult set of circumstances. My hope is that someone out there will be encouraged by my experiences and ponderings. So here goes!