Steph’s 5 Top Tips!
- I never let the PsA stand in the way of what I really want. Yes having a baby with autoimmune arthritis can be extremely challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding.
- I learnt to never underestimate my kids! My children are super resilient. I had to pick my baby and toddler up very differently, but they always got into position to help me as they didn’t know any differently. They also got used to being without a pram from a very early age as I found it too difficult to push. They never complained and adjusted accordingly. My children have learnt too that sometimes they need to entertain themselves – their imaginations are fantastic! And they are so responsible around the home. They often help me with little jobs. My children have always kept me going.
- I learnt to ask for help. In my experience the occupational therapists were amazing! They took ‘I can’t do it anymore’ into ‘you can still do it, but in a different way.’ They were so positive and had brilliant methods for helping me manage around the home with different techniques and equipment.
- ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. I love this quote. Learning to rest has become so important. I prioritise what’s most important and let everything else go. Housework can wait. When the children were little I used local mums and tots groups regularly so I could speak to adults over a cup of tea. That hour of them playing and giving me some space was invaluable.
- I sought out support. I would have loved to have had a support network like Without Wings when I was first diagnosed! I really struggled for a long time after. When my second child turned 28 months I ended up having Psychological Therapy sessions, which, without being dramatic, saved me. Having a baby when you’re healthy can be difficult enough without the added stress of a chronic illness! Allowing myself to talk to someone when I was struggling, benefitted me massively. It was so good to know I wasn’t alone.
Having, or raising a family with autoimmune arthritis is often a tricky issue. Local resident, Steph Begbie was only 21 when she was diagnosed with PsA. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, she was also 3 months pregnant with her first child. After giving birth to her son, she should have been basking in the glory of new motherhood. Instead, she experienced her first ‘life changing flare.’ In yet another very special ‘inspirational story’ to mark international day of families, Steph shares with us something of the challenges she has faced, the tough decisions she and her husband have had to make, and also her incredible positivity and strength in the face of adversity.
“Being diagnosed with Psoriatic arthritis aged 21 was a shock! Especially as I was newly pregnant. I couldn’t understand how I could have ‘arthritis’ when I was so young, or the enormity of the diagnosis. Two weeks after giving birth however, I had my first major flare, though I didn’t realise at the time that I suffered from a particularly rare and nasty form of PsA that causes rapid joint destruction.
It left my right wrist completely fused. What followed of course, was talk of meds, and I was given a leaflet for methotrexate. After reading a sentence that suggested it could affect fertility, I made the difficult decision to try for another baby first. This was met with opposition from the hospital, but I had always wanted a big family. When I was told by one health care professional that in doing so I would ‘ruin my son’s life’, I became even more determined not to let the illness hinder me.
Of course the decision to have my daughter has had an impact on the way we live. If I had been healthy I would have undoubtedly followed my career, instead I have been a stay at home Mum, which is a hard job, but being around for so much of their childhood has been a real blessing.
Having my daughter 18 months after my son also meant eventually having to have a full hip replacement 9 days before Christmas, which was also a week after my 27th birthday! But I would certainly never change the decisions I made. The biggest thing I have learnt it that it is entirely possible to still have a fulfilling family life, even when faced with some real challenges.”
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