Chris Tomlin O Come all Ye Faithful

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Giving Birth and Schizophrenia

For me the decision was easy; I wanted a baby, so I had a baby. It wasn't very well planned or thought out in terms of whether or not, I , a person with a serious mental illness should be bearing children. I don't think, back then, that I even looked into the possibility of it being transferred via genetics to my child. Nor did I give much consideration as to the question of whether or not I would even make a good mother. Looking back with older and wiser eyes, I am appalled at the lack of thought that I put into such a huge decision....

For one thing, I don' t even know if it was known back then whether or not SZ was communicated from mom to child at a higher percentage chance that a normal mom would have of giving birth to a child with this illness. The line of thought back then was that SZ was more environmental (nurture) rather than genetic (nature)...And also the biggest problem was that if you asked me "Do you have schizophrenia?" I would have replied "no." I was deeply in denial for many many years...in fact it is only in the past five years that I have accepted that I have this disease...although I do admit, even now I often feel that there must have been some mistake in my diagnosis. Never mind that probably 50 doctors had independently decided that my problem was schizophrenia. They were simply all wrong! So it is not surprising that I did not take the consequences of giving birth too much into consideration prior to conceiving.

But what is the general feeling amongst people with this illness? What, if any, consensus is there amongst people with schizophrenia in regard to the question of whether or not to propagate? As far as I can see, from being around a forum for such people, where the topic does fairly frequently emerge...the field is split. True, MANY of the people there have a parent (somehow it is usually a mom) who has sz. But despite that fact there are a number of us who have or want children. Of course you must first have a partner in order to do so...and for some people with this disease, that is not something that comes easily. Relationships are something that we do not do well with....(just ask my husband :) )

However those who have decided to refrain from the choice to have kids, are quite adamant and passionate about it. Many do not want to curse their child with the illness. Others know, (showing a fair amount of insight; more than I had) their limitations and feel that they are not capable of being a good parent to a child...and so have decided, in all fairness, not to conceive...or to father a child. And it is also across the board that the people who have children are glad they had them...but I've talked to a number (there are a few exceptions who would do it again in a heartbeat) who, had they been more informed, would have chosen otherwise. I have to confess that I am in that last group. Although my daughter tells me she doesn't share this sentiment, I do not feel that I've been as good a mom as I would have been had I not been ill. The frequent hospitalizations and absences from my daughter have also harmed her and she struggles with trust and a huge amount of separation anxiety. Never mind the fact that my face is almost always expressionless and I am terrible at giving displays of affection.

But I think all in all, that I did the best I could with what I had. And although my daughter has several mental health diagnoses, she has thus far, escaped having any major mental illness. I pray God will continue to spare her...and also that he will her acute recall of the good times, and soften the blows of the bad times.

There is also, before I close, one other issue...and that is the fact that it is not at all desirable for a person with sz to go off of their meds for the 9 month gestational period. I was put on Loxitane ---a drug that has never been proven to cause birth defects....and took a very low dose of that while pregnant...but I've heard horror stories of people whose doctors pulled them off of all their meds once they became pregnant...which is a recipe for disaster...especially with the hormone changes and the stress of pregnancy. So this must be carefully weighed as well.

There are no clear cut answers...I think it must be worked out on a case by case basis...however, I would desire there to be more information available or contact with others who've already had children ...both those who are glad and with those for whom it didn't work out well. In my case, pregnancy had a very stabilizing effect...whether due to hormones or to my great desire to do well and to keep my head clear so that I could care for the baby; I do not know. My current psychiatrist believes it to be the latter. I summoned all of my power with in me to stay relatively stable for those 12 years or so...and then , when my energy ran out; all hell broke loose four years ago...up until just this past year. But with sz nothing is predictable...not even the mood from moment to moment...so great consideration should be given to such a vital matter.
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