Natalie Hayden's Story

Since the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in July 2005, the thought of motherhood seemed like a far-off reality. Through my patient journey, I’ve experienced countless hospitalizations, flareups, tests and maintenance medications. Each setback and time my body failed me, made me questions whether I would ever be able to bring a life into this world.

On March 29, 2017 I did just that. My son Reid Hayden was born into this world full-term, perfectly healthy. In that moment, I realized that despite the difficulty of living with Crohn’s disease, that my body was still capable of creating a life.

The timing leading up to my pregnancy was impeccable. I had bowel resection surgery in August 2015. A decade of disease (18 inches) was removed. From that point forward, I was given a “fresh start”. I truly felt pain-free for months on end. I was also newly engaged. With my wedding 10 months away—and with starting a family on my mind—I knew I was in a good position to embark on that journey with my husband.

I underwent a colonoscopy two weeks before my wedding day to ensure there was no inflammation and that my disease was not flaring. I got the green light that I was in the clear and my husband and I got pregnant a month after our wedding day.

Pregnancy for me truly helped calm my disease. There were so many moments where I would eat something or feel stressed, but not feel pain in my gut. Gone were the days of running to the bathroom. For the first time since 2005, I felt like a “normal” person. There’s a Florida Georgia Line song entitled, “H.O.L.Y” and one of the lyrics is “you’re the healing hands where it used to hurt.”…that was my song for my baby.

When you’re pregnant with inflammatory bowel disease you have a team of specialists—your regular OB, high risk OB and your gastroenterologist. All my doctors told me it was imperative I stayed on my Humira and Lialda, along with a prescription prenatal vitamin, folic acid and calcium. While I’ll be the first to admit it’s mentally difficult to inject a biologic into your leg when you have a huge belly and feel the baby kicking—it gave me peace of mind knowing I was doing everything in my power to stay healthy and carry to term. You can’t have a healthy baby without a healthy mom.

A couple days after coming home from the hospital with Reid, my unwelcome Crohn’s symptoms returned. Nothing to the point where I’ve needed to be hospitalized, but the thought of the disease looms over my head more so than before. My son is seven months old now, he’s thriving and doing incredible. He has yet to even have a cold. Some days it’s easier to take care of him than others. There are moments when I need to put the bottle down mid-feeding and make a mad dash for the bathroom. There are times I want to play on the floor as he does tummy time, but I struggle to find the energy.

My goal is to stay out of the hospital until he’s old enough to walk in to visit me. He is my strength and my inspiration to stay strong when the going gets tough. When I give myself my injections I look at his sweet face and know I have so much for fight for. If you dream of being a mom, don’t let IBD hold you back. The key is going into the pregnancy in a remission-state, and not when you have active disease. Trust in yourself—you’ve endured so much. I had to laugh to myself during the labor and delivery classes when they asked who has had an IV…and I was the only one to raise my hand. You have perspective and know your body better than anyone else. Have faith in yourself and don’t let your disease restrain you from following your dreams, whatever they may be.