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. It’s been a while since this was posted originally but hopefully this is of some help.

    As a kid raised by mentally ill parents, one of them was also chronically ill and in pain, the one thing that I think is non-negotiable is getting treatment and staying in treatment. Living with parents with moderate to severe mental illnesses that were completely unchecked by therapy and medication was miserable. We all rode the roller coasters of their bad days.

    For me personally, I’ve decided not to bear biological children due to my terrible genetics. On family history forms at the doctor, I circle at least 90% of the diseases listed just in my immediate family. The doctor always asks if I understood the assignment and I “joke” that you name the disease and I’ll name the relative because we’re a sickly people. Three doctors have spontaneously responded to this by saying “please don’t have kids”. I was already on the fence and that just seals it.

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