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Why My Mental Illness Means I Can't Give My Daughter a Baby Brother

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Last night at the dinner table, my daughter decided that was an appropriate time to beg us for a baby brother.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

My heart sank and I gave my husband an “oh no” look, and he gave me an “it’s OK” look in return. See, in March I had a tubal ligation, so when my only child says she wants a sibling, I question what I’ve done and if that was the right decision. But here’s the thing: it was. Do I feel saddened that I can’t and won’t give her a sibling to have life journey’s with? Sure.

Do I feel selfish that we did something that she didn’t have a say in? No! Because I also feel certain I can’t have more than one child.

What does that mean? When I say I am one and done, I am not being selfish.

I have mental illnesses that make life a struggle, and not the normal “adulting” struggles we all can relate to. It’s a daily battle that takes so much of my energy that I can’t give enough of myself to a lot of people at once, much less another baby. Her five-year-old brain, although very mature and intelligent, cannot fathom the battles enough to understand why Mommy and Daddy made the decision we did. (Shout out to my selfless, patient and supportive husband.)

In fact, she doesn’t remember the early days of her life when I was not healthy and happy. She doesn’t understand what having another baby would be like, and I don’t mean the part of having to share our attention and love to another human. I’m talking about having to discontinue my medications to be pregnant and develop another life safely. I will have to continue to not take my medications if I breast-feed, or not breast-feed at all. I will have to give so much of my time and energy to focus on being a stable mother for the helpless infant,  I will have to pull away from the child I already have.

Now, please don’t take this as a declaration that all people with mental illnesses can’t be parents. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Everyone has limitations, healthy or not, and I know mine. There are lots of people with mental conditions who have many children, and then there are some who choose to not have any at all. Every parent is only doing the best we can for the babies we bring into this world. I know my bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression make me a better mother, believe it or not. But I’m a good mother to the one I have and I don’t want to destroy the relationship I have with her just so she can be a big sister.

I can’t let my five-year-old decide whether we have another child, and I’m thankful I did get the tubal because I can be impulsive (thanks to the bipolar). Especially if I know it will benefit someone else’s happiness, and that can be damaging. I’d rather see her heartbroken expressions about not having a “baby brother” now, than to see her heartbroken expressions every day when the new baby comes along. Someday she will understand the reason behind our decision; until then, “mommy can’t have any more babies” is the only thing we can tell her.

I am a nervous wreck putting this out there, but my hopes are that others will understand why some people make the decisions they do based off their lives, and not the beliefs of others. I also hope to let those who can relate know they are not alone. You can’t let judgmental people who don’t understand make you feel guilty for the decisions you make for the best interest of you and your family.

Thinkstock photo via SolisImages

Originally published: August 30, 2017
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