Monday, April 5, 2010

Life Choices

A few days ago, Lee Ann, over at The Butter Compartment, posted a blog about being in the minority of people who have chosen not to have children. As I read her blog post, I got fairly emotional and wanted to comment. But then I realized how much I had to say, so instead I talked with her and decided to post my own blog on this very sensitive subject. And while my ideas may vary some from Lee Ann's, I understand her views and I encourage you all to read her post. It is truly moving.

I was diagnosed in 1986. I was never told (that I can remember) that I shouldn't have children, but it seemed to always be a silent understanding that I might not live a long life and that having children could be very hard on me (hello, Steel Magnolias).

I'm a kid person. I love babies. Even when I was 12 and 13, I was helping out in the nursery at church. I went to school to be a teacher. I worked in child care for several years. Even now, I teach a Sunday School class at church to get my "kid quota".
I always remember wanting children, but just automatically saying that I wasn't going to have them; that I would adopt instead. Adoption wasn't a big deal to me, since I was adopted. I never thought twice about it and never really felt like I was "missing out" on anything.

My mother didn't have a biological child until I was 15 and my baby sister was born. I never felt any different being adopted. And I just thought that I'd get my children a more non-conventional way.

When I was in high school, I was terrified of getting pregnant. Therefore, I escaped high school "unscathed," so to speak. It was always in the back of my mind. I had a dream when I was a senior in high school that I was married. I couldn't see who the person was, but I knew his name. And I was crying because I'd found out I was pregnant. I was so scared. In my dream, I remember Mr. Mystery Man telling me that everything would be okay and that we'd get through it fine.

For a girl who doesn't dream on a regular basis and NEVER remembers it, I can still tell you how I felt during that dream and after waking up. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be happy. But I was scared. And for someone who is decidedly pro-life, my dream self even entertained ending the pregnancy (although I know I wouldn't do that now).

For someone who is fairly young and in decent health, I have seriously considered having my tubes tied. I haven't done it for the simple fact I've not felt the need to push it when I've not been in a serious relationship where I felt pregnancy could become an issue.

I'm creeping toward 30 (I say creeping, since I want to hold off on the big 3-0 for as long as I can ;P ) and as I've gotten older, I've thought more about having a biological child. Until the past 3 or 4 years, I didn't even entertain the idea of having my own child. But being an active part of the D-OC, and having friends who are diabetic and have had children with no problems, I let myself play with the idea a little more.

I don't have many of the health issues that Lee Ann has dealt with, but I share many of her fears. I spent a childhood with semi-decent care (not the best, not the worst). But my teen and young adult years were sketchy at best. I rang in several A1c's that would make any endo cringe. It wasn't until I got out of college that I really took control and made a serious effort to control my diabetes. For a long time, I thought I might have actually been blessed enough to avoid any serious complications from that time in my life. But with the occasional tingling in my feet and my recent eye doctor's visit, I realize that poor care or not, I'm 24 years into a disease that slowly damages every major organ of my body.

Currently, I'm glad that I didn't get my tubes tied when I first decided to. Mostly because I want the option there. But I'm not sure I actually want to have children of my own. And until I'm sure of how I want to do this, I don't want to make any life-altering decisions. My new endo's profile on their website states that she specializes in diabetic pregnancy. And while this comforts me, should the need ever arise, I still am uncertain about how I want to do things.

And I guess I don't need to make any decisions since I'm not even in a relationship at this point in my life. But so many things from Lee Ann's blog resonated with me.

How do you approach NOT having children in a new relationship? While I want to leave the option open, I also don't want to give anyone any false ideas about my becoming a biological parent, when I may chose not to take that route.

Why would I want to cause my body any more damage, risking leaving a child without a mother and a husband without a wife (and a single parent to boot)? Part of that fear may come from having lost an aunt due to uncontrolled T2 diabetes. This left my uncle a single father, and a small child without a mother.

And what if my child developed diabetes? I know you can't control that. To my knowledge, T1 diabetes didn't run in my biological family (although I don't know anything about my biological father). But it is still an increased risk of passing diabetes on. And to be honest with you, I don't know if I could live with the guilt of knowing my child developed diabetes. I had a friend who told me that my adopted child could get diabetes. After all, I did. But at least I would know it wasn't my DNA and my genes that were part of the reason.

Like Lee Ann, I've dealt with many well meaning people who think I've lost my mind. I have a very dear friend who has said to me on several occasions, "You should have at least one of your own. You should experience pregnancy at least once. It is so wonderful." And I'm sure it is. I have several close friends with children. They talk about the wonders of pregnancy. But I may not take that road. Does that make me "weird?" Maybe. Does that make me less of a woman? I don't think so. Because I choose not to have biological children of my own doesn't make me any less of a person. It simply means I've chosen another way.

People make their life choices for a variety of reasons. I've not made a set-in-stone decision at this point. But I believe people should remember that everyone should make the choices that are best for themselves. And that includes whether or not to have a biological child, or even to have children at all.


Anonymous said...

I really respect you for writing about this. Not many people talk about it :)

I think whatever you decide, you will have people who support you, and that you put your thoughts together very elegantly.

Good luck Cara :)

SarahK said...

I have also debated this my whole life. I have always wanted to adopt instead of trying for my own child. A friend of mine once said that it takes someone with a big heart to adopt. I asked why and they said "Because, you are choosing to love this little kid that isn't part of you biologically. Your children you kind of, in a way, have to love, but when adopted children, you choose to love them." It made sense in a way.
If you do decide to adopt, it doesn't make you any less of a woman. Any woman can get pregnant and become a mom, but it takes a special, strong woman to adopt and care for a child as if they were your own.
The only reason I have decided to try for my own child is because my husband has begged me to at least try once. But honestly, I am freakin scared to death of what it will do to my body. I want to live a long life with this child, and nothing can really promise that I will.
Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure it will be the best thing for you. We will support you all the way. You are a wonderful, strong woman with a huge heart for children - yours or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I have to post anonymously because we haven't told everyone the news of our pregnancy.

For 32 years of my life, I was sure I didn't want children. Now, that I am pregnant, I couldn't tell you if it's because I finally want 1 or I have just caved in to the desires of my husband and family. I think my decision is a lot suckier than yours because it would be terrible for me to give birth and still feel like it wasn't my choice. I applaud your courage for writing this openly because our society sees women ultimately as birthers and birthers only.

Lee Ann Thill said...

First, I want to thank you for sharing your personal experience with this issue. It really does reflect what a complicated and individual decision raising a family is, whether it's through adoption or the old-fashioned way.

In the days since I read this, one thing that's continually come to mind is how this might be an individual and personal decision in the very end, but it doesn't really feel that way since so many people around us can influence our choices, and our choices can have such a profound influence on our relationships. When I was younger, I never could have imagined it would feel this complicate, , come with such a range of conflicted, complex emotions, and affect so many of my relationships, whether it's been for better or for worse.

I'm just glad to see so many young women with diabetes giving so much thought to whether or not they want to have children naturally. I wish other young women gave it a fraction as much consideration, care and planning as many of us seem to do.