The Kid Conundrum

I have four munchkins in my life. My two closest girlfriends both have two boys each. They range in ages from 1 to 4 years old. I’m godmother to one, but Auntie Katie to them all. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing a first crawl and a first walk. I’ve helped bottle feed in the middle of the night and fallen asleep with them holding my hand. These boys melt my heart.

At my age (35) most of my friends are either getting married or having babies. We have friends in Boston who have three adorable little girls, whom I cherish. The oldest told my boyfriend that he’s not allowed to visit if he doesn’t bring me.

While I marvel at how quickly they grow or how fast they learn, I am content being Auntie Katie, not daydreaming of wanting my own children. This does not make me less of a human being or less of a woman.

I don’t typically talk about it, but I married at a very early age. In the eight years I was with this person, we never got pregnant and never found out why. The marriage ended in only what I could describe as a crazy Lifetime movie. I am grateful that I don’t have to share parental ties with him.

In the years after my divorce, I had pretty much made up my mind that I didn’t want children. I felt lucky to have gotten out of the marriage without kids. I didn’t completely lock the door on the idea, but I had basically shut the door. When the subject comes up, I don’t apologize or feel guilty about my decision. I’m also so lucky to have some amazing kids in my life that give me such fulfillment, I don’t yearn for my own.

When I met my boyfriend six years ago, he was very up front that he didn’t want kids before the words ever came out of my mouth. Awesome! That’s one hurdle we didn’t have to deal with. After 9 months of dating, however, I was faced with the largest hurdle of my life: chronic migraine. My boyfriend never ran. Instead he delved into research, went to doctors’ appointments, and gave me a safe harbor during the worst times. He stuck by my side when I decided to go on short-term disability which eventually turned into long-term disability. He supports my advocacy work and writing. He’s been my rock for six years now.

My chronic life has plagued me for five years. I am grateful that my past marriage made me realize I didn’t need my own children to feel complete in my life. If I hadn’t previously made that decision, I would be faced with a huge conundrum of whether or not to have kids with chronic migraine. Would I pass it on to them? How would I be able to function day to day with a helpless human being on my hip? Am I missing out on a great miracle I would regret the rest of my life?

All these questions are overshadowed by the days when I barely make it from the bed to the couch to the kitchen and back to the bed. Sometimes that’s my entire day and it’s exhausting. Most nights, there’s no chance I’m making dinner. We eat healthy, but whatever is easy. On a good day, I can keep my pain level at a 5 or below. Dealing with daily life takes a lot of meds (some that make me loopy) and self-care like yoga to keep the pain from growing into a week or month long battle. I’m forgetful, walking into a room with such purpose then realizing I have no idea what I was looking for. Visual auras come out of nowhere, stopping me wherever I am. Going to the doctor and battling insurance is a job in and of itself. None of these things are conducive to caring for a child.

I would need a nanny to help me. Hell, I need a nanny to help me now and I don’t have a kid! I need naps just like a baby. I’d feel so guilty watching someone else take on my responsibilities while I slept for hours every day or if I couldn’t go on school outings. I feel like I couldn’t be the mother I would want to be.

Plenty of healthy women have help, whether they work outside of the house or not. Watching my friends try to balance it all, I can easily see why another set of hands makes a difference in raising a family.

Plenty of women with chronic migraine decide to have children, in spite of their illness. I am in awe of their strength and fully support their choice of having a family. There are also women who have children and then their condition becomes chronic. They didn’t have a choice but to make the best of it.

I actually had a neurologist suggest that I get pregnant because many women experience relief from migraine during that time.  Seriously? What clinical trial proves this point? I know women whose migraine worsened when they became pregnant. Plus I’d have to get off a lot of medications that help me manage the daily pain. That’s a difficult and painful process. What if my migraine didn’t change during or after the pregnancy? Then what? I have a child that I can’t properly take care of? A beautiful human being that actually contributes to my triggers with erratic sleep schedules, crying that sets off my phonophobia and the feeling of hopelessness that I can’t take care of myself let alone a baby.

I want to emphasize that this is MY decision and rationale behind the kid conundrum. I would never expect others in a similar situation to feel the same. I wanted to share my view because I know a lot of other women with chronic conditions who face the same question. I’m at peace with my decision. If anyone is struggling with this same issue, follow your heart.

I have four precious little boys in my life that sometimes remind me of why I shouldn’t have kids yet give me so much joy at the same time. As those close to me begin to expand their families, I can’t wait to have a special bond with their newest additions as well. I even have a standard baby gift set that consists of a Sophie giraffe, a handmade blanket by my mom, and a bib that says “these fools put my cape on backwards.” I love to spoil them, but can’t imagine taking care of one full-time.

My decision not to have children started because of a horrible marriage and was solidified when my migraine became chronic. This is my truth. It does not have to be yours.

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