Kids? Not right now, please…

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs
Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on

Children and multiple sclerosis? Although life was good in my last relationship, I secretly decided that having children would probably not be on my list of things to do. Not because of the lack of love, but because I didn’t want to pass on my illness to my future son or daughter. When we eventually talked about possibly mixing my illness with his screaming babies and hectic lifestyle, I realised that in quiet, I made the right decision.

Being broody comes with being female, and despite my decision, I still get broody sometimes. If it wasn’t for MS, I absolutely would’ve wanted children. One of the few nice things about being chronically ill and being childless is however, when looking after children of friends and family, you can give their children back at night. I get to go back to my own cool, dark bedroom in my quiet house, and I have my broodiness resolved for a while.

Eventually my decision came up when friends started to wonder when I would have children. A few people raised their eyebrows when I said that I most likely wouldn’t. Especially in a country as matriarchal as Ireland, I was asked if that wasn’t selfish, or if I simply didn’t have any motherly feelings.

Brutal honesty told me to defend my decision, but I also had to tread carefully. Not everyone understands what life with MS is like, and I don’t always feel like explaining my symptoms. Family and friends who know me, very recently commented on my lack of verbal behaviour, because they noticed my sudden silence. I only need to say one word for them to know that my energy is completely gone: “tired.”

Nothing registers anymore and talking gives way to trying to preserve that last bit of energy for what I am doing at that moment. Also with trigeminal neuralgia, the slightest sound or whiff of air against my cheeks can make me yelp. The only place I then need to be in, is my bed. It’s the last place you imagine yourself being in when your child want you to play.

My relationship ended for reasons different than not wanting children, but it taught me a valuable lesson. When chronically ill with the possibility of passing your illness to your future children, being honest pays dividends, especially when a new relationship is on the cards. After all, MS is a life-changing event, but so is having children. It’s very much a personal choice, but also a very important one that cannot be ignored.

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 thoughts on “Kids? Not right now, please…

  1. Billie, as someone who developed ME ~ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ~ shortly after our first (and only) child was born, I can totally empathise with your decision about not having children. Kids need us to have energy but with conditions like ME and MS, our bodies need to rest so the whole thing is pretty incompatible.
    I must say I found it extraordinary how people, including total strangers, would pry into when our son would be getting a little brother or sister. Quite amazing how the issue of having babies is viewed by some as a matter of ‘public’ concern. I don’t know if this is just an Irish ‘thing!’

    1. So sorry to hear of your ME, Jean. It is hard on you if you have such levels of tiredness. I completely understand the difficulty of it, and like you say, it’s amazing the way people react to your decision. I hope you are able to handle the immense fatigue it brings, because it surely is a drag on life being this tired.

      Even with Ireland being a matriarchal society, it’s not just an Irish thing. People do tend to silently judge you if you don’t go the “normal” path of marriage, dog, house, children etc. They tend to think you’re selfish, or even worse, “abnormal” and I felt and heard how I’m different than others. People forget that having children is a choice, and not something you have to do in order to be “normal” and fit in.

  2. Billie, you are absolutely right…. I often say to people that I’m glad I didn’t’t have children because it would have been extremely difficult to cope because of the MS.

    1. It would be, and knowing the type of person I am, it would be awful not being able to take part in things my kids would love to do. It’s already difficult sometimes combining family meetings with it, let alone having kids myself.

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