There is much debate in the last few years on whether or not the Mentally Ill should be allowed to have children. The following article appeared on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday:
Should People With Mental Illness Have Children?
I find it ironic that this popped into my newsfeed as I started to write about whether or not I should have become a mother. Keep in mind, I in no way ignore or hate my child (now), but knowing what I know now, should I have conceived and given birth to a child.
The article talks of people just like me but comes to the conclusion that the Mentally Ill have just as much of shot of having a “typical” child as a “typical” adult does.
Should I have had my daughter? Here is my thinking process… this is just the beginning:
My greatest gift in this world is my daughter. She exudes so much love, and yes quite a bit of whininess, but she is a wise and kind being. And I probably never should have had her. I look back on my life and see the pain, the craziness, the hurt that my brain has caused myself and my family that I wonder if I should have ever become a parent in the first place. When recanting my life’s tale, my worst episodes of Depression and Anxiety surround my children… first with my daughter, and then with my former foster son. It is a formidable sign that my body is telling me all these years later:
“Knock, knock, it is your brain calling… “ I listen now, but where would I be if I listened at my third reoccurrence of Depression in college as a twenty year old? Would I even be married? Would my husband have left me then if I said a big NO to having children? I know, it is all a game of “What ifs?”. It isn’t as if I could turn back time.
There are many people in this world where parenting seems almost easy when I look at them. They never fell victim to Postpartum Depression, anxiety… They never wished they could leave their spouse and child. They never thought about how horrible they were. Sure there were tears during diaper changes, moments they wanted to scream, but these women went on to have more children. For me, each child had one cause and effect outcome on me: Cause, Anxiety. Effect, Major Depression. Not a normal outcome by any means but one that I sit and think about often.
I should have never become a parent…
How can I say this when I have this beautiful little girl in my life? How she understands her mother’s illnesses and can still love me, how could I say I should not have had her?
If I had known what would happen to me after her birth or after having my former foster son in the house, back then, would I still have desired so much to become pregnant?
My daughter is a gift I should not have been given. This is why I call her my greatest most precious gift. She’s my most delicate gift. And, she’s amazingly perfect to me. Even with some of her minor difficulties, her Generalized Anxiety Disorder, her whininess, her emotions, she is perfect. After watching her mother almost wither away, she didn’t get angry with me over losing her “little brother”. Instead, she was overly worried about losing me. She doesn’t want to lose her Mommy. I am sure what she witnessed from me was extremely scary for her and with her Anxiety diagnosis, I am sure she is more worried than she should ever be. It is not her responsibility to take care of me and I have expressed that to her.
My greatest gift, and to think here I am pondering if my life should have been without her? Please note my past tense in verbiage. Am I a bad mother for saying that?
Put yourself in my shoes for a moment so maybe you can understand. Now bend down and pretend you are tying the laces of my hiking boots. This is just an analogy. Let’s travel back in time, almost nine years ago. You have just given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. Life seems euphoric. You cuddle your baby in your arms giving her kisses at every opportunity. You think to yourself, “This is why I carried you for 8 1/2 months, this is why I became a mother… to give and receive unconditional love.” Now picture you are home with this infant and within the first week of her birth you become worried… overly worried. Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping too much? This quickly intensifies to a point at which you are not eating or sleeping. You are just existing as a shell of your former self and this shell is growing hatred toward this babe you so desired and toward yourself. Think about wanting to run away because living seems unbearable. Now envision yourself saying these words, “Yes, I would like to admit myself into the short term psych ward” one month after your baby was born. Imagine the guilt you have for missing 12 days of her short life at the time.
Would you even think about mothering another child?
I did. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I even considered adopting or getting pregnant realistically. Adoption was always a thought swirling around in my head since Sophia was three and my husband was extremely against me giving birth again because he couldn’t relive the Postpartum Mental Illnesses I had. So now, here I am, feeling the strongest I ever felt emotionally, mentally and physically. I am off medication, once again, for the last four years. Nothing can break me. I am invincible. Imagine getting that phone call after going through adoption classes and extreme amounts of paperwork, where someone tells you your family has been chosen. Think about a wide grin with happy tears escaping your eyes. You are living euphoria again. You are finally going to mother another child. You are going to provide them with a loving home. The happiness just boils inside of you. Imagine meeting this little boy you have been chosen for and looking into his eyes realizing he looks more like you than your biological child. Imagine instantly falling in love with him, yearning for the weekends when you, your husband and your daughter would go pick him up and get to play with him. Weeks pass and you start to get anxious about him moving in, about becoming a family unit of four, what you’ve always dreamt about.
Now, think of everything that comes with being a new full-time employee, wife, mother to a young daughter and now adding mother to a toddler with challenges into the mix. Your perfect vision is slowly cracking as you grow with extreme anxiety and worry as this little boy will not eat or drink. Then you get the phone call from the daycare telling you they are kicking him out claiming he is too much work because he doesn’t eat or nap like the other kids. Growing tired and weary, you decide only you can solve this situation and find another daycare where they will “try” him out. The worry continues… will they kick him out too? At this point you have daily conversations at work with Birth to Three, and imagine during one of these days that you receive a phone call from your daughter’s school nurse at the same time concerning a couple of recent anxiety outbursts at school. You now can’t think because your mind is being pulled in so many directions and you have no idea where to start and like the Alpha you are, you still haven’t asked for help. Think about when this once sheltered toddler is being sent home because he is sick. It has been so long, you have forgotten what it is like to have a sick toddler. You are now not sleeping because you wake at the sound of him coughing which is often. Since you are not sleeping, you are become angry and more anxious and now you are too nauseas to eat. Within a few days of worrying who would stay home with him because you had no days since you are new to your job, you start to experience heavy breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, an explosion of tears… your first real panic attack. Your dream of a family of four is now ruined as you fall victim to Anxiety and a Major Depressive Episode once again leading you into the arms of the hospital’s short term psych ward. Imagine the shame you have for yourself telling yourself it is all your fault you don’t have your son anymore, you don’t have your dream anymore.
Would you think about mothering another child?
This time at the age of thirty-five and entering remission yet again for a 6th time for Depression my answer is a resounding… NO. All that I told you to imagine, I lived. Reliving it has some painful consequences. One of those consequences is my recurring thought of, “Should I ever have been a mother in the first place?”
I will go more in depth with this thought in my book. In no way would I ever choose to give up my daughter now. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love her. She is the greatest gift I have ever been given and she knows that. It is just when I reflect on my worst occurrences of Depression and Anxiety, which is part of my recuperation, they surround children. Ultimately, my thought goes to, if I knew how badly I would suffer with each child back before I had any, would I choose to never have a child?