Being young and married usually comes with an expectation that children will follow. I’m going to be honest, in those first couple of years after darling’s diagnosis, I felt pretty unsteady in my own capabilities to manage being a caregiver and a mother. I still feel pretty unsteady much of the time – but when you’re “in it” you kinda just figure out a way to manage.
Everyone around us was having babies and beginning to raise families. While there may not have been any “pressure” to have kids – it’s hard to come to terms with the mixture of emotions in your heart seeing families expand and take shape around you, while both wanting and not wanting the same for yourself.
We eventually came to the decision that we wanted to have children. And for us, having kids was the best possible decision we could have ever made. They are the literal joy of our lives. They both have a way of redeeming the days when I can’t see past the tip of my nose.
I won’t sugarcoat it, though. Having children is an all-consuming vocation. And being a caregiver is an all-consuming vocation. And working full-time is all-consuming. And running a household is all-consuming. It’s a lot – and having children was voluntary – the other stuff wasn’t really.
I’m guessing that you may be here because you’re contemplating having children yourself. Maybe you’re a caregiver, or someone with a chronic illness. Maybe not. Maybe you’re just curious about how and why someone living a “caregiving life” would choose to have children.
Well, this is our parenthood story – and it belongs to us.
The how…well…you can probably put that together yourself.
All kidding aside, the first step was to consult with our physicians – him and me. As the woman and caregiver, my OB was supportive and ran the necessary tests to make sure I was healthy and taking prenatal vitamins.
For darling, we had a conversation with his neurologist that went something like this:
Me: So – we’re thinking of having kids. Is there anything we should be thinking about in advance of that?
Neurologist: Really? Congratulations!
Me: No, we’re not pregnant. We’re thinking of having kids. Will any of darling’s meds interfere with that?
Neurologist: If he was the one getting pregnant, maybe.
Him: Well – are our kids going to get MS?
Neurologist: There’s no way for us to predict this. We believe that there are many factors that influence MS and genetics is only one aspect.
Me: So – do we need to do anything to prepare?
Neurologist: Nope. Good luck!
It probably wasn’t as glib as I described, but that was the gist.
Our process consisted of two steps – deciding to have children, and confirming with our doctors that we were healthy enough to have kids.
We were married for three and a half years before our darling boy joined us – and it took that long mainly because of my trepidation of being able to manage so much of the logistics of being a caregiver, employee, wife, and – a vitally important job – mother.
We waited another three years before our darling girl came – and I’m glad that we did. Spacing them out helped us manage the logistics better. Our little guy was out of diapers, he was sleeping in a big boy bed, he was pretty self-sufficient for a three-year-old – and so very helpful. It made life with his newborn sister a little easier. That was a really lovely time in our lives, to be honest. Chaotic, but lovely.
In both instances we relied heavily on the kindness of our loved ones to be there to support us and our littles. I’m not sure that our story would read the same if we hadn’t had extra hands and hearts around to lift us up in those crucial moments.
This is what worked for us. Not everyone’s parenthood and caregiving story looks the same, and that’s okay.
And if you’re reading this and thinking – I just could never do that – you’re not alone and that decision is as okay as the decision to have children.