Chronic Illness + Motherhood
I get messages a lot on social media, asking me for advice. Most are from other girls who are struggling with some type of heart arrhythmia, or POTs. The questions range from diagnosing to different treatment options. But the most common question is about motherhood.
How to manage a pregnancy with a chronic illness? How to get past the fear? Did I choose to stay on medications during the pregnancy? How to decide what path to motherhood is right for you? Etc.
I don’t have all the answers.
Before I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, it was never something I thought too much about. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but it wasn’t something I had to really think much about, detail wise. But then I was diagnosed.
But even then, I didn’t really think too much about it. I figured once the time came, I would know the right path.
I considered all my options- adoption, surrogacy, and pregnancy. I knew ultimately I wanted to be a mom no matter how that came about, but I really desired to carry my own child. To have that experience. I fought for so many years against my own body, and it had taken so much from me, I really did not want it to take this from me too.
But a small part of me wanted to simply give up my dream and desire to be a mom because I did not want to have to plan my life around my illness, and it was easier to just give up the idea, than to possibly have my body fail on me.
I ultimately chose pregnancy.
My first pregnancy was really rough. I was in and out of the hospital, and saw my cardiologist every few weeks. I had to quit my job halfway through, and felt like my body was failing me.
That was the hardest part honestly- feeling like my body was failing me. All I wanted to be was a mom. I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy. I wanted to have this amazing experience. Yet, my body was not cooperating.
I wont sugarcoat it. It was a hard nine months. But it was worth it.
I am currently 39 weeks in my second pregnancy, and it has been night and day compared to my first.
I have only seen my cardiologist twice this entire pregnancy. I’ve been doing so well on my medications. I’ve been able to chase a toddler, while pregnant, with a heart condition.
Motherhood is tough, but possible- even with an illness. You just have to go about it differently.
I never would have expected this. My cardiologist told me each pregnancy would be 50/50 on if it would be really hard, or fairly easy to manage.
My focus during both pregnancies has always been on the child, with my well-being being last on my mind (as I’m sure is with most moms).
I worried would I be enough for my child? Will I be able to adequately play with them without blacking out, and carry them in my arms safely from point A to point B?
My biggest concern was the nine months I had to share my body with another human. The medication that was keeping my heart regulated could potentially be harmful for the child that was growing inside of me. I worried would my body be the right place to provide a safe place for them to grow.
I am sure you’re asking yourself the same questions.
I stayed on beta blockers the majority of both pregnancies. My first I was off the medication until 16 weeks, and then I restarted them. This pregnancy, I stayed on from day one. I am glad I did. It was what was healthy for me, therefore, it was what was best for the baby. You have to be healthy, in order to be able to carry the baby safely. I understand the guilt you might face making that decision. I faced it. I cried many nights my first pregnancy, but I know now, taking care of my own body is best for the baby I am carrying.
But that will look differently for each person. You have to choose what is best for you, your health, and your child. I cannot make that decision for you, but I will gladly answer any other questions you might have on this, or discuss my thought process through it all.
You will adapt to your circumstances. You can get through a pregnancy with a chronic illness. It might not be easy- and honestly, I am sure it will be very hard compared to someone who is healthy, BUT it will be so worth it in the end when you’re holding that precious little baby.
But remember, motherhood is not a one-way or no-way path. It can be different for every single one of us. If you don’t feel like carrying a pregnancy is right for you- you have other paths that can lead you to being a mom. Adoption/fostering and surrogacy are amazing options.
Your child will love you no matter the struggles you face (and most of the time they won’t even notice your struggles). My son is almost 2 years old, and he has no clue what health struggles I face. All he wants is to have his mom next to him. He doesn’t care if I have to take medications every day to survive, or if I have to sit down a little more than other moms might.
You got this! I know it won’t be easy, and making the decision to go down the path of pregnancy with a chronic illness is a very difficult decision, but only you can make it. You have to do what is best for you. But know that you have an amazing support system around you in this community. There’s so many others who have walked down this path, and have survived. No matter how you become a mom, it will be worth it.
Don’t let a chronic illness take motherhood away from you.