I always wanted kids. When my husband and I got married, we thought three kids sounded like a good plan. Even though I got sick two months after we met, and was still sick when we married less than two years later, we bought a house with a large yard and in a good school district. We wanted a family.
One of my closest friends got pregnant about a month after my wedding. And watching her, I realized that pregnancy is hard. And having an infant is hard. Raising children is hard. According to the newly published CFS/ME Primer for Clinical Practitioners, pregnancy is not contraindicated in women with CFS, and some women may even feel better during pregnancy, perhaps due to increased blood volume. But it goes without saying that having kids is hard on healthy people. It is even more difficult for people with CFS.
So we decided to wait. It was impossible to imagine that I could be sick for longer than two years, or three, four, or five. So my husband and I decided to put off having kids until I felt better, or was at least more stable. Then we thought about how much help we might need, and whether we could afford that help. What kind of parents would we be, given how much we struggle to cope with CFS every day? The years rolled on, and I stayed sick. Eventually, we realized that we would not be able to have children.
This is my biggest loss to CFS. Being a mother was not just part of my plan, it was part of who I was as a person. And it’s not just my loss. My husband will not be a father. It seemed that my parents would not be grandparents. I felt guilty about being the source of this difficulty, and I felt like a failure.
Enter my niece, E. My brother and his wife gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl last week. My parents are, at long last, grandparents. And we have a new life in our family. To hold a baby is a delight, and to watch my brother and his wife become parents is a true gift. Watching them this week has shown me that my husband and I made the right decision. We could never have done this. The energy required to cope with a baby’s physical needs is far beyond my reach, to say nothing of the emotional side of parenting. I’ve been wearing my heart rate monitor while helping to take care of E, and it is abundantly clear that having a baby would have been leagues beyond my physical capacity. This does not make me sad; it gives me peace. Our decision not to have children was painful, but it was the right decision.
E is beautiful and healthy and a blessing in every way. I can’t imagine how we coped without her all these years, and she was definitely worth the wait.