I actually wrote this six months ago but wasn’t ready to publish it. I correctly assumed it was controversial to be Bipolar and admit that you reproduced. Especially If you are going to admit you love it and don’t feel guilty.
But I am in the business of helping people and this may help someone.
This is a personal, sensitive subject I know. But let’s talk about it anyway.
Bipolar is not an automatic disqualification to being a parent.
Just like every other human being we need to and should consider all of the factors of our lives in order to determine whether or not we are up for parenthood.
It is a very personal and individual thing for everyone (not just Bipolars!)
We all manifest different versions of this “illness” and some of us may feel very differently than others about our abilities. Just like how we have different abilities and affinities for all jobs.
Some of us are molecular biologists, some of us never finish school because of Bipolar issues.
Some of us are lawyers, some are on disability.
There is no judgment in this. I am just making the point that we each have different Bipolar and different sets of circumstances.
Just like all of the “normies”!
There are many other issues that a person can have that can impact their ability to parent. Too many for me to start to list.
Contrary to some popular belief…..Having Bipolar disorder isn’t a given that someone will be a bad parent.
Just like not having Bipolar Disorder is not a given that someone will be a good parent.
I think we can all think of some examples of that now can’t we? Again too numerous and sad for me to start to list off.
And I know that some of us consider Bipolar to be a positive addition to our parenting.
I know some people may bristle at that statement but it is what I see.
Not in terms of episodes obviously
but because we experience the world differently….
we have experienced a profound amount and depth of feeling
we can have a deep empathy and compassion
and any of you who have worked with young children know that they run on pure emotion a lot of the time.
I will add that anecdotally…many of the Bipolar mothers I have had the privilege to know are some of the best mothers I know.
Perhaps because the knowledge of our extra stumbling block..
perhaps the knowledge that we are judged…that people are expecting us to fail
perhaps a desire to protect our children from the stresses and pain that we experienced…
maybe because we view ourselves as starting behind others…
these things propel us to be extremely mindful and intentional in our parenting (something all parents should be)
to put it bluntly
we try really hard
Parenthood will be harder for us just like everything in life is harder for us than for the normies (except being awesome of course. That comes much easier to us. wink. the haters will hate that won’t they?)
There are many Bipolars who are parents and are damn good ones. We get a bad rap but that isn’t new. We Bipolars get a bad rap for everything. Whatever world. Whatever.
There are many non Bipolars out there who are terrible parents. That is just fact.
Okay the meds part of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you want to be pregnant, get a preconception consultation with a perinatalogist.
If you already are pregnant, get an appointment with a perinatalogist.
They are the ones who know about medications and pregnancy.
Your psychiatrist may think they know but it isn’t their area of expertise now is it?
They can look in the books to see what it says. Is your Drug a B or a C or whatever.
But the perinatalogists (or maternal fetal medicine) have a lot more to go on than that. Mine said that the categories are way to simplistic. They had an expansive data base of research and evidence.
I had a psychiatrist tell me that I could never get pregnant on a certain medication.
I was devastated for months
Then I asked my OB and they were like oh we see people on that all of the time and they gave me the referral for the preconception counseling with the perinatologist.
The perinatologist didn’t even bat an eye. She said…and I quote “You have no more reason to worry than a woman who isn’t on medication”
of course they still did more ultrasounds just to make sure everything was fine.
Everything was fine. Better than fine. Insert big annoying mother grin right here.
And I nursed for 11 months.
Okay the gene thing
Genetics are a big factor for a lot of people. But even if you are Bipolar ….It’s not a given that your child will be Bipolar.
There are lots of things that can happen to your kids that aren’t Bipolar related. TONS.
Just to pull another voice in here…
This is Kay Jamison’s reaction to being told she could not have children because she could pass on Bipolar…
“I hadn’t thought that way and I don’t think that way. I wanted a house full of children, and so the, I didn’t, I wasn’t asking his permission to have children. I, it didn’t strike me that it was any of his business, and I told him to go to hell. I also told him that I was Director of the Mood Disorders Clinic at UCLA and I was completely aware that it was a genetic illness and I didn’t need to hear that from him and so forth. But I went out to the car and I just started sobbing, I just, it was just uncontrollable anger, but mainly hurt. It was just a level, when people assault your genes and when those genes are involved in who you are so utterly in terms of temperament and the way you think and the way you feel and the way you view the world, as these genes are, these are very complicated, these affect every aspect of your humanity. For somebody just essentially to say you ought not to have someone who has you, your kind of problems. It’s just like saying you ought not to have been born. And I must say I’m glad my father didn’t have that attitude, and I’m glad my parents didn’t take that belief.”
“This is a very destructive illness, I’d be the last person to romanticize it, I’ve seen too much of it in myself and in my family and in my friends and in my patients and, ever to say that there, this is something to romanticize. On the other hand it is very treatable and it’s very variable in terms of age of presentation, in terms of severity, it’s unpredictable, it’s treatable, you know. And it is very much part of who many, many people are, and so you know, I don’t take the views of, that you don’t reproduce under those circumstances, I find that a chilling thought.“
I guess a lot depends on whether or not you feel like life is worth it even with Bipolar disorder… And that is very very personal. And very much related to your own INDIVIDUAL experience with your own INDIVIDUAL Bipolar.
There are tons of us who while we struggle and suffer don’t actually wish that we had never been born…
we still want life
we don’t wish our parents had been able to do a test while pregnant to see if we carried the Bipolar genes….and then took action to make sure we never had to live a Bipolar life….or any life….
I started typing and deleting a bunch right here but I think I will leave it. I think you get the slippery slope that can happen here if we start deciding who does and doesn’t get to live….which genes are ok and which are not…..
And how about this?
If a child of a Bipolar ends up with Bipolar disorder……
having a self aware, functioning parent with Bipolar may possibly be the best thing that could ever happen to a Bipolar person.
Am I right or am I right?
They wouldn’t have to go through everything we went through….
We plowed the path….
a matter of fact discussion of what symptoms of Bipolar look and feel like and an open invitation to communication…a hyper vigilance on the part of my husband and myself…and an assurance that WE all will take care of it together.
No crappy doctors
no meds without questions and research
no lonely isolated hidden suffering
no horrible confusion about what could be happening
no navigating the waters unsupported and in secret
no having to go to the internet to find someone who understands
My children would never be alone crying in Bipolar agony in the middle of the night…afraid to be a burden to anyone by calling..
they will call me
and I will say
and I am their mother
they cannot burden me
Please remember that this is a personal blog. These are my opinions and feelings based on my personal experience.
I do not know what it right for you.
I have tried to make clear that we are all different and all need to be responsible for our own paths…in all things…including this human journey of parenting.
From what I can tell parenting is one of the hardest things people ever do.
Every person, Bipolar or not, should really think about it.
Just some thoughts