Celebrations | Daily Life | IBD
Happy Mother’s Day. What is your gut reaction when hearing this? Perhaps it’s glory, celebration and joy or perhaps its sadness, anger and jealousy. People say ‘Happy Mother’s Day!,’ implying you should be happy, that this day should be happy….but it isn’t for everyone.
Living with inflammatory bowel disease can greatly impact your ability to become a mom, at least in the traditional sense. IBD can complicate pregnancy, affect fertility, and worsen (or improve) your disease control. IBD can have implications for pregnancy related to poisonous medications and surgical complications. However, IBD can’t rob me of my dream to be a good mom.
I am Samii and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2006, at the age of 20. Prior to this diagnosis, I had always dreamt of becoming a mother. I just knew motherhood was meant for me. After my diagnosis and the downward spiral of comorbidities such as epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, medication-induced lupus, Sjorgren’s and lung complications, I began to let my dream of motherhood slip into the distance. I was fearful to set myself up for disappointment and started the “what-if” head games. What if…I pass this disease onto my child, what if I’m hospitalized and the responsibilities fall onto others, what if I need surgery, what if my immune system can’t fight the petri dish my child brings home from school, what if I can’t afford a child because of medical bills, what if….and my thoughts grew darker and darker. I felt robbed of something I was meant to have, something I was meant to be…a mother.
I decided that if I couldn’t have my own children, I would at least help children who needed a temporary home. I wanted to provide a safe place for children to receive nurture, shelter, food and more importantly love, guidance and encouragement. In 2012, I began the year-long process to become a foster mom. Though I knew it was temporary, the moment each child entered my home, I felt like a mom. Mother’s Day took on an entirely new meaning. It brought on feelings of joy and happiness but also a new found sadness (and appreciation) for birth moms, as well as the fear that I wouldn’t be able to hack it as a mom. It reminded me that IBD had a potential grip on my ability to become pregnant, but it also allowed me to have hope and proof that despite my many trips to the toilet each day, low energy, infusions, hospitalizations and pain, that during the temporary moments I was fostering, I was capable of being a “mom” and could even be a good one.
On May 1, 2018, I received a call from the state for an infant girl who was entering foster-care and needed a home. Since my gut is a little sketchy at times, I listened to my heart and said yes. So on June 28, 2018, a traumatized and neglected, but beautiful and resilient, little girl entered my home and my heart. I did not know if it would be for one day, one week, one year, or maybe even forever. Baby J was my 15th opportunity to be a temporary mom. I learned to navigate the balance of sick days, infusion days and racing into a store to use the bathroom while holding a baby carrier or toddler on my lap. Despite the extreme challenge of being a chronically sick and single foster mom, I felt inspired and determined to accomplish this dream.
Many (nearly all!) people tell me I’m crazy to put the added stress of fostering on my plate and on my fragile body. Truthfully, being a foster mom is what saved me from a disease that was trying to steal everything, including my perspective and emotions on Mother’s Day. Crohn’s disease tried to rob me of my dream to be a mom but it won’t win- I’ve already proved it wrong. In sickness and in health, I have my Girls With Guts community cheering me on. I am grateful for my healthy days and hopeful on the sick days. Being a mom is what I needed to stop letting my disease define me. Motherhood has depleted my energy but it has also filled my heart, rebooted my spirit and recharged my hope.
People say I saved that fragile infant girl who entered my home nearly a year ago. Truthfully, she saved me. We helped each other through tough times. I provided her shelter, food, love and taught her how to attach while simultaneously she helped bring me hope and motivation to live my healthiest life and get back up when Crohn’s knocks me down. Last week, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day as a permanent mom and in a few weeks, a judge will strike the gavel and this little girl will be in my life forever! Foster care made me a temporary mommy and adoption has made me a forever mommy.
I hope that you all had a peaceful and hopeful Mother’s Day, because you never know what next year may bring.
Samii Emdur is a single foster and (soon to be) adoptive mom who has been kicking Crohn’s disease in the butt since 2006. She has many other autoimmune diseases, which helps her provide compassionate care for her pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant patients. Samii is the founder of Camp To Belong River Valley, a nonprofit that reunites siblings separated in foster care. Samii was inspired to start a nonprofit after experiencing the impact of Girls With Guts.