I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 1982. I was only 16 and had been unwell for at least three years previously. Doctors had been unable to determine what was wrong with me and after a while I began to doubt myself and to think that maybe all the symptoms were in my head. I began keeping a record of events, a bit like a diary in which I could record my feelings and concerns. When I am down I look back on my notes and am surprised at how far I have come!
As many of you would know, having a chronic illness during your teen years is not much fun. I was lucky in that I had and still have a very supportive family and network of friends. Not everyone is so lucky. I am grateful to them for being with me on my journey. Despite Crohn's I managed to complete my H.S.C. and to gain a degree. The latter took longer than planned because of being ill, but looking back I should never have attempted full time study but taken the part time option earlier on. I had a resection during that time and tried many medications in an attempt to manage the disease. Eventually, the medication no longer had any effect and I knew that an ileostomy was on the cards. I put that off until 1996, at which time the decision was pretty much made for me by the fact that I was so unwell.
I was married in November 1995 and then had ostomy surgery in the following February. There had not been much time to let Tom get used to the idea. We had a whirlwind romance and were married within 15 months. In that time he was forced to learn about Crohn's Disease and stomas very quickly. Again, I could not have been luckier in finding a more supportive partner. One thing we had to talk about sooner than most couples was children. I had always feared that I could not get pregnant because of the drugs and surgeries of the past and so had convinced myself that I did not want children. Once I was in a permanent relationship this changed.
All up, considering surgeries and recommendations from doctors, Tom and I tried to conceive for two years. We had given up hope of it happening naturally and had signed up for I.V.F. A week before starting the treatment I found out that I was pregnant. Then began weeks of worry about whether or not I could carry to term. Afters years of medical problems you begin to expect the worst at every corner, but I have been surprised at how easy the pregnancy has been for me. I cannot really say that I have had morning sickness or been exhausted. I worked until seven months and am now eagerly awaiting the birth of our much-wanted and much-loved child. I have "nested" and feel that all that can be is now ready. I still do not know if I will attempt a "natural" delivery or have an elective caesarean, a lot depends on the baby and how my body copes with the last couple of weeks of pregnancy. This morning I found out that my blood pressure is a little high - this could dictate mode of delivery, but I am not worried. I trust my obstetrician implicitly and feel that Tom and I have been informed and included in every decision made so far. I feel so lucky to have gone through the miracle of pregnancy and look forward to the next few days/weeks. Hopefully, I will write another instalment after the birth - once I have adjusted to my new role as mother.
[Editor's Note: Still suffering from high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), Jane was admitted to hospital at her next ante-natal appointment. Patrick was born that evening, on 1st October 1999, delivered by caesarean section - Jane and Tom's healthy baby boy!]
Reprinted from "Just for YOU" (Volume 9 - November 1999)