By SUZIE EDWARD MAY
“You have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). There is no cure and you have to take medication for the rest of your life. Oh, and you don’t want to have children do you?”
This is how I was propelled into a life of arthritis – of uncertainty, fear and pain at the age of 28. My introduction into a world that made me question my purpose in life and my path to motherhood.
You see I was always going to be a mother. I never once questioned whether I would achieve this – it was a given, something I always knew to be true. So when a doctor posed this question, it sent a shock wave through my body. Not only did I have to process the fact that I had an incurable, debilitating, autoimmune disease, but I had to try to understand why he was questioning the one certainty in my life. This day of diagnosis, 12 years ago, was the worst day of my life.
I had developed pain in my feet four months earlier. I had great trouble walking as the pain was excruciating and I was dreadfully fatigued. I had chronic inflammatory RA and within three months of diagnosis, this disease had spread to every joint in my body.
In a few short weeks, my life was unrecognizable to me. I was popping pills in attempt to make the pain go away and my head was reeling with information. In a few months I could feel every joint in my body – feet, ankles, knees, hips, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, sternum, jaw – each one stiff, hot, swollen and painful. I was tired all the time and my body felt in need of being cared for. In fact, it screamed for it.
Five years in, my husband and I decided to start our family. We had come a long way from that day of diagnosis and since learnt that it was possible for us to have a baby, but it was likely to be a challenge. The medications I was reliant on to keep RA from eating away my joints were considered unsafe for an unborn foetus. Removal of this safety net to conceive felt frightening and insurmountably overwhelming.
Somehow I made it. Following a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy with limited joint pain, I gave birth to our beautiful son, Oscar.