I have always desperately wanted a daughter, and wanted to have several babies. I worked in infant care for seven years, and babies are my favorite people. I feel so much love toward them and from them, and have so much purpose when caring for them. From a very young age, around four or five, I have looked forward to becoming a mother. I wrote down “get pregnant and have a baby” on a bucket list I made when I was eight years old.
When I was 19, my bipolar disorder presented. My ultimate diagnosis was bipolar II (mixed-state, rapid-cycling episodes with psychotic features), major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I have had extreme difficulty keeping myself functional and safe over the years, and it is literally dangerous for me to do something like cook when I am in an episode. I had to leave my job working with babies and go on disability because I had an episode at work in which I was not safe and I was endangering the babies. That was eye-opening. And I did not like what I was forced to see.
I have a step-son who is 12, and I came into his life when he was 6. He lives with his mother the majority of the time, so I only spend a little time with him, but I used to get wildly impatient with him when we were together. I have generalized anxiety disorder, so I’m naturally irritable, and I fretted over his behavior and how it will affect him and his life down the line. I am deeply ashamed of this because he did not do anything to deserve my irritation. As the adult, it was my job to stay patient, and I couldn’t. He is on the autism spectrum, and learning about autism has made caring for him much easier and more effective, and at this age I am very proud of him for all the progress he has made, as well as for what a kind, caring, smart, funny, and empathetic person he is becoming. However, it is abundantly clear to me that because of my lack of patience, I am a poor parent, and that he is lucky that I am not his primary caregiver.
If I were to have a baby, I would have to go off of several of my medicines for nine months. That, combined with wild hormones, would probably cause me to become suicidal. If I survived, I have a high chance of developing postpartum depression, or just another major depressive episode. Being up at night and missing sleep continuously would bring episodes every day, during which I would not even be able to heat up a bottle of breastmilk. No matter how badly I want or have wanted a baby, it is a terrible idea for me personally to have one.
I had my tubes tied a couple years ago. It was a hard decision, but it was the most adult and responsible decision I could have made. Having a full-time child would be equivalent to raising a person destined to be a deeply unhappy and maladjusted adult. I also would have a high chance of passing down my multiple mental illnesses, and if I did, my child might not have survived her/his teenage years at all.
I still want a baby. I am 31, and my biological clock is still ticking loudly in my head. But I couldn’t do that to another human. I get to have a part-time child, my stepson, so I do get to fulfill some of my mothering needs, and I do get rewarded for that by good, warm feelings toward him. It’s kind of like I won the parenting lottery for my exact situation. I only have to parent a little.
I get angry sometimes that having a baby would be such an awful mistake for me. I get angry at my mental illnesses and their consequences very often. I’m sure that there are mentally ill people out there who are far more functional than I am and could raise a child effectively, but I am not one of those people. I have to take responsibility for my inability to reproduce in a healthy way. After all, it is a far kinder act for me to prevent passing on my genes than to make a person I physically can’t take care of. Instead, I put my need to nurture into loving those around me. Since the people I support are adults, I am not responsible for their safety, and if I lose touch for a few days, they are not devastated. The purpose I have chosen for my life is loving others, learning, and sharing knowledge about coping with mental illness. I have to be content to live within the physical and ethical restrictions of my being, and I know now that a life without a child can still be a life with purpose.
By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter
I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.