Should I Become a Parent If I Live With Chronic Pain?
I never thought this question would require pondering. Up until the past year or so, I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a parent, and more specifically, that I wanted to bake my own, give birth and send a bundle of my genes out into the world with my heart tied around its ankle. I thought I’d be pretty good at it and that it would make my life more full in a good way, not to mention increasing my chances of having visitors when I’m old and decrepit.
Now I’m not so sure.
I don’t need to tell most of you that chronic pain is a life changer. As demonstrated by my treatment plan, managing it well usually means adjusting every corner of daily life, from seemingly innocuous things such as going to bed at the same time every night to major things like navigating a whole new career path. This is just another decision in a billion that I will make while living with chronic pain, and one that I am incredibly fortunate to make. But it’s still a hard one because, infuriatingly, there is probably no right answer. So naturally, a pros and cons list will be required.
1. I know a few folks with chronic pain who are also top-notch parents, both single and partnered, and I firmly believe that excellent parenting and chronic pain are not incompatible. This is reinforced by the oodles of blogs out there that chronicle the lives of some pretty badass, determined and loving parents with chronic pain who find endlessly creative ways to manage family life when pain limits their abilities.
2. Not only do many parents with chronic pain do a fine job, they sometimes claim that the joy of little ones helps to get them through some of the roughest times.
3. I am of the mind that “it takes a village” and am fairly confident that I could organize friends and family who would be willing and able to help out so that not all the responsibility would fall to my partner on major pain days.
4. Life is unpredictable, and abilities change. Even if I were making this decision without chronic pain, my health would be no guarantee. Because sh** happens, having a parent with an invisible disability would probably be a learning opportunity on many levels.
5. Despite the potential tribulations, I can’t imagine ever regretting the decision to become a parent, whereas I can imagine regretting the decision to abstain.
1. I feel as if my plate is very full already with doing my job and taking care of myself, and I can barely commit to the responsibility of feeding a friend’s cat, let alone carting kids somewhere on any given day. Having to cancel plans due to pain already feels crappy. I am guessing that having to cancel a child’s plans due to pain would feel even worse.
2. In the imagined scenario where friends and family help out more than in the traditional nuclear family, I may not be able to return the favor, at least not by giving my own physical energy, and would really be quite dependent on the generosity of others. I’m not sure how I would avoid/deal with the guilt around this.
3. Parenting would likely mess up my treatment plan pretty often. Lack of sleep and noise levels in particular are two of my biggest triggers. A kid might mean worse pain more often, which usually means a tougher fight with depression. And while I know healing is not linear, that would just be hard.
4. Migraine is thought to be passed on genetically, according to a New York Times article. If I baked my own kidlet and they ended up struggling with migraine, I suspect that would also be very hard.
Lucky for me, while this topic might feel heavier some days than others, I’m in no rush to decide and neither is my partner. My biological clock has taken a break from cats-turning-into-baby dreams, and having come into an agreement with my incredibly demanding, change-despising body, I’m open to the idea of adopting later in life. For others, despite recent debunking of the dramatized “fertility cliff” of 35, I know the ticking of the clock is still a source of constant worry.
People with chronic pain who are parents, parents-to-be, undecided and decidedly childless, what are you thoughts? What pros/cons have I missed?
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