This blog, however, is not my travel blog, and so I'm using the term here for an entirely different reason. For the first time in my, albeit relatively short, blogging history, I'm going to touch on a topic I've avoided almost as much as my relationships..... children. It's a topic that's been the subject of many conversations lately among my group of friends. I have a surprisingly large number of friends who suffer from lifelong illnesses (of all different sizes, shapes, and varieties). Some already have children, and may have had them before they were diagnosed/were ill. Some would love to, and were even planning on it, but have now found out that pregnancy would put their life, and potentially the child, in danger. Others have always known that because of their conditions, they probably cannot or would not have children. Then there's me.
When I got married, I thought I'd have children. 2.5 to be exact, and a dog, and a picket fence. (I managed the dogs and a not-quite-picket-but-close-enough fence). Then my condition started worsening, and although I wasn't diagnosed at the time and didn't know precisely what it was, something told me to hold off on starting a family. Shortly after, I got divorced - sometimes gut instinct works in mysterious ways. Finally, I was diagnosed, and I was told that particularly because of the rapid cycling nature of my condition, it was genetic, and that I have had it since birth - which made much of my childhood make more sense. I was told that even though we didn't know who, someone in my family basically had to have a mood cycling condition, because it's not something that just pops up at birth. It's passed down and there's probably a long line of it hidden in my family somewhere, obviously undiagnosed, or if it was, I'd never been told. I was further told that if I ever wanted to get pregnant, I'd have to work very closely with numerous doctors, because I could not be on medication while pregnant (at least not the meds I'm on) and this would be dangerous for me, particularly with all of the hormones going through ones body during pregnancy. It was at this point that I decided I would not have children.
Let me say, despite not appearing overly maternal, and not having grown up playing with dolls imagining that one day they'd be real children, that's a tough leap to take. Even though it's a decision I made a few years ago, it was tough to write just now. But I pictured my future child going through the things I've gone through. I'm lucky that my condition is mild, but there's no guarantee that a child would get that fortunate - I could pass along a much more severe form. And that was the topper, the decision maker. As I take four or five different pills each evening before bed, I picture a little five year old doing that every night (plus the two doses during the day), for their entire life, just so they can feel "normal". I picture them dealing with the same reactions I do at times, the meds themselves making them so sick they can't stand up straight; them having to get blood drawn every few weeks to make sure that the meds aren't doing more harm than good to their body. Worst of all, I picture them, as I did at two and three years old, getting so confused and scared by what I now know was a hypomanic cycle, begging, "mommy make it stop, make it stop!". Quite simply, it's too much to take. I know there are many experiences I will miss out on that my friends with children will have. It's very difficult and don't think it doesn't affect me, because it does.
I'm sure there are people who think I'm selfish. There was recently an article written and shared - hence the discussions amongst my friends - about how "couples without kids need to get out of the suburbs" because they're spoiled and selfish for not having children. For the record I live in the city and this still made me more than furious. So furious, that it caused me to open my mouth about one of the few topics I'm actually usually quite private about.
If people want to consider my not wanting to go off meds and become hospitalized while pregnant as being selfish, then that's their prerogative. But even for those who do, I can say with very strong conviction that not wanting to pass down a condition that has made almost every day of my life a struggle, because I don't want a child to have to go through the same, is not selfish. I understand that there are plenty of people who have a similar condition and have chosen to have children. I don't believe they're selfish at all. I want to be very clear on that. This is in no way a slam against anyone who has chosen to have children with a condition, be it mine or another. Even with the same condition, everyone is affected differently, and each person knows their own body and experiences better than anyone else. They also know the nature of their condition - not everybody's is genetic. Mine personally is. Maybe I'm scared, and others are brave, and if you want to call me scared, go right ahead. But I'd like to point out that I would consider adoption, if I were married/with someone for the long haul and therefore felt in a situation to take care of a child. There are plenty of children already born who need loving homes and parents. If this decision was strictly about me, I wouldn't even consider this as an option.
I love my nieces and nephews more than life itself, and I would throw myself in front of a speeding truck for any of them. It's not that I don't like children or I don't want to give up the comforts of my lifestyle, as the article claimed. I have considered the options, and I have made my choice. I fully respect yours, as I ask you to respect mine. And besides, since I have no kids of my own, maybe I can treat yours to a vacation. :-)