A mother squirrel anxiously peers over the side of a crib where a baby squirrel is sleeping peacefully.

A New Parent with IBS

I am now a first-time parent and it feels like one of the greatest accomplishments I have ever made throughout my entire life. I fall in love with my son more and more every day, and I’m both excited and nervous to see what the future holds for him. Every time he falls asleep on my chest, or I catch a glimpse of his huge smile, my heart gets full. I’ve never been happier and more proud in my life while sharing these precious moments with my family. I must admit though, parenting with IBS is both extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. I like to think of this experience as a new learning curve that I’m still adjusting to, and I can see how it will make me stronger as time goes on. In this article, I wanted to share some of the struggles I am facing, the lessons I am learning, and how I plan to thrive while being a parent with irritable bowel syndrome.

Struggles of being a new parent

Lack of sleep

The main struggle I am having as a new parent with IBS is lack of sleep. Obviously, this is a struggle that every parent with a newborn faces, but even before my son was born my sleep wasn’t great due to my condition. For instance, I used to be able to sleep for maybe five or six hours straight if my IBS allowed me to. But now, I’m lucky if I get a total two or three hours of sleep a night if my son lets me or if my IBS wakes me up before he does. My wife and I have been working on different strategies to let one another get some quality rest. One thing that has helped is each of us will take four-hour shifts at night to monitor, feed, and change diapers. It’s not always a seamless method, but it’s definitely a step up from the first couple of weeks of two-hour naps that weren’t cutting it for me. Needless to say, the experience so far is testing my strength of character, and my IBS does not like being second to a baby.

Inability to use the bathroom when needed

Another major struggle of mine when it comes to parenting with IBS is being able to use the bathroom when I need to. When it’s my shift at night to watch my son, there’s always a good chance I might get an urgent need to use the toilet. For a normal person, they can probably tolerate the uncomfortable feeling in their stomach for a while or use the bathroom quick enough that no one would notice. But, for someone like me who has IBS and a very sensitive gut, once I feel a need to use the restroom, a sudden intense pain starts to attack and won’t let up until I relieve myself. Sometimes I can take up to an hour in the bathroom to feel any sort of relief, and I don’t feel comfortable leaving my son alone for that long, so I have to wake my wife up. This part is tough for me because she deserves good sleep as much as I do, and I always feel bad for interrupting her rest time. There are times though when my son needs me to console him or feed him and I just hold on to the pain for as long as I must until he’s settled. I’ll tolerate as much pain as I can for that boy because I love him that much!

Best teacher of all time

I have certainly been training myself to tolerate more pain than I ever have before, and I’ve had no choice but to do it on a more consistent basis. However, instead of losing my nerve and taking my frustration out on my family, I slowly take in a few deep breaths and imagine myself breathing out the negative energy, and from that I somehow develop a sense of patience. I practice this activity for at least a few minutes until my body relaxes slightly. This way of thinking allows me to remain calm and cool so that I don’t allow negative thoughts and energy to trigger my IBS symptoms or affect my environment. Also, the energy that I have can rub off on my son, and the last thing I want is to spread any negative vibes to him. The good news is that I’m developing a higher pain tolerance because my willpower allows me to focus on what’s more important, which is my family, and no pain will stop me from being there for them. Just a few months ago IBS used to be a great distraction and test my character the most, but now it seems my son is the greatest distraction and best teacher of all time. Thank you, Gladdiel, for changing my life for the better.

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