Author: Natalia Beiser
Like most girls, I dreamed of being a mother. Planned were baby names, thoughts of how I would parent and nurture a child, and the locality where I wanted to do so. As a teenager, I was a sought out babysitter. My fantasy was of a family of five with a rambling Victorian home with a picket fence and a duck pond.
Those dreams came to a screeching halt when I had the first manic episode at eighteen. The staff at the hospital told my parents that it would not be a realistic expectation that I could have children. My mother tried to soften this blow by saying that I could always be a good advocate for children. That sustained me for about five minutes.
I was hesitant to date because I did not feel that I had much to offer because I was not going to have children. I was angry that I had bipolar disorder and was unable to love myself enough to nurture male relationships. I am still unable to appropriately do so. I did not comprehend until recently in my late forties that not only should I love myself, but that I never have, and am just now learning how to do so. This fact did not help matters. I sat back and watched my peers get married and have children. Having such pain over being a single woman without children, I seldom went to baby showers or birthday parties, because they were salt in a wound that would not completely heal.
I investigated my situation. Many women with bipolar disorder have healthy pregnancies. Many go through significant mental setbacks when going through medication withdraws during pregnancy, as many bipolar medications can injure a fetus or worse. I went to interpersonal counseling to hash out my options. I ended up never marrying, so the realistic societal expectation of having a baby was lifted.
When I was thirty eight, I had a hysterectomy, largely due to experiencing a hypomania each month. I had to meet with a member of the office staff at the surgeon’s office, signing a paper indicating that I understood that I would not be able to have children after the surgery. I felt mentally prepared to have surgery and went into the procedure feeling peaceful.
However, at times I still get stuck. I feel periodic sadness when seeing a family with young children. How I would have enjoyed walking a child in a stroller, making homemade baby food, and sharing giggles and hugs.
But I also know how I spent years trying to find a pharmaceutical cocktail that would work. I remember how many hospitalizations there were when I was suicidal or near catatonia. How effective of a mother would I have been then? Who would have taken care of my children? There were so many times that I could hardly take care of myself; the times that all of my paid vacations were used to treat mood disorders instead of taking vacations.
Please note – I am not trying to talk anyone with bipolar disorder out of having children. I did what was obvious in my case. Reflecting over the years, I will always have sadness, but I have no regrets.