Looking back over the past four years I’m amazed at how the time has flown and what we’ve experienced since becoming parents. I was never sure if I should or could have children and was even in some ways a bit terrified to actually "find out“. Not knowing, in a way, was easier than knowing…
Some years ago when I was still living in the USA, I attended a young adults with arthritis meet up. We came to the topic of mothering and arthritis. Only a few were actually mothers, but what they said catapulted fear and doubt inside me. Granted, I was not looking to start a family right away, if at all. I had not even met a partner with whom I wanted to build a family yet and was still focused on moving to Europe somehow! Nonetheless, while I fully appreciated their honesty and for not putting rose-colored glasses on the issue, that evening’s legacy was one of pure humility and uncertainty. Would I, could I, ever be a mother?
Well, there was no need to act quickly. I just filed those thoughts away and moved on…literally!
Luckily, when my husband and I set our minds to start family planning exactly four years ago now my doctors treated our case very seriously and provided tons of support. We were pushed to the head of the line for couples wishing to start a family… but whose wishes were still unfilled. Why? Well, as many wo/men will well know, given the array of drugs you take in a given stretch due to RA you are well-advised not to get pregnant. We simply could not for the health of the baby and my own get pregnant while taking drugs like Methotrexate… or even Humira (no strong data at that time).
The clinic’s staff were as efficient as a Swiss watch so to speak and performed all of the relevant necessary tests PRIOR to me stopping any of my medications. If it simply would not be possible why also put my body through more agony, pain, and suffering of going months without any meds while waiting to get pregnant? This is something which obviously worried me as I was entering through a new world filled with so many new foreign questions. I was deeply comforted to know we did not need to go this alone or make uninformed decisions in a vacuum.
Then, fast forward after a few months of various tests with the wonderful support of the women’s clinic at the University of Zurich, we got pregnant! It was the first time ever and I was literally in shock for the first couple of months! I really thought it would have taken much more time, tears, Swiss Francs, medications, disappointment, and patience.
Oh wait! This is a well-familiar story already living for many years with RA. I kept saying “thank you“ to whatever power that be for making our journey as a new couple a bit easier with one less surmountable hurdle. RA is enough, thank you! Then, a wonderful thing happened. I was referred to the ONLY specialized clinic in the entire country in the capital city of Bern which has a very unique department: Motherhood Rheumatology. I just could not believe our fortune to have such wonderful care and support available!! They were running a clinical trial at the time so I enthusiastically gave my consent to be a “lab rat“. They followed me closely throughout my pregnancy checking my blood levels and taking ultrasounds of various affected joints.
I experienced what I called my first "RA holiday“ in my entire life of being diagnosed. I virtually took no medications other than a low-dose of corticosteroids and just reveled in how amazing it felt to be in a remissive state. I know I was one of the lucky ones. Other than some periods of indigestion, I truly had an amazing pregnancy that I teased long afterwards with my doctors that I just wanted to STAY pregnant! They along with the obstetrical team in Zurich brought my son safely and lovingly into this world.
He is FULL of life and even as he nears his third birthday, in my heart of hearts I know this little guy just wanted to be born. I’m amazed at his strength. I often think he has Kryptonite in his blood! I wonder at times how I with RA could be blessed with such a strong boy? Even his willpower is often too much for us to handle! Perhaps, he’s the culmination of his mama’s strength (and his daddy’s too). He reminds me daily to enjoy the journey of mothering and parenthood, despite the terrible twos and wishing they would pass…soon!
In part 2: Terrible Twos – some days all I want to do is cry and scream too!