Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Bipolar Babies

As a result of an Instaboost on my Valkyrie blog, I've gotten oodles of interesting commentary regarding my desire to have children despite being bipolar. Some have suggested that the severity of the illness should deter me from procreating and passing it on to the next generation. Others believe that I haven't given it any thought whatsoever:

"Brendan: Wait a minute, Reginleif, the fact that Becky might have to make gut-wrenching choices involving her own health vs. her career vs. the potential health of her (and my) eventual progeny, makes you have less sympathy for her? That makes no sense.

It would make sense if she were actually considering the welfare of said progeny first, rather than merely petulantly stating, "I want to be a young mother." Not once in her post does she actually express any worry about what it will be like to raise kids while having bipolar disorder, or about passing it on to them.

BTW, drugs for manic-depression such as lithium and Depakote, when taken by a pregnant woman, can have serious teratogenic effects on a fetus. But that's merely the rock. The hard place is if she goes off medications entirely during her pregnancy, which can put her life at risk if her behavior becomes reckless (as happens in the manic stage) and/or she becomes suicidal.

I've seen far too many women who aren't so much parents as overgrown girls playing dollhouse with live dolls. Forgive me, but your significant other seems to fit into this category."

Alas, I just cannot let a comment like this go answered.

Ignorance is bliss and apparently, this commenter must be incredibly happy. Permit me to indulge myself in proving this attitude wrong in my particular case.

First and foremost, being bipolar is a treatable ailment and is becoming moreso everyday. Read this blog and I continually post updates on medication and diagnostic advances. Based on the current state of the science, by the time my children would manifest with bipolar if they were going to, psychiatry would be able to help them more effectively than it helped me.

Secondly, while being bipolar does change my perspective on life, I'm not sure I would want to give it up. I am a religious person and I do believe that there is a reason that God chose to make me this way. I see the world much differently than other people and that's a gift. I love my own life. I've found love and happiness. I am intelligent and successful; I'm proud to be graduating with an MA at 22. If I can be as productive as I am with bipolar disorder, I have no doubt that my children will also be able to overcome obstacles it could potentially put in their way.

Thirdly, I do consider the consequences of a bipolar pregnancy. I will not take any of my medications during pregnancy--even those like Lexapro which have been greenlighted by the FDA. I know the consequences of not being on my medications. I know that I will relapse and I am committed to preparing for that. However, I also know that women tend to have the same type of pregnancies that their mothers' did. So, it is my most solemn prayer that my pregnancies will follow the positive experiences that my mom had when she was pregnant. If they don't, I know that Brendan and I will find a way to deal with the consequences.

Fourth, the world needs more people like me. Brendan and I are both statistically above average in terms of our intelligence. We are both involved in post-undergraduate education. We're funny. And sweet. We're good, honest people. If we have ten kids, the world will be a better place for it.

I'm feeling a bit lazy at the moment, and so I'm not going to rant about the frightening eugenic implications of this comment, but suffice it to say that I have thought long and hard about having children. Moreover Brendan and I both believe that we should wait to start our family for a few years until he is finished with his education, so we'll have more time to plan and pray before starting our family.

Just one more thing. Kids are not dolls. I have cats for that. :)