What was the most difficult part of pregnancy?

Physically, my second pregnancy was really tough.  While pregnancy-wise, my body was doing everything right, my RA flared for the entire nine months.  As my treatment options were limited, I could only have cortisone injections into my joints in an attempt to reduce some of the pain and inflammation.  Emotionally, this was very distressing as I knew I was not likely to improve until after our baby was born and I was able to recommence medication.  I was fearful of the long term joint damage I was doing to my body and incredibly nervous about whether all the cortisone injections would adversely affect our baby.  Each time I had another injection, I prayed that our baby would be ok – thank goodness she was perfect!

What was the most exciting or rewarding part of pregnancy?

Experiencing my body doing something magical!  After always expecting my body to let me down, it was amazing to see my body doing something right.  The ability of my body to grow a beautiful, healthy baby while at the same time be ravaged with debilitating arthritis (flaring during pregnancy) is quite incredible.  I made sure I celebrated my body during pregnancy.  Even though I was in terrible pain, I bought gorgeous maternity clothes and showed off my bump as much as I could.  I was very proud of being pregnant.

What is the most difficult part of motherhood with arthritis?

The need to keep going when I am in pain or am fatigued.  Any mother (with or without arthritis) is going to feel tired.  Whether this be tiredness from sleep deprivation in the first few months (or years!) of a baby’s life, or tiredness from the demands of older children who have school and extra-curricular activity commitments.  Couple this “normal fatigue” with the fatigue caused by a chronic illness and the result can be physically and emotionally debilitating beyond explanation.  For me, when I am tired my pain seems worse.  Whether this be because my tolerance to pain is less or the actual pain is greater, but I know that I cope with pain a lot better when I have had a decent night’s sleep.  As I am still flaring (6 months post-birth), my fatigue levels are still very high, however our baby is sleeping better so I am getting more rest which helps.

I also find it difficult at times to be positive and entertaining to my children when I feel so unwell.  As I don’t want to show my children that I am in pain, I usually put a smile on my face all day and then collapse in a heap at night when they are in bed – when I feel I can be real about how bad the pain is.  Unfortunately this means that my husband is faced with an often grumpy and exhausted wife.

What is the most rewarding part of motherhood?

Seeing my two beautiful, happy, healthy children discovering new things and enjoying life.  They are my motivation to keep going when things feel too hard.  Knowing that my body that has let me down so often in the past (and the present) produced two perfect little people, is the most wonderful and amazing feeling in the world.  It gives me a level of trust in my body that I had lost with the progression of my RA.

How has your arthritis affected parenthood for your husband?

It has put added pressure on my husband as he not only has to deal with physical tasks that I have difficulty doing, but he must also deal emotionally with my moods!  In my experience, living with constant prolonged physical pain can have a significant impact on your emotions, your level of patience and the way you feel about yourself.

How have pregnancy and parenthood affected your marriage?

There is no doubt that creating a child and bringing them into the world is a magical experience and something that deepens your marriage to a level that you perhaps wouldn’t have imagined.  Coping through the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood with arthritis has both tested and strengthened our marriage.  My husband has developed an appreciation for the immense sacrifice I made with my own body to bring our children into the world and he respects me for this.

How were your pregnancies different? How were they similar?

My pregnancies were similar in that, in terms of the babies, I had textbook pregnancies.  Every time I experienced a symptom, I looked it up in my pregnancy book and it was always discussed under the exact week I was.