Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood

With our wedding just over two months away (66 days, to be exact!!) APL and I have recently been spending some time talking about what our lives might look like after the big event. Seeing as APL has been there every step of the way since my diagnosis, we already know how to make our relationship work within the confines of my RA. So when it comes to talking about "life after marriage" and my RA, the topic of conversation is almost always starting a family. 

Once time APL and I got stranded in Mississippi because the wheel practically fell off the tent trailer we were towing (this is related, I promise!). Repair of our broken wheel required the mechanic to use a blowtorch to cut through the wheel's lugnuts and then he had to solder on new nuts and bolts in such a way that the wheel would still turn. When the mechanic finally returned the trailer to us and we asked him how it went, he replied: "it weren't no easy task!" 

This sentiment basically sums up how I feel about contemplating pregnancy and RA at the same time. No matter when we decide to try it, it is certainly not going to be an easy task. In order to safely conceive a child, I will have to spend months and months without drugs that I have become totally dependent on to function - drugs that protect my joints from damage (methotrexate, as far as I can tell, is the nastiest in this regard because it takes forever to get it out of your system). How am I supposed to go without my treatment?!? I remember how unpleasant that was!! And then, back in that unpleasant, untreated state, how am I supposed to feel well enough to, ahem, make a baby in the first place?!? And then there's the possibility of a post-birth flare when you have an infant to care for!!! And the need to continue to stay off your treatments if you want to breast feed. All in all, a lot of things to consider.

So, considering we have started to discuss these topics, it was really interesting to get a newsletter from the Arthritis Foundation the other day with a link to this article. It was an interview of an Australian woman named Suzie May who wrote a book entitled Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood. The article led me to Suzie May's website, where I found myself engrossed in the Why This Book section. Her reasoning behind writing the book seemed to echo my concerns that it is easier said than done to just "stop taking RA drugs and get pregnant." The more I read about the book, the more I decided it was something I wanted to have on my bookshelf for the day APL and I decide to start a family.

I ordered the book directly from Suzie May in Australia - and it even arrived with a handwritten note from Suzie herself thanking me for my purchase. I wasn't originally planning to read it right away - I was going to put it on the shelf until such a time that it seemed more relevant. But I found myself engrossed when I started flipping through the first chapter, which explains Suzie's diagnosis story. She was diagnosed at age 27 (hey - that's not far from how old I was!), she was in law school at the time (so was I!), the pain started in her feet (so did mine!), and she spent a lot of time adjusting her career aspirations to the realities of her disease (just like I am doing right now). By the time I reached the end of the first chapter I was literally in tears over how much I felt like this stranger - literally halfway around the world from me - would be able to understand my life.

So I read the whole book, cover to cover. The book confirmed my suspicions that it won't be an easy task to deal with RA and pregnancy/motherhood - Suzie takes pains not to sugar-coat any of the difficult parts. Still, the book also confirmed my suspicions that, when we're ready, it will be a process that will be totally worth it. And, just the way I know APL will always be right there with me when the time comes for us to start a family, now I also know I'll have Suzie on my bookshelf, ready and waiting with advice and support when I need it.

10 comments:

Helen said...

Thanks for pointing this out! I've never heard of it but it looks like a great resource.

I know pregnancy is going to involve a lot of planning, what with going off my meds and probably doing in vitro in order not to pass on my heart defect. It really makes a difference to me to know that there are others, like you, who are thinking about these things and that there are resources out there to help me when I'm ready to have a family.

~Mariah~ said...

HELEN: The book is great. It not only has info from Suzie May's own experiences with arthritis and pregnancy, but she has interviewed women all over the world and included their input too. It was really great at making me feel like I am not alone in this!

Leslie said...

There was a presentation on the Arthritis Society page that I linked to from Lene Anderson's recent post "The future's so bright: a good time to have RA" , yes, I know, lame title. The title of the presentation is just as lame, but he talks about medications that can safely be used during pregnancy and brestfeeding - embrel, I think. Look for it.

Leslie said...

Oh sorry - Lene Anderson's post is on MyRACentral.com and linked to the presentation on the Arthritis Society Canada page - nothing like sending you on a wild goose chase through the internet...

Sylvia said...

Just so you know I am very proud of you and love you very much. In January 1985 I can stop working for LAUSD. I will stop working for them, but I don't plan to retire and get old and do nothing. It would be my pleasure to help you on you path to parenthood. I will be there for you as much as I can,steome if you want me. Just so you know.

~Mariah~ said...

SYLVIA: thanks mama. It means a lot to me. Though I'm pretty sure you didn't mean 1985 ~;0)

Lauren Kubota said...

What a great find. It's so like you to be prepared.

~Mariah~ said...

LESLIE: Thanks, I will check it out!!

Emily said...

Phillip and I had a major heart to heart about kids. And we decided that with my health that kids weren't in the picture. I'm not much of kid person anyways. But with the metho, for us, it just didn't make sense.

~Mariah~ said...

EMILY: Super nice you have a partner you can talk to who supports your needs. ~;o)