Hello Comfizz readers,
As always, I hope this blog post finds you well & if it doesn't, I'm sending you healing hugs & I'm just a chat away over on my Instagram.
It is nearly Valentine's Day again so I wanted to do another blog post on stoma life & relationships.
If you want to read last year's Valentine's post, you can read it here.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk to you about my experience with wedding planning with a stoma & the things that may cross your mind such as choosing an outfit, food, emptying your bag & drinking alcohol.
A little intro on my other half & I
In 2017, I met my other half, Ben who proposed to me in 2019. We were due to get married in August 2020, but Covid had other ideas!
Ben had heard of Crohn's Disease & a temporary colostomy before me from having family with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, but he has learnt so much from being with me such as the different stoma types, how chronic illness and having a stoma can affect me and knows that every case is different.
From day 2 or 3 of us getting to know each other, he has been involved with a lot of the awareness & content I do having a stoma and IBD (he is often the photographer behind my photos!) He also wears a bag each year on World Ostomy Day on 2nd October and puts cold liquid in it to get a feel of bag emptying!
Having a chronic illness and stoma has never, quite rightly, pushed him away from me. It will never push the right person away. It has actually brought us closer & he is always finding ways to help me & make my daily life easier, especially when it comes to managing my energy and my bad days. It has taken me years to accept (& I still get days where it's near impossible) that I don't need to feel guilty for days where I have to say "no" to things, whether that be house work or adventuring outdoors.
The preparation began... & then came to a halt!
We were keen to get planning our wedding & soon decided between us that we'd like a fairly informal registry office wedding followed by celebrations with a countryside, rustic theme.
I was also so excited to start trying on wedding dresses as I'd dreamt about that day since being a little girl.
We also had cake tasting to organise and planning, food and drink to organise, entertainment, clothing for us both and our bride and groom parties, the wedding cars, my hair and make up trials to sort, decor, ordering things such as favours and confetti, timing and logistics...you name it, it all became quite overwhelming, quite quickly in all honesty, as well as exciting.
I went through periods where I struggled mentally with everything feeling so overwhelming and found it very hard to put my mind to things, but bit by bit, we started to put things in place. We attended our first wedding fair which we enjoyed, but again, it made us feel like there were way too many things to think about. This reinforced our wishes for a more informal, relaxed wedding, then Covid came along and this reinforced the point even further and that all that really matters is celebrating with our family & loved ones.
Lockdown came & we were thinking more & more about postponing our date so that we could hopefully have the wedding we'd love with the people we love, safely & happily in future. We made that decision to postpone our wedding and honestly felt so much relief. This also meant we had more time to plan & make a lot of things ourselves for the wedding with our loved ones.
Every cloud has a silver lining
However, because of having to postpone our wedding, we were able to make our dream of moving into our own home a reality which has been one of the best feelings ever. We've nearly been in our home a year now, adding our personal touches, and we welcomed our dog to the family too. Another dream for us that we could action sooner that we anticipated.
Having time away from wedding planning enabled us to strip things back to a minimum once we had moved house and focus on our lives and enjoying the simple things. It allowed us to reflect, work on ourselves as people, work on our relationship (relationships are a constant work in progress to me and quite rightly, take effort to keep things going in the right direction), my other half started his own company and I worked hard in my full time job and health content work.
I struggled with my mental health and had to employ a lot of the techniques I had learnt in counselling consistently before they came to fruition and I became happier in the person I was and started to feel the benefits more over time and after a hard several months, we decided to get the ball rolling again with the wedding planning and really throw ourselves into our new lives.
Saying "yes" to the dress
Don't worry, this isn't a dress spoiler! The dress above I was gifted which I absolutely adore, but is actually a bridesmaid's dress. I felt so pretty in this dress!
When it came to shopping for my wedding dress, I can't say the thought of navigating it with a stoma bothered me too much. I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to let it dictate my wedding dress, so much so, that I wore some high waisted stoma briefs when going to try some wedding dresses on so I knew I would feel secure and my bag would be discreet.
I explained to the lady in the bridal shop that I have a stoma and she was so interested and keen to make me feel relaxed and beautiful. She let me have a look around the dresses and I think I picked around 10 to try on. It was about the 6th dress I tried on which I just knew was the dress. I felt so beautiful in it straight away & everything about it just looked & felt so right.
I really enjoyed shopping for wedding dresses. Here is one I loved on the hanger, but when it was on me, it just drowned me. Such a pretty dress, but not the one for me.
When wedding dress shopping with a stoma, don't be afraid to make your worries and needs clear. You won't be the first one with a stoma and you won't be the last. It's all about finding something that makes you feel the most you and comfortable on your big day. Move around in the dresses you try on, try sitting down and get a feel for them.
For me, finding a wedding dress with a relatively light (in weight) bottom was a must for bag emptying on the day and toilet duties, but that's what bridesmaids are they to help with too, right?! I haven't gone for a super tight fit wedding dress, purely out of choice, but I do know of women who have had surgery who have worn tighter dresses and been fine, or wore them in the day then changed to something more light and floaty at night when they're more likely to need to empty their stoma bag with eating and drinking as the day goes on.
Saying "cheers" on your big day
My stoma can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to alcohol, but I tend to have more of a chance of being completely fine output wise if I've stayed hydrated before drinking and keep hydrated when drinking alcohol by having a non-alcoholic drink in between such as squash. I find too much fizzy in general can make me bloat and give me wind but that's maybe because I've never been a big drinker of fizzy drinks, nor alcohol.
Stoma life tip: Did you know that an easy way to make a drink less fizzy is to stir a fork around in it quite fast? This makes most of the bubbles disappear & I use this one a lot.
On our wedding day, I will definitely be raising a toast (or two...three...you get the gist!) I am going to have a little handbag/kit on hand, which I will maybe get my Mum or Bridesmaid to look after which will contain things such as Loperamide (Imodium Instants I have) to slow my bowel down, a spare bag change, a mini bottle of my stoma deodorant, a sachet or two of rehydration solution, paracetamol, spare tissues and spare underwear, just in case. I also find Buscopan to be quite helpful if my output turns watery and if I get cramps with my output also.
Eating on your big day
We knew from the offset that we wanted the food & drink at the wedding to be a relaxed affair. No seating plans and less formalities, we want to create an environment that is more of a get together and people get to choose from a buffet & hog roast & sit with who they want to sit on rustic picnic benches and hay bales! I'll definitely have the Imodium on standby but with it not being a sit down, set meal, it will mean that I can eat as much or as little as I fancy on the day.
A few tips if you're finding wedding planning overwhelming
(In my opinion, remember, it's your wedding so do things how you wish!)
- Try and take things one at a time and start planning with plenty of time to go so that this takes any stress caused by bad planning & time management away.
- Remember, it's your day, as I've just said, so you and your partner aren't going to be able to please everyone and you shouldn't have to. This is a day about you both & those that matter will just be happy to celebrate with you.
- It really does help when wedding dress shopping if you explain that you have a stoma bag & express what style you would like to go for. Also let your wedding dress shop know if there's any styles you'd prefer to avoid.
- Make a spreadsheet and break tasks down into sections. See if you can delegate anything to anyone else to help share the preparation load!
- You are more than your stoma. Yes, you will naturally think about it and take it into consideration but your stoma doesn't define who you are. Use your wedding day to include so many things that define you, that you love, and that you love as a couple.
Above everything, I am so thankful that I am here to be able to plan a wedding. My stoma really did save my life & it has given me so many opportunities, this being one of them.
Don't forget to head over to my Instagram for more stoma life & body confidence tips & to keep up-to-date.
Until next time,