*** This post is part of my Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis series.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Remember that question? All grown-ups seem to ask it once a child reaches 5 or 6 years old. Do you remember how you answered it?
I always said I wanted to be a mama. I usually added a few other occupations for good measure - a teacher, a librarian, or Wonder Woman. But these were always in addition to being a mom.
I've mentioned before that in 2000 rheumatoid arthritis was rapidly taking away my energy and the ability to use my hands. I feared how my disease would impact a pregnancy and daily life as a mom.
Well, by 2002 my energy and mobility had greatly improved thanks to Enbrel. About this same time Joel and I decided it was time for us to add to our family (we'd been married for 5 years). At that time data on Enbrel and pregnancy was very limited so we followed my rheumatologist's advice and I went off all medication.
I jokingly tell my husband I would always feel great if I could stay 2nd trimester pregnant all the time (puking is over but I'm not as big as a barn). That may sound odd until you learn that for most women RA goes into remission (inactive) during pregnancy!
The funny thing is that after the baby's born RA usually rears it's ugly head again. I'm no exception. 6 weeks after delivery I start feeling the old aches and pains and inflammation again.
With William (my firstborn) I again followed my rheumatologists advice and stopped nursing after 8 weeks so I could go back on Enbrel. That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do! I did NOT want to give up nursing but what good was nursing if I could barely hold him.
We adjusted to life with a baby and about a year later decided to again add to our family. I knew this time that I could NOT care for an infant and be in a flare (the term for when the disease becomes especially active). I also knew that Enbrel leaves your body fairly quickly (because it is a live protein).
I repeated this story 2 more times - using Enbrel until I had a positive pregnancy test (usually by 6-8 weeks) and then enjoying remission for the remainder of the pregnancy. And 6 weeks after the baby was born I would feel my RA waking up.
With Ellie and Sam (babies 3 & 4) I managed to stay off Enbrel until they were about 12-16 weeks old. But, unlike with Will and Ben, I did NOT wean them. I continued breastfeeding AND took Enbrel.
Let me say here that this was against the official advice of my rheumatologist and the makers of Enbrel. My story is not intended to be medical advice. If you are on Enbrel and considering pregnancy/breast feeding consult your doctor for what's best for you.
My understanding is that the data indicates Enbrel in pregnancy and breastfeeding is fine but no scientific research/tests have been done to be conclusive on this.
So, ten years after my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis I am living my childhood dream. I am a mama - 4 times over. I am also a home school teacher with enough books in my home to qualify me as a librarian. Now if I could just find a pair of Wonder Woman's bracelets...
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I pretend to be one on TV. This post is intended to tell my experiences NOT to serve as medical advice. If your symptoms sound similar, please consult a physician.
Disclaimer: I have not been asked by a pharmaceutical company or any related organizations to write these posts. I have not been compensated for these posts in anyway (including money, medication, or medical treatments).