Let’s talk about fear. I don’t mean scary movies, though I’d never turn them down, and I don’t mean fear of spiders or snakes or heights.
I’m talking about the kind of fear that lives deep inside your soul, the kind of thoughts we think in those quiet moments but don’t dare speak to others because if we do, it feels more real. And we certainly won’t be able to stop the tears once they start.
I used to say that I wasn’t afraid of anything. This was back in my reckless early to mid twenties. Sometimes I said that I had a fear of not being afraid of anything. These days, I have one particular fear that won’t go away. I imagine that many of you who also struggle with mental illness have had these same thoughts (at least, I hope I’m not alone in this).
My fear is about having children. Some people enter into the decision lightly, easily. I’d say I am heavy with this decision, heavy with the fear that I will either pass on my depression to my child or that I will struggle too much with depression and anxiety myself to be a good parent.
I worry that I (we) will make the wrong decision. I worry that I will suffer from debilitating postpartum depression. Would I recover if I had a traumatic birth experience? What if I can’t handle the pregnancy, since I’d have to be temporarily off antidepressants? Would I ever grow so sick of the baby’s crying that I want to do something drastic, as I’ve read in stories of women with PPD?
Passing depression on to my offspring is a real possibility. Some form of depression has been present for at least the last three generations in my family. Seeing my child go through what I have would be unbearable. I can’t begin to imagine, save for witnessing friends’ suffering, what my mother has gone through when I’ve been at my lowest. Would it be selfish of me to have children, knowing that they might suffer as I have? (Is having children ever not selfish?)
I’ve often thought about fostering and adoption. I love the idea of giving a home to a child already in the world, over bringing in a new life when we already have such problems with sustainability and overpopulation. This possibility has always run through my mind, in a Well, if we do decide to have children, this would probably be the best way sense. Of course, adopting or fostering only takes care of the passing-on-mental-illness fear, not the what-if-I-can’t-handle-it one.
I never thought about having children much before I was seriously involved with Andy: it didn’t even cross my mind much when I was single, when I didn’t yet know what it was like to be with someone who not only made a good partner but who I could foresee becoming a wonderful parent. Now I’m in my thirties and Andy is in his forties. It’s time to make peace with my fears, whatever direction that takes us in.
Today starts the second week of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. My theme for F was fear. Last week’s themes were art, baking, currently, diaries, and England. Stay tuned this week for posts covering my trip last week to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.