Chronic pain, depression & bread-winning: Is it selfish to have children?

Guest post by Rin
"Selfish" by Etsy seller LaraVstore
“Selfish” by Etsy seller LaraVstore

As a long time lurker on the Offbeat Empire, I am asking the Homies for advice on a question which has been bothering me for a long time: Is it selfish of me to be trying to conceive/wanting to have children?

This is my situation, and I would appreciate any input from others who have dealt with similar situations…

I am 28 and the sole breadwinner in my household, my husband is long-term unemployed with chronic back pain and is unlikely to be meaningfully employed anytime in the foreseeable future. We both have mental health issues (general anxiety and depression). He is finally working with a doctor to manage the back pain and hopefully the mental health issues, and I am in regular contact with my GP and psychologist to monitor my mental health.

We have been trying to conceive for over a year with no luck as yet, and I have been wondering more and more whether having a baby is a good idea.

And then this article in The Atlantic hit me rather hard with feeling like becoming a parent would be unfair to the child:

I’ve had back pain for much of my life caused by scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. And that afternoon, I felt my back would break if I cradled my daughter’s squirming 25-pound body any longer. I had to give up. My miserable best was to leave the room.

Because of my pain, I was causing my daughter additional suffering—and if recent research is right, this may be only be a harbinger of what’s to come. Experts from Kent State University in Ohio recently did a review of scientific literature examining how children are affected when their parents are in chronic pain. The results, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, are, well, painful to read. It turns out that children whose parents experience chronic pain are at increased risk for adjustment problems and behavioral issues, and are more likely to complain of pain themselves. The whole family suffers.

I love my husband dearly, and I don’t want him to feel like he has to sacrifice his own wellbeing for my benefit, and thus end up resenting each other. And I do feel like our little family would be complete with or without children.

But I would love to hear from anyone with experience in dealing with these situations, or information on resources they have found helpful (especially in Australia).

Who else is wondering if it’s selfish to have children?

Comments on Chronic pain, depression & bread-winning: Is it selfish to have children?

  1. Hi there! I love that you are posing this question, I think it’s a concern of many folks out there.

    I think the concern about having children being selfish is a moot point; No matter how you look at it, having a kid is selfish. Which is generally ok, we have that biological urge and all and you want to see what a mini-version of you would be like. And kids are awfully stinkin’ cute, and have all the glories (and non-glories) that will keep you occupied the rest of your life.

    Now, please don’t skewer me here, but I find that sometimes those with mental health struggles need to be a little bit more selfish. Nothing wrong with that, again, but when you throw a tiny person in there that needs everything from you, the waters can get a bit murky. I really think it depends a lot on your situation. If your husband has chronic back pain, and you are the sole breadwinner, life is going to be tough. You might end up resenting him, you might not. A lot of mothers are so tired that they do come to resent having to do most the mothering, lots of the cleaning, and then work on top of that is A LOT. But having kids is going to be A LOT anyway… If you have a strong solid relationship with your husband, it could work. If you are prone to pettiness, I’d say it wouldn’t be a great choice for you.

    I wish I had more positive examples of those I know, but the couple I do have aren’t the examples you want to hear. I have a stepsister who is bipolar and had a challenging child who is on the spectrum. The extra needs of this kid aren’t being met, and they let him color on the walls because “some day they’ll paint,” and pulled him out of school because he kept getting in trouble. I haven’t heard how homeschooling is going, but that’s a whole other aspect. Having a special needs kid when you yourself are perhaps special needs will require extra commitment.

    The other example I have would be the sister of my friend, who struggles as well and pretty much ignores her kid and turns on the TV. He wasn’t off the bottle until maybe almost 4 years old. She is extraordinarily selfish, and the poor kid suffers for it.

    I’m sorry my 2 examples are crap, but I know you are looking for honest experiences here. It’s not to say my 2 examples are in stone, I am sure there’s more out there. I hate calling anyone a “bad mom,” because I know that isn’t helpful and is judgmental and all that, but my friend’s sister is. She’s too selfish, but she can’t be otherwise.

    I think that having these issues and a solid plan on how to handle things is helpful, as well as a village to help if those rough times stay rough.

    Best of luck, I respect and love that you are so concerned with this. Putting the kids’ well-being first is a great start and will bode you well.

  2. It’s good that you’re asking this question. Most people who have kids don’t even think about it and I find that a lot of people who do think it through tend not to have kids (regardless of other issues, like mental& physical health).

    I do have a positive example of a friend with mental health problems who had kids. She tells me having children made her feel generally better, because she thinks about the child’s present and future and much less about her past. It makes her feel like she has someone to live for. The focus is less on her own problems, because she’s so busy caring & providing for the kids.

    Of course that’s just one example. Having kids won’t change you as a person and won’t make problems go away (but I’m sure you’re well aware of that).

    How does your husband feel about having children? With you working & him at home, he will be an important (if not the most important) caretaker. Is he ok with that? Is it physically possible for him?

    It is most of all a decision you have to make together. You never really know in advance how it’s going to turn out, but in any case you need each other’s support.

    Take care!

  3. So as has already been mentioned above, framing the question as ‘is it selfish’ may not be the best route. Having children is intrinsically selfish, and is a pretty grey space to try and make decisions from.

    The mental health/chronic pain is a certainly a factor, but I would recommend (with little to no professional expertise) looking at it via behaviours:

    1) when your spouse’s chronic pain is especially bad, does he become angry? Apathetic? Is he able to articulate what’s going on?
    2) how steady is your mental health? Do you have any patterns of stopping or resisting treatment?
    3) how do you behave on a day where your mental health is low?
    4) what would you do financially if you suddenly lost your job?
    5) if you needed short notice help caring for your child, how many people could you call? (If the answer is no one or no one you could guarantee, would you have the financial resources to pay someone?)
    6) what do you look like when you are anxious? What would you do if you needed to go somewhere with or for your child on an especially anxious day?

    Notice how most of these questions would still be important even without mental illness or chronic pain- just replace with ‘hard day’ or ‘unexpected situation’. These are still important question for any potential parent.

    (And hopefully have these conversations with your spouse)

  4. My mom has chronic pain, and both my parents have suffered from depression/anxiety since I was a child. Everyone is different, of course, so this is just my experience and no one knows you like you do. But I wish my parents had asked themselves the same questions you do. Probably the fact that you are asking them means that you will avoid some of the pitfalls if you do decide to become a parent.
    Because I was raised in a household where both parents were depressed, I had no baseline for what is normal, what is happy, how to keep being happy and how to cope in a healthy way. As a result, I’ve been anxious all my life and have suffered from bouts of depression since my pre-teen years. It’s hard to communicate hope in the future when you struggle with having any hope yourself. I wish I could say my mom got better because she had me, but that wouldn’t be true. The strain made her pain worse and it followed that the pain made the depression worse. However, I can also see how having children can help other people. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but lack of sleep (which happens when you have a child, there’s no denying that) is one of the leading factors in mental illness.
    As I said, it really depends on your own issues. But please thread carefully, stay as aware as you are now of the possible issues and most importantly build a very strong support system. A child’s demands on you will be 24/7, so having people around you to pick up the slack when you’re not up to it is essential.

  5. Me and my husband both deal with mental health issues. I wonder nearly every day if my kids got robbed.
    However, everyone has the right to have kids no matter their finances, health, etc.
    Kids are HARD. Like someone said above, make sure you have community, support. Yes, there’s a chance you’ll pass on the mental illness genes but that won’t make your kid any less worthwhile. All kids have their challenges, some more than others, but you deal. There is no love like it, and in my case, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
    Follow your heart, I guess. No parent is perfect, no child is perfect. And remaining child-free has just as many pros and cons as having kids. Your gut knows, so trust it.

  6. I can only give my experience. Hopefully it helps. I have a two-year-old son. I also have chronic joint pain, chronic migraines and probably some other undiagnosed issues. He is a handful and the first year for me was horrible emotionally. I often wondered if I’d made the right decision having a baby. It’s really hard. I can’t carry him anymore because he’s 32 lbs (I should have stopped when he hit 25 lbs but I pushed myself and hurt myself more than I should have.) But I have the benefit of being the one that doesn’t have to work, and we can afford help, child care, etc to help ease my burden. I found that every little crack in our relationship got magnified, so its useful to be in a good place before you bring someone new into the mix. My husband was in a bad emotional place after being laid off 1 month after my son’s birth so he wasn’t able to be the support I needed him to be. But given all that, my son is a joy. He’s one of the best adjusted, smart and awesome kids I know. But we worked really really really hard to make sure we had a parenting philosophy in place to be able to deal with our son, and not dump our issues on him. Its a work in progress. And we are cognizant that it is hard work to make sure that our son’s needs are met. And most days we succeed, but I am pushing my limit. You have to know for yourself that you can care for yourself, your husband and your kid at the same time.

  7. Hey, I’m going to echo previous posters and thank you for asking yourselves this question.

    As someone with someone with 4 mental health issues, I’ve decided not to be a mother. I’ll be on medication the rest of my life. My doctors (GP, psychologist & psychiatrist) have strongly supported this decision & even called me brave because of it.

    My partner has anxiety as well & is not themself around kids; but I made the childfree decision before I met them.

    If you have a strong mothering instinct, look into getting a pet, volunteering at Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and supporting your nieces & nephews. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not nearly the strain on your health.

    The fact that you feel complete without kids is also a good sign. I’ve chosen a different path; but it’s right for my little family (partner & I plus our three boys *cats*).

    Lots of positive vibes sent your way as you decide this.

  8. Hey, I’m going to echo previous posters and thank you for asking yourselves this question.

    As someone with someone with 4 mental health issues, I’ve decided not to be a mother. I’ll be on medication the rest of my life. My doctors (GP, psychologist & psychiatrist) have strongly supported this decision & even called me brave because of it.

    My partner has anxiety as well & is not themself around kids; but I made the childfree decision before I met them.

    If you have a strong mothering instinct, look into getting a pet, volunteering at Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and supporting your nieces & nephews. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not nearly the strain on your health.

    The fact that you feel complete without kids is also a good sign. I’ve chosen a different path; but it’s right for my little family (partner & I plus our three boys *cats*).

    Lots of positive vibes sent your way as you decide this.

    Some links you may find helpful.

    Your friendly Canadian childfree librarian. ❤

    • I am so big on these ideas to do volunteering and basically help with other kids. I became an aunt at age 7 and my nephews are all grown up now, but I helped a lot with them as a teen. My friends are having babies all over the place and I do not want them myself. But I remember all the weird adults I met as a kid or teen, good weird, that helped me realise it’s actually awesome to be weird. And I want to be one of those. I hope I already am! I offer to babysit and talk to crying girls at the bus stop and I tell the younger staff at work about body positivity and I teach uni students what STI tests to ask for. If it takes a village then I am the non parenting villager who still helps a whole lot. Also, since parents need that support too, I hope it makes me a good friend. If I babysit I don’t expect them to do the same for me in return because I don’t have kids.

      You could also do a test run with your husband if a friend is willing to loan you a kid a few days running!

  9. I don’t have experience with this, but I wanted to throw something else in there – you don’t have to have kids right now. I know if you’ve been trying for a year it can be scary to think about putting it off, but your fertility now versus your fertility in two years (five years, even ten years, depending) isn’t going to change that much. If you’ve just had bad luck, a break might help you find some better timing. If there’s something that’s making it harder to get pregnant, you can save some money so you’ve got options to explore around that, and if it turns out you don’t need to, that money can provide some cushioning to take the hardest edges off the worst days.

    • So the fertility question. Most women are pretty solid until 35 unless they have other metabolic issues that would decrease their fertility, like polycystic ovarian syndrome. So it is true if you don’t have to have kids right now then you can delay this until a later point in time. After 35 your fertility does decrease in a pretty slow taper until 40. After 40 there is a steeper decline. There’s also a slightly increased risk of having a child with special needs after 35. And a greater risk after 40. — sorry if you already know this.

      There’s also the age question. Are you comfortable being the mother of a teenager in your 40s and 50s? Do you want to retire in your 60s? kids often change these personal life plans.

      That said deciding that you want to consider kids at a later point in time is reasonable.


  10. I think its great that you’re thinking this all the way through. I feel like I’m in a unique place to comment, my dad has chronic back pain and my mom was the primary bread winner for our family. Both of my parents struggled with bouts of depression here and there. As an adult now i can tell you that I had a good childhood, lots of love and great memories! The issues that i struggle with today I have in common with friends who didn’t have parents in these situations. I don’t think your struggles are an instant deal breaker for a kid, many people without those issues manage to mess their kids up to.

    The trick seems to be continuing the thoughtfulness long after just the decision to have kids. Your partner wont be able to participate in certain physical activities with a child so extra effort will need to be made for other special activities/traditions. Example; my dad couldnt rough house or pick us up, but we did all sorts of cool science stuff with him. This seemed to be the most important for my younger brother.

    Best of luck in your decision, mostly just wanted you to know that my parents were super similar to what you’ve described and I love them to pieces and am very grateful for the upbringing i had. It was different, but awesome all on its own.

  11. I suffer from severe endometriosis. So does my mother’s twin. So does my female cousin, so will her daughter, probably. Because there’s about an 85% chance that if I had a daughter, she would have endo. I have chronic pain.
    I have hormonal imbalances. My life isn’t what I would call easy, but it’s manageable. I’m lucky to be with someone who is supportive of me. But, sometimes I wonder if they would have known in the 80s what I know now, would my mom keep trying for that little girl? I’m a happy person for the most part. But I will always have medical bills, I will likely always have to be medicated, and that’s my life. I just want to act like a normal 20-something, some days I can, some days I can’t. My mom also passed down some mental health issues and my fiance’s family has them, too. We’ve decided not to have kids for those reasons, but also because it will be hard for me to get pregnant naturally and it’s not a journal that I’m willing to go down. Not at this point in our lives anyway.

    Having said that, I would like to point out that it’s you and your partner’s choice and right to try to have a baby if you want one. If you’re even taking all of these things into consideration, it points towards you being a responsible human. If you take into account that it’s possible you might have a child that’s not perfect or typical and you guys think you’re equipped to handle that mentally, emotionally, and financially, then you’re making a promise to that future child to be a great parent, so that kid is lucky already. My family is great and supportive of me and that’s half the battle. Is it selfish to want a baby? On some level couldn’t anyone having a child be considered selfish by someone? There are other options, too.
    There a lot of children in the world who aren’t loved and supported.

    You sound like you have a good heart. Sometimes it’s the people who truly wonder, “am I right to be a parent?” who find they make the best ones.

  12. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Nobody can provide a perfect upbringing. That study showed some possible bad effects of growing up with a parent in chronic pain, but what about learning patience, compassion, courage? You might give your child strengths!

    And notice that “more likely to” is not the same as “doomed to”. What made the difference in the kids who turned out okay? It might be hard to find out, but I’d wager that the negatives only happen if people don’t know that they need to prevent them. If you have diabetes your child is more likely to have diabetes–unless you watch her diet. In the same way there’s got to be some way to reduce the risk of a bad outcome; otherwise all kids with the same background would have turned out the same way.

    Lots of young adults are falling apart after being raised by helicopter parents who sheltered them from all contact with unpleasant reality until they grew up and WHOA! Suddenly they’re on a different planet, and a very uncomfortable one, and they don’t know what to do with it! Your kids would be better off than that.

    Follow your heart.

    • I agree with this! My mother had chronic pain and I feel like I’m a more passionate human because of it. I’ve learned coping skills. I’m independent. No one is doomed down any path.

  13. I have experienced both being a working mother (pain free) and then a car crash that has left me with chronic neck issues much like your boyfriend.

    I am not going to sugar coat things, so sorry if I sound rough. Being a mom is HARD. My child is special needs and I could FEEL the strain of caring properly for her on my mental health and my relationship. Working full time too is even harder. I think you will (rightly) expect/want/need a break when you return home, and that likely your boyfriend will want the same thing after caring for baby all day.

    Chronic pain sucks the life out of you. Sometimes, you just want to lie on the floor and not move and for the pain to go away. There is no way I could muster the energy to properly care for a child. So our family has been abruptly cut short by my devision, my ovaries still work just fine. My heart cries for the babies I won’t have. But it is not a risk I am prepared to take.

    Ultimately, I think the answer depends mostly on your boyfriend if he will be the stay at home Dad and how strong/passionate/involved he is. Maybe do a trial run a few days where he does all housework, laundry, cooking, cleaning up as well as no napping and going for walks during the day. That is about half the energy caring for a toddler requires!!

  14. So first let me put out on the table that I’m a family medicine doc who has been struggling with similar questions. More in the fact that the world is terrible dangerous and suffering from global warming. Am I selfish enough to bring a child into a possible terrible future. I decided yes. The possibility of sharing all of the wonderful geeky fun things and making a useful member of society was worth it.

    Until last Tuesday when Trump was elected as next president of the US. Knowing that health care, education may be gone or so privatized it may as well be. That I, moreover my child, may be harassed and attacked because I’m Black. That there will be no environmental protection for a possible child to continue to have a world. Knowing these things put a stop to my plan- literally had my IUD removed and replaced. I can’t be that selfish to put my child in danger, just because I want this experience.

    My husband does have chronic pain, but I am the main breadwinner. We have had lots of conversations about child and house care responsibilities. Even the fact that I want to see my child too and he may need to continue working in some way. But right now it is all on hold. Everyone has a different line.

    I think that having children (on purpose) is selfish. But it is a matter is your benefits and the support you can give the child outweigh the negatives. That is a tally for only you and your partner.


  15. I have mental health concerns and my husband is a stay-at-home dad because of my needing assistance caring for our three children. Our eldest, 7, is Autistic and has sensory processing disorder and anxiety; our middle child, 6, had anxiety; my youngest is just 1 1/2. It is tough but I love being a mum.
    I have to admit I worried about becoming a mum, I was afraid that I would become like my mother. My mother was extremely mentally unwell and I endured what my psychologist termed ‘severe complex trauma’ and my father did nothing to stop it.
    I am nothing like her. I engage in therapy and I do all I can for my children.
    I think if you’re asking this question then you’d be a great mum. Those who ask how to be a better person or parent are the ones who actually put in the effort to be better: transversely those who don’t ask how to be better don’t try to be better.

    (Hi from a fellow Aussie)

  16. I think this is something you should consult with not only other parents but also your close family, your husband’s doctor, and both your therapist(s). After that, it’s better if you change the question. Rather than asking whether it’s selfish for you to have a child, ask whether you and your partner can handle having a child with the challenges you already have. Every decision we make about any subject is selfish to some extent. Don’t use the vague degree of selfishness as a determining factor, because how selfish you feel like may change at any moment. You may not feel so selfish now but years ahead, or vice-versa.

    Please consider that I’m writing this from the POV of a mother who had symptoms of depression/bipolar anxiety before pregnancy, post-partum depression & self harm after pregnancy, and a biological condition that make it difficult for me to conceive. Raising a child is difficult, even when you’re completely healthy, have help, stable income, good Healthcare, and other things that form a safety net. Without one or more of these things, it becomes increasingly difficult. Let’s assume your economic condition is good, you have good Healthcare coverage, and you have supportive family. There’s still the depression. It’s something treatable yet incurable. Women who suffer depression is probably more likely to suffer from post-partum depression after pregnancy, and it’s very difficult when you have PPD. Doing IVF (I assume this is an option you’re considering) is expensive and have a chance of miscarriage, something you may have to be mentally prepared for depending on what makes conceiving difficult for you. Miscarriage is terrible and a toll on both our body & mind on its own. My loved one still grief today because she miscarried an embryo from an IVF procedure.

    People who have depression/bipolar disorder are capable of loving and nurturing a child, ofcourse. It’s not an infallible premonition that someone would be a terrible parent because of a mental illness. But something that most people don’t understand (many may see psychological conditions as something less serious than it actually is) is that mental illness takes away our ability to think straight and act in good conscience. Medications don’t work 100% everyday and there would be days as a mother when it’s so hard it becomes unbearable (I started self harming after having my son, there were a lot of issues with colic & breastfeeding; even though I wasn’t a violent person normally).

    I don’t know you personally, I don’t know how well you deal with extreme stress, but I know from experience that it’s very common for people to underestimate how hardly things would affect them until it actually does. I guess in the end I can only say that you have extra challenges and being childfree (or adopting! No hormonal imbalance that way) may be a better decision. If you do decide to have a kid and things affect you harder than you expected, know that you’re not alone & that things get easier as your kid grows older. Good luck.

    • I love this post! I also want to add, just as an addendum, that adoptive parents and non-birthing parents do have hormone shifts from being around their new children, and about 10% of adoptive parents do experience symptoms of depression in the year following the adoption. The immediate hormonal shifts released by the pregnancy and birth process may not be as strong, but research does show some hormonal shifts just from being around a baby, and the life stressors are certainly as strong.

  17. First, I think it’s really great that you’re asking the question. Too many people have kids because “that’s what’s next” and don’t stop and think about if it’s actually the right choice for them based on their particular situation.
    My husband and I are choosing to remain child-free. Both of us reached the conclusion before we ever got together that kids weren’t right for us. While it wasn’t a main factor in my decision, a sub-factor was definitely the fact that I suffer from migraines/chronic headaches. What on earth would I do with a child, of any age really, during a migraine attack? Sometimes I can barely stand up during one and need assistance just to walk to the bathroom, sometimes they last for 14+ hours, sometimes they make me throw up. They are absolutely incapacitating and would totally take away my ability to care for another human. All other considerations aside my condition would limit my ability to be the type of mother I think a child deserves so it was just another check in the stay child-free column.
    That’s what I think you need to figure out. The question isn’t really about selfishness, it’s about what would be best for everyone. You, your partner, and your future children included. Would you be able to be the type of parents that you feel your children deserve?

  18. I think the simple answer to your question is ‘maybe’. The fact that you are considering it tells me it worries you. But the real answer is one only you can answer. I don’t have kids yet, and am myself considering a related, but different question. Is it selfish of me to want biological kids when so many unwanted children are out there, and we are already bursting with over population?

    I guess I don’t have much advice, but thanks for your self reflection.

  19. Kids can be very resilient. (More on that later…) I’d think less about whether it’s unfair to them, and more whether it’s unfair to you.

    I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was pregnant with my second and my older was 2. I was on meds and went to therapy for about a year and a half after that, and am currently stable but know that it is likely to come up again in the future.

    Having kids while dealing with mental health issues is HARD. When I had depressive episodes before having kids, I would sleep too much and forget to eat. Not exactly healthy, but it did allow me to save some energy to help myself get better. Depressed with kids, I did not have the option of sleeping more than usual, because their sleep schedule was not mine. I might forget to feed myself, but they needed someone to get them food every 2 to 4 hours. An hour of therapy a week meant finding two hours of babysitting coverage. Because I was honestly much better able to take care of them than I was of myself, I don’t necessarily think it’s selfish to have kids because of the impact on THEM. But it absolutely made it LOTS harder to get the help I needed myself. On the other hand, watching my kids play was the only thing that brought me joy in the worst of it, so there’s that. 🙂

    Other things to consider: small infants wake up every two hours on average. That means some nights they wake up every 30 minutes. Both of mine were middling-to-poor sleepers, which meant I didn’t get more than 4 hours of sleep in a row for the first year. So you’ll also want to consider the impact lack of sleep might have on both mental health and chronic pain.

    THAT SAID. I think all of that is fixable, if you are raising children in community. If you have a grandparent or an aunt or a friend to call when your babysitter falls through and you need to go to therapy. If you have someone you know will pick up the phone and talk you down when you’re sobbing at 4am when the baby just.won’t.sleep. If you have someone who will come over with a casserole on the days when your husband’s pain flares up.

    Kids can be very resilient. But there’s a lot of things that build resiliency, and community is right up at the top of the list. Connections with loving adults besides their parents is the biggest way to build resiliency, at school, at a place of worship, in the neighborhood, in the family. So if you have or can build that in your life, then yes, absolutely, in my opinion, having kids in your situation is no more selfish than having kids in any other situation.

  20. Marina hit it on the head in my opinion. It all comes downto the reliability of your support network. Be it friends or family, having people who can and will give you some time off when it starts to become overwhelming is essential. I appreciate having a housemate willing to carry the baby upstairs for me when my knees are acting up, and grateful for a mother-in-law who will come over on the weekend so I can nap. With out these things, my quality of life, and that of my children would be impacted. With these people, I think we are doing pretty well.

  21. This one is a toughy.
    My personal situation is a bit more complicated than what I’ll go into here, but I’m going to simplify things for the sake of keeping it short-ish.

    I have a genetic health problem which causes chronic pain and fatigue. I knew that I had some sort of health issue like fibromyalgia when got pregnant, but I had no idea that it was something that would someday suddenly cause my overall health to decline. It’s a connective tissue deficiency syndrome called Ehlers Danlos (EDS) Hypermobility Type. I also have some issues with emotional stability, though I now believe it’s more of a secondary symptom of the EDS. (I’d be happy to go into further detail for anyone with questions) So to your question: my husband is the sole breadwinner. He would really like to have a second child, and I would as well, except for the fact that I’m barely able to keep up with things with just one kid.
    My son is now 7 and I wouldn’t give him up for anything in the world, but I’ll be honest and say it is heartbreaking to have to see the way my health puts limitations on what I’m able to do with him. I have to regularly say, “I’m sorry sweetie but I can’t play right now.” Or when my pain is causing me to be a total bitch and therefore my patience is just too thin to handle his (totally normal) growing person difficult moments in the way I want to.

    It also causes major strife between my husband and I. He is a fantastic dad, but he does get (understandably) annoyed when I call and ask him if he can pick our son up from school for the third time that week because now I’ve got a tension headache/subluxed shoulder/etc.

    I can’t say that you should or shouldn’t have a child, but as for myself, I’ll tell you that there’s no way that I could say that having a second child would be a responsible thing for me to do.

    I’m sorry you’re having to confront this kind of thing – it’s awful and I genuinely hope you find peace with whatever decision you make!

  22. I went through something similar. IN NO WAY DO I THINK THIS IS THE RIGHT ANSWER. This just worked for me.
    I made a spreadsheet of my genetic background, everyone I was blood related and any health problems they have. I didn’t have to make one for his family because I couldn’t countenance bringing a biological child of mine into the world. Every single person on my paternal side is severely mentally ill, I’m severely mentally ill and in comparison I got the golden ticket; my maternal side has a surprising amount of autoimmune and connective tissue disorders, I have all of what they have except sjogrens and I have EDS when they don’t.
    I charted my abilities and activities for one month to see what I could really do and how much activity would incite a flare.
    I looked into what it would take to get a healthy egg, I looked into adoption (they had access to my medical history they didn’t continue the process after that).
    I did due diligence, I decided not to have a child. Now that I have a puppy, I know I wouldn’t have been able to nurture a child to a degree I would be comfortable.

    • Shout out to a fellow EDS lady! I don’t know if you saw my comment on this, but I’m with you: I do have one kid but I know having a second child would push me completely over the edge because I barely scrape by with my energy and pain levels as it is.
      Yay for “fur kids”!

  23. As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, and decided to have two kids, my two cents are as follows:

    Should you decide to have a kid….

    1. Make sure you have a community to help support you and your spouse when you need it… which you will…and that’s totally normal.

    2. Practice self care for your me talk health in short bursts. The hardest adjustment I had was learning how to self care in two minute chunks, or two breath chunks. Previously, my mental health care to lots of quiet time alone… something you don’t really get as a new parent.

    I agree with many other posts, the act that you are thinking about this already shows that you are a caring (possible) parent.

  24. People with disabilities deserve to be parents if they so choose, without guilt or shame. Period. The idea that your disability or mental health challenges will preclude you from being a good parent is unfair. Some people feel that they will not be good parents because of their disabilities and that’s a fine choice for them to make, but if you want to have a kid, anyone who thinks you’ll be bad at it because of disability can go to hell!

    If your husband feels prepared to parent, brainstorming solutions for situations like you described above may help assuage your worry or guilt. For example, talk through what would happen if your husband was home alone with the baby and his back pain was acting up in such a way that he couldn’t care for them in that moment. Do you have family who is willing to swoop in? Perhaps you could hire a trustworthy nanny or babysitter who is on call during the day while you’re at work so that your husband always has a safety net for pain flares.

    Re: Mental illness, I think the most important thing you can do is be real and age appropriate with your kids about your struggles. My mother has borderline personality disorder and she was never honest with us about her mental health, which made it very difficult for me to ask for help when I started showing symptoms at age 12. I think a lot of suffering that I experienced in my adolescence due to the emerging mental illness could have been avoided if I had known that it was a thing people I loved also dealt with. A mentally ill parent who is insightful and aware of themselves is an enormous benefit to a child. In fact, I think that it helps make children who are more emotionally in tune with themselves and better at regulating their emotions, regardless of whether they inherit mental illness or not. Our society doesn’t talk explicitly about emotions much, but explaining depression to a children requires teaching them how to be sensitive and aware of their emotions and the emotions of others.

    You can check out the disabled parenting project website for more support or ideas. I recommend it to my clients when applicable and they’ve said that it helps them feel less guilty for wanting children.

    A disabled doula

  25. Hi, OP here. I realise it has been a significant amount of time since I posted my question, and I want to thank all of you for your imput. After much consideration ( punctuated with ongoing work drama, an additional casual job, and mental health flare ups in both parties) we have decided to hold off on having children indefinitely, most likely permanently. I will admit that once I consciously made the decision to stop trying, I did get upset for a month or two after, but in the end I think it is the right decision in the long run. We may reconsider down the line, but for the moment I think the strain on both of us would be too much and our support network. However I have learned since being off hormonal birth control, just how much it was negatively affecting my mood/health, so I will be looking into getting an IUD fitted to prevent any surprises.

    Again, thankyou all for your comments, they have been very helpful, and I hope that others may find help in my question and your answers.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation