You know those times in life when awful things happen but later you realise why? And you're grateful for the experience because if it hadn't happened then you wouldn't have learned how to do something, or how to cope with a situation?
That's pretty much why I'm writing this post. Hideous as it was to go through years of pain as an undiagnosed coeliac, the things that happened during those years have helped shape my future, and three of those ways rather bizarrely prepared me for having a baby.
1. Getting practical with my clothing
There's nothing like wearing tight clothing to bring on a set of tummy cramps when you're coeliac and still eating gluten. So I would find creative ways to wear normal clothes. I'd roll my tights down to hip-level so they didn't touch my stomach. I'd buy floaty dresses so there'd be plenty of room for bloating without anyone noticing. I'd wear jeans without doing them up under enormous jumpers so there'd be no pressure from the top button.
The tummy I never had...(no surprise there, then!)
So later, when I first got pregnant, I didn't actually have to buy any new clothes. I'd see shops selling maternity leggings and tights and wonder why people bought them - didn't others roll the fabric down below their bump? Admittedly, it did get to the point where I had to buy some expectant mummy clothes but I spent a good 5 months not having to, and that was probably rather good for my wallet.
2. Experiencing pain during childbirth
I'd always wondered when I got tummy cramps if childbirth was worse. The pain after eating gluten was so unbearable I decided it would be tough to beat. And when childbirth finally happened (I've had two labours) I remember thinking that the pain was familiar (and intolerable) but at least there was a lovely end point.
So whenever I hear of people going undiagnosed for decades, I'm full of sympathy. And if you've ever given birth, I'm sure you'll sympathise too.
3. Being prepared with a nappy bag
Wait! Don't get too excited: I didn't carry nappies around when I was an undiagnosed coeliac. But I did have to be prepared to have a bag with my own food in it, and given the sorry state of affairs the 1990s was to gluten-free food, I tended to have to carry it a lot.
Clearly this is a bit of a feast I've prepared for myself.
So it didn't occur to me to mind preparing a changing bag every day for my baby. Okay, so it meant having a bit more than a few snacks, but the principle of having to think ahead felt exactly the same as being a coeliac.
Although all of these points don't really matter that much, I've found the cumulative effect of small things seems to impact on the bigger things. In other words, I'm grateful (in the weirdest way possible).
Has being coeliac prepared you for anything other people struggled with? Do share your stories below, no matter how bizarre they are!