Basically it’s a lifelong, incurable inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include diarrhea, blood in the poo, extreme fatigue, stomach cramps and various other icky things involving the bowels. As these things are almost a taboo subject, Crohn’s can be a lonely disease. No one really wants to discuss bowel movements (and who can blame them?).
I’m not going to lie; having Crohn’s sucks, but rather than sitting around feeling pissed off about it (which can make the symptoms worse) I think it’s actually helping me to be a better parent. Here’s my list of why having Crohn’s can be a positive thing:
1. Poo doesn’t phase me.
As a parent, I deal with a lot of poo, including that special brand of gravity defying baby poo all young ones can produce. I’ve seen it in every color and consistency, and it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I usually take a good look; you can tell a lot from the stuff. While my husband is gagging in the corner, I’m merrily changing the nappy without batting an eyelid.
2. I own the mum comparison competition.
I know I said no one likes to discuss poo; well, strictly speaking that isn’t true. Sit with a group of new mums long enough and bowel movements will definitely appear in the topic of conversation.
New mums can turn anything into a competition. We actually compete about who’s getting the least amount of sleep or has to deal with the grossest nappy changes. With my Crohn’s experience, I win the nappy comparison competition each time just because I know all the gross names for the workings of the bowel.
3. I know where all the toilets are.
For me the absolute worst part of Crohn’s is the instant need to find a toilet. One minute you’re fine, the next minute you have to go. It’s non-negotiable, and you have only a few seconds warning. I’m sure most parents can understand this. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the moment our offspring suddenly declares the need to “go potty” right there and then. It’s no good telling them to hold it; just like with Crohn’s they have to go right now.
As I know the feeling so well, I have a distinct advantage here. I know every toilet in a 5-mile radius. I know which shops have public facilities, which restaurants let you use their loos without a fuss and which local shopkeepers are sympathetic and will let you borrow the staff toilet if you need it. I think most parents would be a little envious of this rather unique talent!
4. I amuse my toddler.
A rather embarrassing side effect of Crohn’s disease is when I poo, it’s not quiet. It echoes around the toilet stall and loudly advertises to anyone within earshot what I’m up to.
I had a nasty attack at home just yesterday. It woke my 2-year-old who came trotting up to the baby gate. I hadn’t bothered to close the bathroom door, as everyone was sleeping (or so I thought), and she peered in at me before loudly captioning my episode with “Mummy pooing! Mummy loud! Noisy!” I must admit, it made me laugh though I doubt I would have been so amused if it had been in a public toilet.
5. I have a good pain tolerance.
I’m quite lucky really. Most of the time the pain of the stomach cramps is managable. However, on occasion I’ve encountered The Pain (and believe me it deserves those capital letters). This is a pain so severe that all I can do is curl into a ball and cry. Every encounter with The Pain has led to an ambulance ride and an extended stay in the hospital.
When I was pregnant, I was (like most mums) apprehensive about labor and how much it would hurt. I kept telling myself “it can’t be as bad as The Pain.” I was almost right. Having done labor on just two paracetamol, I now know it’s just as bad. I don’t really want to do either ever again, thank you.
6. I’m used to being judged.
Crohn’s is part of a group of illnesses labelled “invisible disabilities.” It means I don’t look sick. To most people I look perfectly fine. I’ve had people tut at me for using the disabled toilets before and one memorable moment where an old lady actually tried to stop me on my way in. I think I threatened to sh*t on her shoes and offered her the opportunity to have a look in the bowl once I’d finished and have a poke around in the blood and mucus afterwards. It wasn’t polite, but hopefully it will stop the interfering old bat from questioning someone else in the future.