In the last issue of StomaTips, I shared what I had learnt from my experience of being pregnant while living with an ostomy and Crohn’s disease during the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming pregnant was an unexpected blessing, but I had a few challenges, including becoming less tolerant of certain foods and my stoma changing size, but changing my pouch stayed easy. Since then, I have given birth to my son, Odin.
I must admit that the last few days of my pregnancy were possibly the hardest I have ever experienced in my life. My stoma had prolapsed – meaning it started sticking out more than it should, which can cause problems with the pouch – and I wasn’t managing it very well on my own.
Then my health took a turn for the worse. I started feeling really unwell and experiencing pelvic girdle pain related to my pregnancy. So I spent the 2 weeks leading up to giving birth in hospital, on a concoction of baby-safe medications. This concoction didn’t seem to help much, but the budesonide did prevent my stoma from becoming worse.
In the final week, I started having contractions, which did not please my stoma. This left me quite breathless, and I was vomiting and struggling to eat. Meanwhile, my partner had just come home from having a new stoma fashioned, so I would have been on my own. However, I had a roommate in hospital, and they were what really helped me get through it all, alongside watching a lot of Disney films and all the support I had from IBD Superheroes.
' I had a few challenges'
It was agreed that I would give birth via caesarean section. The decision was made just a day before turning 36 weeks pregnant, due to how unwell I was and the number of organs that were being affected by the baby. On the morning it was due to happen, at 37 weeks, I felt nervous but very excited at the same time. I was taken into the delivery suite and given a general anaesthetic.
I woke up to find that I had a baby boy. My son, Odin, was born at 3.7 kg, healthy and super beautiful!
Being a mum makes Alanah feel complete
However, things were not so good for mum. I had a lot of mucous trapped in my chest, and I was too sore to cough it up, so my body was forcing me to vomit. I was given medicine through a nebuliser and a cannula, which took four attempts to put it in! Then, a pillow was placed over my section opening, and I tried to cough as best as I could. It worked after a few hours, but my chest was very sore. Combined with my section scar, this meant I relied on the recovery staff to take care of Odin for 2 days, as I couldn’t lift him on my own. While I was sick, I felt awful and so out of it.
I don’t remember very much apart from vomiting and then seeing my partner and the staff at my bedside. I don’t even remember seeing or holding Odin, but luckily I have pictures to show me.
' I had a baby boy'
New mum Alannah and baby Odin
I had once been warned that the complications of my Crohn’s disease meant that I probably wouldn’t be able to have children. I went through all the stages of grief and finally came to accept this as my fate. When I did become pregnant, it came as a surprise and a blessing. I had to go through all those emotions again early in pregnancy. Fast forward to now, and I feel so grateful to my body!
At the time of writing, it has been 5 months since Odin came into this world. My stoma is back to normal, with the occasional fluctuation in size between around 25 mm and 30 mm. My stomach is still a bit stretched, but it has gone down so much, and I am slowly learning to accept my new body. I can eat the same food as I did before pregnancy; however, I do still struggle with hydration, so I always keep topped up with isotonic drinks.
I sometimes have pain and mobility issues due to my Crohn’s disease. On my bad days I keep rested, and get by with things I can do at home, such as raising awareness of chronic illnesses and stomas on my social media. I recently set up a Facebook group for Scottish ostomates (Scottish Ostomy Support), and we are organising a Scottish ostomy photoshoot. On better days I make up for it by getting out of the house and visiting friends and family.
I cannot now imagine how life was before I had Odin. Some days are tough, no question about it, but just something about being a mum makes me so complete.
'I am slowly learning to accept my new body.'
Alannah and Odin at the aquarium
Alannah Jayne Simpson lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and runs a blog with Trio Ostomy Care
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