Parenting With IBS: A Difficult First Experience
Things change when you have a child. Suddenly, there is someone who relies entirely on you and who needs your attention 24/7. I knew that, and yet, I somehow wasn’t prepared.
Having IBS, I am used to taking time off when I need to. To just laying down and relaxing. But once you have a newborn, it’s not that easy anymore.
The difficulty of postpartum recovery
During the first weeks after birth, I went from IBS flare-up to IBS flare-up. It started when the nurses at the hospital gave me laxatives without really explaining what they were, and went on and on with every little trigger food I ate.
During pregnancy, my IBS was nearly gone and I had gotten used to eating vegetables, meals I wouldn’t even have touched before, and generally being less careful. Now, I had to suddenly remember what I ate pre-pregnancy, and that was harder than I thought it would be!
In addition to that, I was already moving super slow due to my very many stitches, so there wasn’t much time between bathroom breaks.
But here’s the thing: I had a baby now. And although my fiancé was at home with me and did so much, I felt incredibly guilty for not taking care of my child enough.
Your needs don’t come first anymore
Whenever I suffer from IBS symptoms, I find it really hard to do anything. And so far, I’ve found that the best way to get better quickly was to just take it easy and rest.
However, this is no longer possible once you’re a parent.
I feel terrible when I have to make my baby boy wait to be fed until I’ve been to the bathroom. Whenever he needs me and all I want is to lay in bed, I feel like maybe I’m not up to the task.
Thankfully, my fiancé was able to take time off work for the first few weeks of his life. This made the situation a whole lot easier for me. But I still needed to learn that dealing with IBS is no longer my priority. That I have to find ways to take care of my baby even when I’m feeling dreadful.
Instead of running to the bathroom when I need to, I first have to put my son somewhere safe.
Instead of focusing on self-care, I need to attend to my newborn’s needs.
My well-being no longer comes first, and that’s not an easy change to deal with when experiencing IBS.
Parenting adds anxiety
Anxiety has always been a major IBS trigger for me, and that didn’t change when having a baby. Only now, I have way more of it.
Before, I rarely had flare-ups when I was at home and had nowhere to be during the day. That’s why working from home had made my life so much easier! Without the stress and anxiety related to leaving the house, especially in the early mornings, my digestive system remained calm most of the time.
Now, this is no longer the case. Even at home I now have to assume the responsibilities of feeding, changing, and generally taking care of my son. So, I’m constantly feeling a bit anxious that I’ll get an IBS flare and won’t be able to do those things. After all, I really want to be a good mom for him!
All I can do is hope that I’ll get used to the new situation over the next couple of months so taking care of my baby won’t be such a big source of anxiety anymore.
In some ways, your baby is the best IBS remedy
While the first weeks with both a newborn and IBS were definitely hard for me, I wanted to end this article on a positive note. After all, I don’t want to sound like I regret having my baby boy!
In some ways, he’s the best remedy for my flare-ups. Whenever I start nursing him, I instantly feel better. Maybe it’s because of the oxytocin that’s released while breastfeeding. Maybe it's because of his cute little face.
Holding him gives me something else to focus on. And sometimes that’s all I need to make anxiety-induced flare-up go away.
Although it’s difficult to feel like I’m doing a good job parenting when I don’t feel well, I try to remind myself that things like that don’t matter as much in the long run. And I’ll just keep doing my very best.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?