Why do people keep trying to convince me that I’m able to have kids?
Ok, I know the answer. It has to do with them wanting to give me hope, them not wanting to see someone give up on something wanted, them not wanting to admit that they might also fail to have the children they want… them them them. It’s not about me.
But it still bothers me.
When I was in my late 20s I decided that I didn’t want to pass on these genes. I had an entirely unhelpful diagnosis of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. That roughly translates to some-sort-of-connective-tissue-disease-but-we-don’t-know-what-or-how-to-treat-it. I was looking at 60 years of pain ahead of me and I wasn’t happy about it. No, I couldn’t pass that on to my kids.
But even as I said it, I still hoped I’d somehow have kids. I might adopt. I might marry someone with kids. Maybe I’d marry a woman who wanted to get pregnant. But it still hurt that I’d never be pregnant myself. I’d always wanted kids.
When we had room for an elective in high school, my friends took art and drama. I took a child development class. I started babysitting at 12 and continued to babysit regularly for many years. I was a camp counselor for 6 summers. I always loved kids and always assumed I’d have some of my own. And I didn’t just assume it because that’s the societal expectation (though I’m sure that was part of it,) but because I really wanted kids. The question wasn’t if. It was simply how many and with whom?
So this was a major change in thinking, and it really didn’t help to have people constantly suggesting that I should still have kids. They’d tell me that there was no guarantee my kids would have what I had (and they’d conveniently forget there was no guarantee my kids wouldn’t have it!) They’d say someone might find a cure. Right.
As I moved into my 30s, that conversation stayed about the same, it just became less frequent. My friends knew where I stood, so there was no point in talking about it. No one else brought it up.
But in the last couple of years, something shifted. It’s probably my age. Now that I’m at the do-or-die stage (so to speak) people are asking if I plan to have kids, because if I don’t have them soon, I never will. Ok, I get that. And I don’t really mind that question. What I mind is that they don’t accept my answer!
If I say no, they ask why not. I sometimes say I’m too old, because that’s a convenient answer. But it doesn’t work. I then hear about how their sister’s friend’s coworker had a baby at my age. I point out that their sister’s friend’s coworker was probably married at my age. And already trying to get pregnant. And ready to have kids. And she probably carried the baby for around 9 months before that. I see them look surprised as they do the math. Yeah.
The truth is, I’m single, and I have no intention of having kids alone. I also never wanted to be an older mom. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not for me. I don’t want to be 60 when my kids go off to college. I don’t want to pass along these genes, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to now that I have some diagnoses and some treatments that would have worked great if they’d been used 15 years earlier. But I’m still in my late 30s and I’m single, and that’s a problem. Plus I have fertility issues that – funny thing – I don’t go around telling everyone. So even if I can get pregnant, and we don’t know if I can, there’s a good chance it would take a few years.
I think it’s time for some math. Let’s say I meet the love of my life tomorrow. Unlikely, but let’s pretend. We date for a year and then get engaged. I don’t care about a big wedding and let’s say they don’t either, so we’re married 6 months later. Then we start trying to get pregnant immediately. It takes at least 2-3 years to get pregnant. Then 9 months of carrying the baby. We we’re talking around 4.5 years from now. By then I’d be in my 40s. That’s a hard time to get pregnant even for someone who’s healthy!
And that’s if we don’t consider the other reason I can’t see having kids: my symptoms. I can barely take care of myself right now. I struggled to take care of a dog. How the fuck would I take care of a baby?!? Or a young child?!? I’m exhausted after an afternoon with my nephew. I visit my friend and her family for 3 days, she does all the cooking, I stay home half the time she takes the kids out, and it’s still more than I can handle. I couldn’t do that every day without doing real harm to my body. Other people do it. Plenty of you are parents. And I applaud you! But I don’t see myself handling that well right now. And it would break my heart to not be able to pick up my child. But that would be the reality.
And then of course there’s the pregnancy itself. My hormones, my joints…. I don’t see them faring well.
And as if that’s not enough, there’s the part where I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever find someone I want to marry, much less make that happen this year. But see the math above – this year would already be too late for me.
These are all very legitimate reasons to assume that I won’t be having kids. But why should I tell strangers and acquaintances all of this? Why isn’t it enough for me to say no, I won’t be having kids unless I marry someone who already has kids? Why can’t people just believe me and move on?
Probably for the same reason they can’t let it go when I say, “I’ll never be cured.” But that’s a subject for another day.
What about you? Do you deal with this? How do you handle it? What do you say? Please comment and let me know!
When I was a child, my flexible joints weren’t a concern. My asthma was.Also my Mum had a rare disease and I was monitored to see if I had it. Due to gene testing I don’t and neither does Matthew. My joint symptoms were masked by the amount and duration of long term steroid use. I got married at nineteen and had Matthew at twenty. I was really well during my pregnancy after the sickness wore off and for a year after whilst breast fed. Eventually a Airforce Dr realised there was something else wrong with me…….
Matthew has dyspraxia but never let it stop him. He went to Oxford Uni and works in London. He’s twenty six in June.
Never a day goes by that I don’t worry that he might develop one of my diseases especially if he mentions aches, pains or is ill. I love him with all my heart and never regret having him.
However if I had reached nearly forty, I would probably make the same decision as you.
People can be very cruel and seldom really think before opening their mouths.
Big hugs xx
Lorna, I’m glad to hear that Matthew is doing so well! I wish him continued good health as much as possible. And thanks for your support.
Man, do people stick their noses where it doesn’t belong, eh? I was ‘lucky’ (as in 3 little surprises) to have kid’s so young, before my body decided to full on start giving up on me. That also means though that now my illnesses are progressing I have 3 rugrats around and feel like most of the time I can’t handle them. I couldn’t even imagine wishing that on someone else I knew living in daily pain either as bad or worse than mine. Not to mention the guilt I feel not being able to be the awesome mother I assume I would have otherwise been. If that’s not enough, I’m still young enough that people do often ask when the next one will be coming, even after the Mr. getting snipped. The idea of being pregnant again, dealing with a new born again, NOPE.
What hit me hardest about your post is your feelings and the feelings of people around you about passing on those horrible genes. I wish people talked about it more. I know I got bad genes dumped on me from both sides, even after my Mother’s arthritis became debilitating she and my step dad still tried for another kid (resulting in my brother who is 12 years my jr). Personally if my symptoms had worsened earlier or if originally I had planned on more kids, I do think it would have changed my perception. No one talks about it, how horrible it can feel to know you possibly passed some life long issues to your kids. My oldest’s bio father has the Huntingtons gene, which means he has a 50% chance of also having it. I’ve seen what the final stages of that look like, and knowing my kid has a 50/50 chance of it is terrifying, not to mention what if he develops some of my health issues.
I totally get it, and I probably wouldn’t be handling it as casually as you have been able to, it’s just one of those hot topics that can set me off. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, not like men (healthy or not) deal with the “when ya gonna have kids” talk with every person they meet.
Wow! Even if you were completely healthy, people have some gall asking when you’re having another kid! I know it happens to a lot (most?) mothers, though.
This line of yours really got me: “Not to mention the guilt I feel not being able to be the awesome mother I assume I would have otherwise been.” I am always so amazed by the incredible parents like you who deal with chronic illness and also manage to take care of their kids to whatever extent they can. Good job! It might not be what you had in mind before, but I bet your kids feel loved, and as they grow up, they will probably appreciate all of the extra effort you’ve given. Still, it’s something that had been on my mind, too.
You’re right, we do need to talk about the passing along of genes more. I hope things work out well for all of your kids.
And if you come up with a good non-casual response, I’d love to hear it 🙂