Tiffany is a mom with Crohn’s disease, a debilitating digestive disease that has no cure. When I read her story, my heart broke for her. She’s been through so much. The way she’s found peace and forged her own path forward in spite of the challenges of a chronic illness is truly inspiring.
I’m always amazed by those who can find a silver lining even when faced with considerable setbacks. Tiffany’s words of wisdom can help any mom who might be struggling.
I’m so grateful to Tiffany for sharing her story. I hope you’ll stop by her blog and leave her some love in the comments.
Check out the rest of the Mom Triumphs series for more inspirational stories of how real moms have overcome serious challenges.
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Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What do you like to do? What is your family like?
My name is Tiffany, and I was born in Utah, raised in Denver, and spent my teen years in West Virginia. My family (my husband, myself, and our two kids) are in Houston right now. I love to read, hike, and spend time with friends. My kids are currently ages 6 and 3, and they are extroverted and energetic kids who love being homeschooled.
What is a major challenge that you’ve experienced during your time as a mom?
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about a year before I was married. A few months after our wedding, I was hospitalized 13 times over 9 months. I stabilized a bit and found out I was pregnant on our one-year anniversary (surprise!). Shortly after our first was born, my health declined, and I was hospitalized another 10 times over 5 months. Recovery was slow, and it took me a year to get to about 75% functionality. Similar flares occurred after our second was born. Even now, in remission, I am run on about 80% of what I used to, and that can make it difficult.
What were your thoughts when you first encountered this challenge?
My heart broke when it all happened after having my first child. All the ideals and dreams I had of what I would be like as a mom just disappeared. We had just moved to a new city where we knew no one. Our new church group provided amazing support while I was in the hospital and during recovery, but it was still virtual strangers taking care of my baby.
How did you figure out what approach to take in facing your challenge? Did your approach change over time?
At first, we were just kind of in survival mode. It was day-to-day, emergency to emergency. Kind of like a domino effect, one problem caused another, and we had no way to stop it.
We made the big decision to move closer to family in another state. I went ahead with our baby, while my husband stayed behind to sell our house and search for a new job near us. He never found one, but the company he was with offered to let him work from home with us and travel to them once a month. It was a tremendous blessing.
Once we made that change and were able to get support and help from family, it made all the difference. Even though my health condition is chronic and we will always have trials with it, having family to remove the stress of who was caring for my child allowed me to focus on my health.
What helped you during times when you were struggling? Did you have any support?
Having people from church there to support made a big difference. They were willing to not only take care of my baby, but also bring her to me in the hospital. One family even let my husband stay overnight so that he wouldn’t have to commute between houses.
In the meantime, I tried to be as involved as possible. I emailed to ask for updates of my daughter’s schedule (feeding, etc.). I also spent a lot of time in prayer.
Now that my children are a bit older, my husband can easily work from home while they play if I’m feeling extremely ill. My 6 year old can get snacks and help her brother if needed.
How do you take care of yourself?
I listen to my body. If I am low on energy, I don’t try to push through. That will just make things more difficult tomorrow. Instead, I take it easy. I choose to not let the guilt about what I “should” be doing determine what is best for myself and my family. Reading “The Spoon Theory” made a tremendous difference.
Did this challenge affect others in your family? How did you balance addressing their needs and your own?
If anything, this affects my husband the most. He’s the one who is left with the burden of the things I can’t get done in a day (like if I’m not able to do dishes or fold laundry). On those days, I try to do extra things that I can do to show my gratitude. Sending a grateful text, for example, or taking the time to talk to him about his day in more detail than I normally would. I also try to allow him to have his way on things if it’s something that isn’t a huge issue (like how the laundry is folded or the dishwasher is filled).
With the kids, they love me and want me to play with them. On rough days, I will set a timer for 10 minutes or so and we will play together until the timer goes off. Sometimes they bring the toys to me and we play in my bed or on the couch. See ways to feel like a good mom even when you’re sick.
How are things today versus when you first encountered this challenge?
Back then, I was terrified. Now, having to go the emergency room is almost a non-issue. It helps that the children are older and sleeping through the night!
What advice would you give other moms going through something similar?
Don’t be so hard on yourself if you can’t do all of the “mom” things that you see other moms doing. The most important thing is that your children know they are loved.
Are there any helpful resources you would recommend?
If you are ill enough that you wouldn’t be able to work (even without kids), look into getting social security disability. That could help pay for child care, housekeeping, etc., that you aren’t able to do completely on your own. We’re in a position that I can have someone come twice a month to clean bathrooms, and I do grocery store pickup or delivery if I’m unable to take the kids into the store.
I also found the forum Healing Well extremely useful. There are several chronic health conditions on it, not just Crohn’s, and many of the members were very knowledgeable and helpful.
What’s your super power as a mom?
Showing my kids love in their love languages. Even if I’m in a lot of pain or don’t want to be touched, I push those feelings aside to let them cuddle or show me their picture.
What have you learned or gained from this experience?
Oh my goodness, what haven’t I learned?! I have learned so much about my relationship with God and His love for me. Even though it has been so hard, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve gained for all the health in the world. It would mean giving up the strength of faith and love that I have been and still am developing.
Tiffany Thomas is a chocoholic former math teacher and homeschooling mom with Crohn’s disease. She and her husband Phillip (who is an engineer) work together on the blog Saving Talents. They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also join her Facebook Group.