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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (24)
  • beautyinadversity
    2 years ago

    I have had chronic migraines for nine years and I’m talking daily…I refuse to let them put a damper on my dreams so I had two kids regardless who are now two and three years old. Not gonna sugar coat it, it’s hard. I’m not the Mom I want to be but am still a really good Mom, I just get more irritable than I like but forcefully remind myself I don’t want my kids to grow up remembering me as a tired angry Mom. And my marriage suffers too…the intimacy is not at all what it should be, my husband deserves so much more than I give and I feel very guilty about that. My children are happy, healthy and loved and that’s what’s most important…plus I am able to have them in daycare twice a week for a break. My best wishes and prayers to all of you out there suffering and battling this. There is beauty in adversity, if for nothing else it makes us more compassionate.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    Beautyinadversity,
    Your saying, “beauty in adversity,” really speaks to me. And it shows that you are a strong, compassionate person. I am so glad that you followed your truth and had two precious children. You are incredibly self-aware of the challenges, how you react, and how you need to adapt so that your family is happy and healthy (even on days when you are not). I really admire you!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • countingYesdays
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this amazing article. “I can’t be the mom I what to be.” That describes my thoughts so well. The problem is I’m still at a point in my life where that saddens me. I have spend the last teen years with chronic migraine trying to deny it. Resulting in depression and more that 50 different treatments

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    countingYesterdays,
    I’m really sorry that you’ve come to that conclusion when you really want a family.
    I agree- you have to stop apologizing. Instead do everything in your power to manage your migraines (which I’m sure you already do.) You can’t feel guilty when you know you’re doing everything within your power to help your condition. And if people don’t understand, that’s ok- but don’t apologize. That took me about 4 years to figure out, so you’re on the right path.
    Best Wishes!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • countingYesdays
    2 years ago

    Oops only posted some of my post:

    I’m still finding my way. Learning to smile and know they mean well when a friend says : “there is this spot on your toe that really can remove your headaches.”
    Right now in between medication my main comment is: I’m sorry..
    This have to change.
    Your article helped, finding this site helps. Thank you 🙂

  • Adamsgran726
    2 years ago

    Great post, Katie. Thank-you for opening up your life to us.
    I had migraine before and after I had children, but it didn’t become chronic until both of my children were teenagers. Even then, chronic migraine affected my role as mother. I totally get it.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    I honestly don’t know how you do it. And in your case you didn’t have a choice. Most people don’t.
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • migrainestl
    2 years ago

    I always love your posts…it’s such a hard topic for many women in their 30’s. I had recently gotten married (at 32) when I went chronic. We decided to try to get pregnant vs moving forward w/ more trials of preventatives & got lucky that my migraines went away completely at 20 weeks. I naively believed my body had changed & I would be migraine free from now on. Even when I got a migraine 3 days post partum & continual sinus headaches daily thereafter it took a full 6 weeks for me to realize this ugly illness had reared its head again.

    That first year of my son’s life was the best but hardest year of my life!!! My husband & I agreed NO more kids!!!

    Fast forward 2 more years….I found some meds that worked, got more sleep & help & thought how could I let my dream of 2 kids & a family of 4 go because of this illness. So now I’m 6mo preggo w/ a little girl & unfortunately the migraines did NOT go away this pregnancy. I’ve got many plans in place for once this baby is born & an lucky my husband works from home & is a full on active father/supportive husband.

    For me it just is what it is. I choose to be optimistic & believe this will get better, I will get through this. I hope everyday my kids get my husbands genes & never gave a headache, but if they do I believe no one is better prepared to help them & advocate for them than me!! Even tho both my parents got migraines I was on my own fighting this & have learned so much! It sucks, but we only get one shot at life so I’m trying to make the best of it.

    I totally respect & admire your decision & I imagine would make a similar decision had I walked in your shoes. Thank you for sharing! I think so many women need to know it’s ok & enough to just be you & not procreate!

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    @Migrainestl,
    I am so excited for your new addition! I believe that things happen for a reason. The best is that you have a great support system and you are better prepared now than you were the first time around. I really hope the rest of the pregnancy is easy on you and you are truly able to enjoy your new little one.

    And thanks for being so candid and honest about the discussions you and your husband have had. With this article I’m hoping more people will feel empowered to have these discussions with people in their lives- no matter what their decision is!

    BEST WISHES!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi, migrainestl! Congratulations on the impending birth of your little girl! We’ll be keeping you all in our thoughts! -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Kpandes
    2 years ago

    I developed migraines after the birth of my first child — I understand major hormonal upheavals can do that — and they quickly became chronic. So I didn’t have much choice in the matter (although we did decide to have another child). They’re still young (5 & 7) and it can just be really hard. Their demands are constant, and their volume is frequently at a 10 (or maybe 11). I’m so grateful that my husband takes over when things get too bad, and I’m not against turning on a movie when I need some peace and quiet (or allowing extra time with the contentious iPad). I must admit to feeling guilty and disappointed about all this — it wasn’t how I expected motherhood to be at all! But it does help me cherish the time I do have with my kids when I’m feeling well. And maybe that’s part of the lesson I was meant to learn.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Kpandes! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hear you, I used to have a list of expectations when I started raising my children. All of them dashed, by the way, because life is always more like that “first kid/second kid” diaper commercial than the ideal world we construct in our heads.

    My boys are 14 and 11 now, and it amazes me the things that they remember, that are important to them. It’s not the places that I took them, or failed to take them, the times I was kind of a blank slate, or short tempered, or the time I took two mommy-time-outs in a day. The things they remember are tiny little moments, quiet moments, times when dinner got turned off and pushed to the back burner because they needed an advocate, the needed hugs at the end of a hard day for them. It’s okay to let go of the guilt you feel.Cherish that time with them. And just know that they cherish you just as much as you cherish them. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    Kpandes,
    So sorry your migraines began after having children. But I’m sure they are your pride and joy. It might not be exactly how you pictured motherhood, but it sounds like you have a great support system to help you.
    Best wishes!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • Jani8
    2 years ago

    I have had migraines, or sick headaches as they were called when I was a girl, since I can remember. When I was 18, they were still occasional. I got married that year and seriously considered not having children so I wouldn’t pass that down to them. I wanted a baby so much that we decided to have one, anyway. It took a year and a half for me to get pregnant. But, boy are those Doctors wrong! I had a headache every single day for the first seven months of pregnancy! It was truly awful. After I gave birth, I got them more often than before I got pregnant. Pretty soon, I had them several times a week. When our daughter was 4, I went to work full-time outside the house. They got worse. And worse. From May 4, 1980 to May 10, 2002 I had a 22 year headache with very, very few days off. I had a tumor removed from my pituitary gland that I thought would help the headaches. Shows what I knew! Then the following year (at age 30) I had a complete hysterectomy, ostensibly to solve my hormonal headaches. That didn’t work either. It actually made them worse. Fast forward to 2002. I retired at age 52 and on the 3rd day after I retired, for the first time in seemingly forever, I didn’t wake up without a semi sitting on my head. I continue to have chronic migraines, but they aren’t quite as bad as they used to be. We just had the one child. She is 42 and she and her husband have decided not to have children. She has migraines, too, but episodic, not chronic. I know it isn’t just because of the migraines, but I understand their other reasons, as well. I want to be a Grandma, but selfishly, I wouldn’t be able to do with a baby that I would want to be able to do. I have numerous other complaints, like Myasthenia Gravis, Fibromyalgia, Interstitial Lung Disease, extremely bad arthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, and a few others thrown in. So, I understand your ideas and applaud them. I understand my daughter’s reasons and I applaud them, too. It is great that we have these choices today. My husband and daughter take such good care of me. I’m am so lucky on so many fronts, just not the physical ones.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    Jani8,
    You’ve been through a lot! Plus you have co-morbidities that can make life even more difficult. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this in your life.

    I really appreciate your understanding of your daughter’s choice not to have children (whatever her reasons are). My parents don’t give me any grief over it either and It means so much to me. Best wishes!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • rlc25e
    2 years ago

    I had my kids when migraines were still random not chronic yet. Now I’m so grateful for them. When I can’t even move it’s one of my children who bring me meds water and food. When I am stumbling into random things it’s one of them that holds my arm to get me to the bathroom. My son seems to be now getting abdominal migraines. I hate to see him in such pain. But I have hope that they will find a way to help us all before he becomes chronic. I honestly don’t know if I’d have risked a child if I had waited til they were chronic or even old enough to really realize how hereditary this is. But I am so grateful to be so blessed.
    I totally understand and honor your decision.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I believe that children are a blessing and clearly your family brings you much joy and also support. I agree, I hope that there are better meds soon in the future so that your son can have a normal life without migraine being a large part of his life. My best to you!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • seeking-sunshine
    2 years ago

    I really appreciate your honesty & sincerity. I grew up with a mother that had frequent, disabling migraines. As the oldest child, I shouldered a lot of responsibility for my siblings when my mom was incapacitated and in bed. I don’t remember resenting this; I didn’t know any different. In retrospect, I didn’t have much time or opportunity to be a child. The expected behavior was always responsibility. I followed the rules and did what everyone expected of me.
    I don’t remember exactly when my migraines started officially…I always had headaches, even as a child, but the true migraines developed in my 20’s and have gradually worsened over the last 15 years. I now have daily headaches that usually evolve to migraines at varied levels. I survive and function only with the aid of various pain medications. I also have several other health conditions that just complicate things — fibromyalgia, inflammatory arthritis, autoimmune skin condition, depression.
    With that as background, I remember as early as age 7 dreaming of my future children and my future family. I grew up very conservative and never really had a serious relationship (another story for another time). When I reached my 30s, I seriously considered having a child on my own with an anonymous sperm donor. I couldn’t imagine my life without having had the opportunity to be a mother. I spent a year weaning off of various medications incompatible with pregnancy, consulted with specialists about managing pregnancy and which medications I could take. I made all the preparations and set the date I was going to start to try to get pregnant. When the day came, I decided not to do it. I said to myself, “this doesn’t mean not ever…just not now…” that was a year and a half ago.
    Turns out this past year has been the worst ever for my health. Up until last year, I had been able to work as a nurse, usually with intermittent FMLA for my migraines. Last summer, my migraines got so severe that I had to take an extended leave and I ended up losing my position at work because I could not return after my FMLA protection ran out.
    I’m back to work now, but I work a desk job as a nurse. I don’t believe that I’m currently capable of working a nursing job that requires any sort of physical stress. I have worked many days in high levels of pain, because ironically I don’t qualify for FMLA yet because of all the time I was off last year. I’m skating on the edge of getting a written warning because I’ve had 5.5 absences since last October. Thankfully, I can activate my FMLA with in the next month.
    All of this to say…having multiple children has always been my life dream…I thought it would be my life’s work. Now, at 36 and single…I’m seeing that taking care of myself is almost more than I can manage. The unknowns of pregnancy and it’s impacts on my health, and the stress on a growing fetus of the medications that I can’t stop…I’ve come to the crushing realization that pregnancy and motherhood (at least in the traditional sense) is only selfish at this time, in my current state of health and circumstances.
    I grieve this almost every day. I have been told all my life what a wonderful mother I will make, how I was born to be a mother, how natural I am for the role. I worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatric Floor, taking care of everyone else’e babies…telling myself that someday it would be my turn. Seeing so many mothers who got pregnant on accident, who didn’t plan to be parents, some who weren’t capable of being parents. At times it was torturous. My someday never came. Time is running out and my dream is expiring.
    Please don’t tell me that I can adopt, foster, be important in children’s lives in so many ways. I know that and I love being a part of my friend’s children’s lives, but I always have to say goodbye. I only get brief windows of time. It’s not the same.
    I believe in God. I was a child with a very literal, sincere faith. As an adult, I still believe in God, but I don’t understand Him like I thought I did as an idealistic child. What kind of cruel joke is this? Giving me the abilities and desires to be a mother while it’s always out of reach?
    I’m currently trying to reframe my life, my goals, my dreams through the veil of chronic illness. I am far, far from where I expected to be. Not bad necessarily, but different. And I must grieve. Grieve the loss of what might have been.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    Seeking Sunshine- thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry that being a mother may not happen for you. It breaks my heart because you want it so badly. My decision was a lot easier because of things that had happened in my past.

    I really understand the idea of grieving for what you had imagined your life to be at this point. I grieve as well, just for different reasons. But the one thing in common is that chronic migraine takes so much from you and your life.

    The process of re-framing your life may take a while, but the great thing is that you get to choose the path. Of course there are limitations, but you get to be in control of what you want and need.

    I want you to feel supported and cared for by this community. Feel free to reach out at any time- when you are frustrated, sad and even excited! We’re all here for each other. Best wishes!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com

  • RachelRoo
    2 years ago

    I actually found out that I was pregnant while in the ER for a horrible migraine that I could not break. My husband and I had been trying, but only for about a month, yet this time when they asked the ‘Is there any possibility you are pregnant?” question the answer was “I guess a really SMALL one” (This was the first month I was not on a pack of BC pills). They delayed giving any medications with the saline drip beyond Reglan until they returned, and through the fog of agony the nurse gave my husband and I “Congratulations! You’re going to have a baby” We both cried, though I laughed through my tears at the amusing (and ironic) means of finding out. It was the first time the ER went straight to a narcotic to treat the pain and sent me home with a few as well ‘just in case’. I was likely only about a week or so along, as early as could be.

    Once the pregnancy got into swing the claims of all the doctors and well meaning strangers turned out to be right…though my migraines are not hormonal (or not -just- hormonal, they certainly get worse that time of the month but are not limited to showing up then) from the second trimester onward I had no migraines and very few tension headaches. Perhaps my body was more concerned with nausea and back pain and could only torment me so much…but the migraines did indeed vanish.

    The vanishing however was extremely temporary. After my C-section I remember calling my GP, my neurologist, and my OBGYN trying frantically to figure out what I could do to get rid of a migraine that had to be at least a 9 as I held my screaming daughter who I was trying to breast feed. The consensus was Imitrex was do-able so long as I was willing to ‘pump and dump’ and give her formula for 12 hours before breast feeding again. I tried that for the first few migraines, but between that and anxiety returning, breast feeding only worked for us for about 3 months and then mama needed medication and baby got nutrition from a can.

    She’s 8 now, and my migraines effect my life much more than they used to. (Not because of her…just because over time they became more chronic as they do for many of us.) It often makes me feel guilty, gives me moments of mom anxiety and sadness that I am not who I want to be with her but too often in bed with the lights out instead. The same way I feel guilty about not being the teacher I want to be. (I teach public full time Pre-K for English Language Learners living in poverty). That is part of it all though, the life I have, the shoes I walk in, and I try to keep in perspective that other people have challenges just as rough…merely different.

    The only thing I would change is the part where my brain is such a lemon model. The rest of my life is pretty good stuff.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    2 years ago

    @RachelRoo,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard it was to go through the return of your migraines after you gave birth. Life throws a lot at us and it sounds like you’ve adjusted and are still going strong. On the days when you feel down, you should be proud of yourself!
    -Katie
    Migraine.com Moderator

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