You start to feel so broken
At 25 years old, Katelyn Parme had just started a new job as an analyst. She was dating a guy with whom she saw a long future, and everything seemed to be falling in place. As a long term Crohn’s patient, she had seen major fluctuations in her health over the years, but with the help of the right medication cocktail, everything was going well. That was until about a month after she started that new job and new symptoms started popping up that looked and felt like a Crohn’s flare. Katelyn was losing her appetite and some weight, she was having dizzy spells and nausea, and after an appointment with her doctor, they both assumed it was her Crohn’s acting up…until she realized her period was late.
Katelyn took a home pregnancy test in a panic and the lines were clear as day; she was pregnant. Immediately she broke down, not only because of the surprise of this pregnancy but also because the night before, she had taken her Methotrexate injection. The world began to swirl.
Admittedly, Katelyn wasn’t 100% perfect when it came to taking her birth control because, much like many other women with IBD, she thought she couldn’t have children.
“I 100% thought that I was infertile. For some reason, having IBD, I had this weird thought in the back of my head that I would never have a child, and it was the most heartbreaking thing because my whole life, I wanted to be a mom.”
But here she was, unexpectedly pregnant, and taking a medication that is known to cause severe complications and birth defects. Methotrexate can cause Spina Bifida, loss of limbs, loss of fingers and toes, among many other potential complications that could result in long term disability. Katelyn discontinued the medication immediately.
At her first ultrasound, she found out that she was already 14 weeks pregnant, and her doctor made it clear to her how risky this pregnancy could be. While they could eventually confirm that her baby may have all its fingers and toes, they wouldn’t be able to assess its mental capacity until it was born. Her doctor made it very clear what the long-term implications of raising a severely disabled child may look like and mentioned that Katelyn may want to consider a medical abortion. But then something amazing happened. She saw her baby on ultrasound for the first time, kicking and punching furiously.
“If someone is punching that hard, clearly she wants to be here. Call it fate or a sign from God, whatever you want to call it. Maybe it’s mother’s instinct that was like ‘She’s ok, let’s do this. Don’t schedule an abortion.’”
At 16 weeks, there was another ultrasound that showed Katelyn’s baby indeed had all of her fingers, toes and limbs, which was a small victory for the growing family. Her doctors told her that they wouldn’t know for two full years if her baby would have any lingering mental disabilities. While Katelyn and her boyfriend were feeling excited about their new baby, they still felt the need to preface every conversation about her with a note about the uncertainty of her future. The extreme joy and fear lived side by side.
With the potential for complications in their daughter’s birth and Katelyn’s Crohn’s, the young couple decided to get married to solidify their ability to make medical decisions for each other. While their wedding wasn’t the big fancy wedding Katelyn had always dreamed about, the intimate ceremony was the right choice for them at the time, and it felt beautiful and magical.
After that 16-week appointment, Katelyn and her baby got regular check-ups and everything looked great, though she couldn’t help worrying; her body had let her down before.
“You start to feel so broken. You start to wonder whether my body can ever do anything right.”
With the guidance of her OB and GI, Katelyn planned her last Remicade treatment exactly 6 weeks before the expected due date of her daughter. However, when her baby’s growth began to slow, they decided to induce.
Despite all the risks associated with Methotrexate and extra difficulties due to Crohn’s, Katelyn was able to deliver a perfect baby less than 24 hours after induction.
“For all the things my body does wrong, it does know how to be pregnant and it does know how to have a baby.”
Now two and a half years later, Katelyn and her husband are parents to a healthy baby girl, who is growing and thriving, in spite of all the odds against them.