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Man, it’s crazy how fast a year goes! Last year this time I started having contractions and was thinking my little one would be here any day. Well, let me tell you – February 22nd to March 17th was a LONG ASS TIME. It may have only been a few short weeks, but to me, it seemed like eternity.

Looking back, my pregnancy taught me a lot, but I also had a lot of preparation for my pregnancy that I didn’t even realize!

Because I’ve lived with a chronic illness for several years now, there are certain things that I’ve grown accustomed to. Fatigue, pain, pacing myself, canceling plans, a strict diet — these are all are normal to me.

Little did I know all this would prepare me for one of life’s momentous experiences.

I ended up realizing there were 5 ways that having a chronic condition, like psoriatic arthritis, prepared me to go through the amazing journey of pregnancy!

The Odd Ways Having a Chronic Illness Prepped Me for Pregnancy | HealthCentral

The fatigue, unpredictability and sacrifice of pregnancy might make some expectant mothers thankful they mastered a chronic illness first.

Check out the article and let me know what you think.

Do YOU think chronic illness prepares you for pregnancy?

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

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In going through old blog posts, I wrote this back in February 2018 before the birth of my baby in March 2018. I’m trying to rack my brain as to why I never published it. I love the emotions and raw feeling I put into this piece.

So, while I already DID have my baby (and spoiler alert, it wasn’t the natural birth I had wanted. Read: 48 Hours of Labor), I still 100% believe in this post.

One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout pregnancy, is something that I think all chronic illness patients should learn. We need to learn to TRUST our bodies.

– – – – – –

Do you trust your body?

I mean really, fully trust your body?

Chronic illness can bring upon a distrust that many of us wouldn’t willingly take on. But, in the face of chronic illness, it almost seems too easy to begin to accept.

Back between 2012 – 2014, trust issues with my body were a serious problem I had. (READ: I Have Trust Issues. . . . )

And honestly, looking back on it, I can’t blame myself.

Having spent 2 years watching my body deteriorate and have problem after problem, it was hard to trust my body. Just like it’s hard to trust my brother from using all the data in our families phone plan every month (because God damn it, that kid makes it an art), it was hard to expect anything more from my body than what it consistently showed me.

BUT, over time working on my inner self and healing, I realized that I needed to focus on trusting in my body. I needed to reign in my distrust and bring back the love for my body.

Over the past few years, it’s something that I’ve really tried to embrace. Sure, there are times when distrust starts to creep back in, but we always have to have our sights focused on the end goal.

One big way to bring back the trust into life is celebrating all the victories that we can encounter – however small or big they are. I’ve talked about big ones like attending yoga conferences, getting back to walking and being able to overcome challenges – but there are small ones too. Like being able to brush my teeth without my hands hurting, being able to get out of bed and walk and being able to eat certain foods.

BUT – Pregnancy brought a whole new sense of trust for my body.

What I trust: I trust the pain. I trust my body. I trust the process. I TRUST THE PAIN

I’m not scared for labor. I’m not nervous about the pain. I’m not worried about handling it.

Why?

Because I’ve been through pain. I’ve been through constant, burning, stinging, ridiculous pain for YEARS. YEARS UPON YEARS where the pain was never-ending. Always there. Never a moment off.

Am I saying that labor won’t be painful? Oh hell no – I’m not saying that at ALL. I’m assuming it’s going to be painful. I’m assuming it’s going to be all-consuming, all-encompassing. I expect it to be.

I know I have tools to help TRY to make me as comfortable as I can be. And, at the end of the day, although an epidural isn’t the path that I WANT to take, the option is there to take.

But the biggest difference between childbirth pain and chronic pain is that I know it won’t last forever (even if it seems in the moment it is lasting forever).

Whenever I would lay in bed with my avascular necrosis pain, I never knew if it would stop. And you may laugh and say, “Julie, come on. At some point, you had to think you’d find a solution”. But honestly, back then I went to more than 29 providers and no one was giving me solutions to my pain problem. So no, I didn’t think there was an end in sight of pain back then.

But with childbirth. . . that’s different.

The pain of childbirth WILL eventually end. And it’s not dependent upon finding the right doctor, medication or person to help me. I know it’s not going to take 3.5 years of wondering if I’ll ever be able to live a normal life again.

Nope.

The pain of childbirth will end with birthing my baby either vaginally or through a c-section.

I TRUST MY BODY

I’ve never grown a baby before. I’ve never produced another human being onto this earth. But, miraculously, without me even trying, my body’s been building a little human for the last 9 months. The thought of it is mind-blowing.

With psoriatic arthritis, avascular necrosis and melanoma I can’t say I ever looked at my body to know 100% what to do at first. I know I needed to guide it and give it the tools to focus on healing.

Yes, my body knows exactly how to grow a human being (like what? that’s crazy to me), but we also need to support our bodies to do what they’re supposed to do. Just like in chronic illness. I truly believe that given half a chance our bodies will heal themselves, by themselves. We just have to give them half a chance to do so. And that’s the same with pregnancy. Giving my body the tools and resources it needs to be able to grow and birth a baby like a champ is something I’ve been focused on for the past 9 months.

So by supporting my body the best I can, I know that it will do it’s job. It’ll know when the right time to eject my precious little one out is. I know it’ll know how to go about the whole process. And if it runs into a hiccup, I know my body will be sure to let me know. I just need to listen!

During my pregnancy, I took a hypnobirthing class. I really feel like this was an essential class for me to take because tuning into our bodies is one of the BEST BEST BEST things we can do. Things don’t just happen for “no” reason. There’s always a reason. So if there’s pain, discomfort, etc there’s a reason.

By listening in, supporting, loving and trusting my body, I know that it will take me through the journey the best it can.

I TRUST THE PROCESS

And no matter how my process ends – in the natural birth I would love or with an intervention, I have to trust that my journey is playing out exactly as it’s supposed to be. Because at the end of the day, I’m just a small piece of this life puzzle. God is the one pulling the strings up there.

No matter how much I’d love to control how and when my baby is born, she’s going to come in her perfect timing. Not mine.

Pregnancy has absolutely brought out a new sense of body trust for me and I have to say I love it. I think as pregnant women with chronic illnesses we need to EMBRACE That body trust. Hold on to it. And don’t let it go after our babies are earthside.

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

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When it comes to psoriatic arthritis, managing your weight can have significant impacts on your overall health. As reported by the National Psoriasis Foundation, weight loss in conjunction with certain medications can together help improve your symptoms. Carrying less weight will help lessen the burden on your joints and can potentially give you more energy.

However, managing your weight with psoriatic arthritis is difficult. Your joints are achy and swollen. You’re low on energy. And your whole body is inflamed. Conditions aren’t always conducive for a two-mile jog!

Whenever I have a psoriatic arthritis flare, I find myself gaining weight from lack of activity, side effects from medications, and the inflammation all throughout my body.

While we each may have different reasons we’ve gained the weight, I have detailed out my seven tips on ways to manage weight while thriving with your psoriatic arthritis.

Click to read and make sure to share after reading!

How to Manage Your Weight With Psoriatic Arthritis | HealthCentral

When it comes to psoriatic arthritis, managing your weight can have significant impacts on your overall health. As reported by the National Psoriasis Foundation, weight loss in conjunction with certain medications can together help improve your symptoms. Carrying less weight will help lessen the burden on your joints and can potentially give you more energy.

Do you have tips? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear them.

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

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I get asked frequently “what are red flags to look out for which may indicate a psoriatic arthritis flare?”

It’s a great question. I wish it was extremely straight forward, but unfortunately each of us are so unique.

I know so many people who experience psoriatic arthritic flares differently. That being said, there are many indicators that you should look out for that absolutely indicate you’re in (or about to) flare.

Malaise, fatigue, psoriasis, joint swelling and pain, eye problems, stomach problems . . . there are many.

I created a slide show with 10 symptoms I believe you should be on the look out for. Click to check out the slides and learn more.

10 Signs a Psoriatic Arthritis Flare is Coming | HealthCentral

Recognize psoriatic arthritis before it flares. Paying attention to these 10 red flags, including malaise, fatigue, and psoriasis, can help you make changes early before the joint pain gets worse.

You may experience some, all or none of these in your own experience. Always consult your rheumatologist and/or dermatologist if you believe you’re having a flare up.

It’s important to always be cognizant of your body and take the time to check in.

If you can get ahead of a flare before it gets worse, you’ll be better off in the long run! Be prepared and get a game plan in place for if you run into any of these 10 red flags.

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

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Dear Emme,

This year’s Thanksgiving is probably the most drastically different Thanksgiving I’ve ever had in my life. Not drastically different in a bad way, but drastically different as I’m seeing the Holiday through completely different eyes.

Up until this point, I always thought about Thanksgiving in a personal sense. What I was thankful for, what food I would eat (or not eat!), what I would do to celebrate with our family, what Christmas movies I would watch.

But this year. . .  this year I’ve been thinking more about you.

I’ve been pointing out all of the Holiday decorations to you.

I’ve been showing you the mad rush at the grocery store to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve been playing Holiday music 24/7 hoping that you’ll be my little singing buddy once you learn all the words.

And I’ve been telling you how loved you are and how much there is to be grateful for.

As I reflect on my past Thanksgiving posts (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, & 2017), I’ve talked about all of the wonderful and amazing things in my life there are to be grateful for. My health, my supports, my success and failures, our family, your daddy, you. . . there’s SO much!

Of course, I’m grateful and SO EXTREMELY THANKFUL for all of those things, but this year I’ve been very focused on you. I’m determined to help you to be the most grateful person you know.

I want you to realize that we must be grateful ALL year-long – not just at the Holidays.

We need to take actions and go out of our way for others during every day of our lives.

When we’re able to look at life with grateful eyes, life becomes a more joyful experience.

I can promise you that you will have ups and downs in your life. Not everything will go your way. And there will be days that upset you and make you feel like your life stinks.

BUT, if you constantly focus (and then refocus when your focus shifts) on the positives in your life, you can create a life you love.

So this Thanksgiving, I want to promise to always lead by example. To help you when you fall and to remind you to always look for the positives in everything you do.

We can achieve more than we ever thought possible if we make EVERY DAY Thanksgiving.

And that, my sweet girl, is exactly what I want for you.

I’m so thankful to spend this holiday with you AND your Daddy.

Happy First Thanksgiving.

I love you so so sooooo much.

Love,

Your Mommy

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I’ll be completely honest, I was on disability for a few years in my 20’s because of my psoriatic arthritis (and avascular necrosis). With a lot of help in getting my condition in a manageable state, I was able to return to work.

I’ve utilized these 5 steps in getting my psoriatic arthritis under control. Click here to start with step 1 and follow along with the blog posts. 

I realize that this might not be a reality for everyone. Unfortunately, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America.

BUT, with a few modifications, you CAN get back to working with psoriatic arthritis if you’re willing and able.

The following 4 resources have been authored by myself and hopefully can give you tips on supporting yourself while managing your autoimmune arthritis.

1. READ: 5 Ways to Manage Your Career With Psoriatic Arthritis 
5 Ways to Manage Your Career with Psoriatic Arthritis | HealthCentral

Here are five tips useful for maintaining a thriving career with psoriatic arthritis.

2. READ: How To Make Your Workstation Psoriatic Arthritis Friendly
How To Make Your Workstation Psoriatic Arthritis Friendly | HealthCentral

Try these modifications and tools that can make your workstation psoriatic-arthritis friendly and help you make the most out of your workday.

3. WATCH: My Insta-stories turned IGTV episode for WEGO Health. 
WEGO Health on Instagram: “Follow WEGO Health Patient Leader Network Director and Psoriatic Arthritis Patient Leader Julie Croner through her day. Find out what a…”

3 Likes, 3 Comments – WEGO Health (@wegohealth) on Instagram: “Follow WEGO Health Patient Leader Network Director and Psoriatic Arthritis Patient Leader Julie…”

4. READ: Tips For Transitioning From Disability Back Into The Working World

Do you have any other suggestions for resources to check out? I’d love for you to comment with them below. Let other’s know what has helped you!

Wishing You A Pain Free Day!

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Prior to labor, I tried to listen and read birth stories. I searched Instagram for labor and delivery pictures and watched Youtube videos of new babies being born.

Why? Because I wanted to be as prepared as I could be. Sure, my plan was to have a natural birth. But what if that wasn’t to happen? What if there was a twist in my birth plan and I ended up having to go down a different path that I hadn’t prepared for?

I knew I couldn’t be 100% prepared, but I wanted to feel confident going into my baby’s birthing day.

That’s why I’m sharing my experience with you. I want you to know how my experience was and I want to help empower you to have a positive outlook on your labor and delivery.

I took a hypnobirthing class at The Midwife Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I knew I wanted to learn the techniques of hypnobirthing. The concepts of the practice really align with my meditation and yoga background. I wanted to take the class earlier in my pregnancy, but I started it at 30 weeks. To be honest, since I had a background in breathing techniques I think 10 weeks was perfectly fine. But if I had been unfamiliar with the concepts, I think starting earlier would have been beneficial.

So for those ten weeks, every day I did my rainbow relaxation and repeated my birthing affirmations. As my 40 weeks neared, I started getting more anxious and anxious!

“The MIND F$%K” aka The End of Pregnancy

It’s truly up for debate when my exact due date was, but I was told it’d be in the beginning of March. Throughout my whole pregnancy, I never believed I’d make it past February! I was certain I had gotten pregnant in May, not June.

As February ticked on, I started to become VERY anxious waiting for my baby girl.

February 22nd I started having early labor symptoms. From that day on, I had contractions at some point off and on throughout the day. I had major cramping, every few days my body felt like it was trying to eject everything out of it (aka many trips to the bathroom) and I thought the end was near. (or you could argue the beginning!)

At my 38 week checkup, my midwife told me I was 1cm dilated and 30% effaced. My midwife Lauren asked me if I wanted my membranes swept and I opted to do so! She said it could be any day or it could be a few weeks. There really was no way of knowing.

The following week, I started feeling like I was leaking fluids a whole lot. I called my Doula Becky and told her what was going on. She told me to try to do a test to see if maybe my waters had partially broken. So I drank a glass of water, laid down for 30 minutes and when I stood up I felt water trickle down. Because of this, she suggested I go to the hospital to get check out.

First time in the hospital triage. Shortly was sent home after this picture was taken!

Walking into the hospital I was excited, but intuitively felt like it wasn’t time yet. I didn’t feel like I was in labor and had an inkling that my water had not broken. After checking in and being moved to triage, my suspicions were correct. My waters were still intact and I was not in labor. I went home sad, but I had figured that would happen.

My plan was to have a natural birth and I wanted to support that plan as much as I could. Emme was due 3/8 and I watched that date come and go.

Raspberry leaf tea, primrose oil, Miles Circuit, walking, bouncing on my stability ball, acupuncture, an induction massage, chiropractor adjustments – I tried everything I could to get this baby moving. The only thing I did not try was to eat spicy foods. For the majority of my pregnancy, I couldn’t eat anything with flavor because she gave me SO much heartburn.

Halfway into my 40th week, at my next appointment at Allegheny Health Network Midwives, I was asked if I wanted to be induced. I really wanted it to be all natural, so I said I’d wait. But, before leaving, I did have my Midwife Amanda sweep my membranes again (2nd time).

Thumbs up for Baby during the fetal stress test

Since I passed on the induction, I was required to get an ultrasound and a stress test. If I passed these tests, they said they’d let me wait til I was closer to 42 weeks before having me schedule an induction. Not only did baby pass the tests, but she passed with flying colors. My midwife Amanda said her stress test could have been framed it was so perfect. Before I left the office, she once again swept my membranes (3rd time).

The day of my 38-week appointment I had gone to the nail salon to have my nails done. I wanted to look presentable for my baby to be! As the weeks ticked on, my nails started chipping and I needed to have them done again.

So on Thursday, March 15th, a week after my due date, I went to go get them done again. I left my house around 6 pm. As I was driving the 10-minute drive to the nail salon, I started having a contraction.

“Here we go again!” I thought.

Up til that point, I had had contractions at some point each day. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it seemed like this time might be different. A few days earlier I had started having contractions at night. I told myself I’d let them go for one hour, to make sure they were legit, before alerting anyone in my family. Of course, at that time they stopped RIGHT at the 1-hour mark. (UGH! SO FRUSTRATING!) But I agreed to follow that same principle here too. I wasn’t going to alert anyone until I passed the 1-hour mark of having consistent contractions.

“Don’t get your hopes up yet, but I may be in labor!”

As I sat getting my nails done, I realized they were occurring every 8-10 minutes. As I drove home, I passed the 1-hour mark and decided to let my family know.

 I walked in the door and prefaced the news with a “don’t get your hopes up. . . this could be a false alarm.”

But this time it didn’t seem like a false alarm!

The Begining of Labor?

I started out laying in bed moving through my surges. Throughout the night I used my yoga ball, a TENS unit my friend Krista let me borrow and spent the majority of my time in a jet tub. Throughout it all, I listened to calming music, had my diffuser running (a mix of Balance and Serenity), lathered up with other oils and tried my best to be present in the moment. Using my hypnobirthing techniques, I tried to stay calm and ride each wave as best I could.

As the night went on, my contractions got stronger and closer together. By 1 am they were almost 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute. I was getting so excited! With the way I was progressing I guessed that by 3-4 am I’d be on my way to the hospital to meet my baby!!

BUT, as soon as I got excited for the contractions to be every 5 minutes apart, they started spacing out longer and longer. The night dragged on and my contractions seemed to diminish. By 7 am they were 20-30 minutes apart.

I was exhausted and FRUSTRATED. Between 7 – 9 am, I was able to get a little sleep. And as Friday the 16th went on, I had contractions about every 10 minutes.

Friday afternoon I called my Midwife practice and talked to Devon. She said that it sounded like I was having prodromal labor that turned into early labor. I had 2 choices: wait it out or come in and get Pitocin moving things along.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I hung up the phone and cried for an hour. The only reason I wanted to go in and get the party started was because I was getting impatient. NOT because there was something seriously wrong. I still really wanted this birth to be natural, so I called back and told her that I’d be waiting it out.

Due to exhaustion, I ended up falling asleep and getting about 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious! I ended up waking up around 1am-ish and realized my contractions were getting closer together again. By 3-4am, they were very close and by 5 am they were 5 minutes apart (AGAIN).

After they were consistent for an hour, I called Devon and let her know that I’d be coming to the hospital.

Is it “go time” yet?

I checked into Jefferson Hospital at 7:30 am and was first moved to the triage room (again).

I’ll be honest, I was nervous they were going to send me home (again). Yes, my contractions were 5 minutes apart, now for over 2 1/2 hours, but the problem was they weren’t very intense. The night before I had had much stronger contractions. I worried I was still having prodromal labor and wouldn’t be any closer to having my baby than I was on Thursday when I had gone in to have my stress test.

Midwives Devon and Amanda came into check me. I was now 80% effaced (at least those contractions had done SOMETHING), but still only 2cm dilated.

I can’t lie, I was really bummed. I thought I was going to be a lot further along – ESPECIALLY since it was Saturday morning and I had started having contractions on Thursday. So a decision had to be made – I was either going to go home and continue to wait it out or make the decision to have my baby and get hooked up to Pitocin. In the meantime, Amanda stripped my membranes (4th time!!) and then left the room to allow me to make my decision.

Now, I REALLY wanted to have a natural birth, but I was only going to have until Monday the 19th to have the baby naturally. After that, my midwives were going to push me to have an induction. Throughout my entire pregnancy, Josh had told me to hold the baby in and have her on St Patty’s Day, March 17th.

There I sat, in the hospital triage room on March 17th, and thought it through. I thought about how if I didn’t have the baby today, there was the chance I could go home and feel this way until they induced me later on that week. I thought about how exhausted I was and they were telling me that my “true” labor hadn’t even started yet. And I thought about how Josh had really wanted her birthday to be on March 17th.

After giving it much thought, the decision was made = we were going to have a baby!

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