Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Mother & a Migraineur? Deciding Whether to Have Kids When Migraines Don't Quit

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Motherhood has always been part of my plans for the future, but I never felt much anxiety about it because I knew it would be a long time before my husband and I were ready to start a family. We were young when we met and still young when we married. Motherhood seemed far away and abstract. I always imagined I would start seriously preparing to try to conceive a baby once I hit the big 3-0 milestone, which happened this past year. But living with chronic migraines for the past four years is making the idea of trying for a baby much more difficult to sort out than I ever could have imagined.

Getting pregnant itself is a concern because I take medications every day for migraine prevention and depression that may cause harm to a developing fetus. I know I need these medications, but I don't know if I could live with myself if I gave a child life long difficulties as a result of being exposed to medication during development. I don't know how a woman decides whether or not to continue taking such medications. Your doctors can certainly help guide you, but ultimately you must be comfortable with your choices. Of course, there is always the possibility that my migraines would become less frequent when I am pregnant. This happens for many people. But it may not happen for me, and I can't hang my hat on such a remote possibility.

Adoption is an option we will consider and one I would love to explore, but this does not alleviate my concerns about what kind of mother I will be if I am still living with chronic pain. If I am still having three to four migraines a week I worry I won't be the kind of parent I want to be. Migraines make me irritable due both to the pain and the personality changes the migraines themselves bring about. I don't want to be an angry mom with a short fuse and fearful, intimidated kids.

In honest, yet cold moments of truthfulness I have heard adult children of migraineurs say most of what they can remember from childhood was seeing mommy sick in bed with migraines. I don't think anyone brings a child into the world hoping for family life to revolve around one parent's illness. Yet the fact remains that many families do deal with illnesses and their children do just fine in life. Still, what if all my kids can remember from childhood is missing out on something fun because mommy was in bed nursing yet another migraine? I worry that it would make me a fundamentally selfish person to become a mom knowing this is a fairly real possibility.

If there is one universal truth about parenthood, it is that children are expensive. From delivery to college, their needs seem to cost more and more the older they get. Since my migraines have made it impossible for me to work for the foreseeable future and caused us to be a one-income household, I worry about whether we can even afford a child. I know they truly need very little to be happy and healthy, but even the cost of those necessities overwhelms me.

The most difficult question of all is whether I could handle passing migraine disease along to one or more of our children. There is a genetic predisposition associated with migraines. Most people with migraines have a close relative who has them, too. I'm a third generation (at least) migraineur through both of my parents and my only other sibling has them, too. Being in severe pain is horrible, but I have to imagine it is much worse to see your child in pain, especially so if you know just how painful the condition can be.

Perhaps the joy and love I could give a child would outshine all these concerns and weigh in favor of my becoming a mother. I know I would be more than just a sick mom to a child. I would pass along time honored family traditions, share my love for books, music, movies and college football and teach them how to make all my mom's best recipes. If we do decide to bring children into our home after weighing all the pros and cons, that choice will undoubtedly be based on the knowledge that I have so much more to offer as a mother than what those nasty migraines would take away from our family.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.