Motherhood lost

This post is inspired by Coco who is being an awesome mother right now.  You can read her post and my comments to her for more background information on what led me to write this post. I love reading mommy blogs. I actually read quite a few blogs penned by mothers both in and out of the mental health sphere. I take an interest in motherhood and have lots of opinions about it and raising children. I love talking kids with friends with children.

I have always wanted to be a mother. I have also for the vast majority of my childbearing years been on harmful medications. For most of that time I did not believe I could get off the drugs so while I wanted children I did not want to risk poisoning them. I also felt that I was not fit to be a mother so adoption wasn’t an option either. I was simply too drugged up. A woman who requires 12 to 13 hours of sleep a night and still works has no time for children. It simply wasn’t an option.

And yet I’ve always held out hope. My incompetent doctor who put me on all these drugs frequently asked when I would have children. He meant well—but damn what an asshole. He would tell me that being on 5 Class C drugs was a risk worth taking. (Class C—Safety is uncertain; data from human studies do not exist, and animal studies have shown some question of risk to the fetus. Pregnant women may take these medicines if they clearly need them.) The question mark times 5 was too much for me.  I was also on a Class D drug which he felt confident I could withdraw from. (Class D—Evidence suggests the possibility of the medication causing birth defects or other problems, but a pregnant woman still might need to take it for her own medical needs.) I couldn’t take that risk with a child and I wasn’t so sure I could get off of it. I think the recommendations that mothers should take the risk if she needs the drugs is ethically extremely questionable.

I did once try to get off all my meds with that shrink. I was on 6 mg of Risperdal at the time, 3 mg of Klonopin and 400 mg of Lamictal. A relatively small cocktail compared to what I ended up on in the end.

In any case he told me to go off 1 mg of Risperdal a day and then immediately follow by going off 1 mg of Klonopin a day until off all of those two drugs. That involved 9 whole days to make the taper. We were going to stay with the mood-stabilizer for the time being—as it turns out Lamictal is a really nasty drug in preganancy and very dangerous.

In any case if you all have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that a taper of that nature is for all intensive purposes a cold turkey withdrawal. I was out of my mind by the end of the taper. Squirming in agony for three days before I took a handful of my full original cocktail with no looking back for years. I was so traumatized I knew I would never be free of drugs ever and I could forget about having babies. This didn’t stop my doctor from continuing to ask me when I was going to have babies. (Take note I’ve taken 4 years to taper off what I’ve done so far this time around—the man is a lunatic.)

In any case I am now 43 and I may be off all my meds by the time I’m 44. But complete recovery and stabilization after withdrawal may take another couple of years—the drugs have wreaked havoc on my body. Children are very likely a dream that will never come and it breaks my heart. I cry from time to time about it. It pains me.

When I cry my thoughts go something like this—we are animals, put on this planet to breed. It is what we evolved to do. It is our purpose in life. I’m missing out on what would make me fundamentally a woman. I will never truly mature without the rite of passage of motherhood.

I know that none of that has to be true. I know that I can have a fulfilled and happy life without children and I also know that I probably will in time. I actually to have a deep faith that I am moving in the right direction and a sense of spiritual purpose that this has been my path for a reason. But that doesn’t stop the occasional negative thinking.

I live so far away from all my nieces and nephews. Life without children. Another thing to come to peace with. That’s okay I guess. I’m getting better at accepting these little pains in my life. I’m actually meditating daily now and sometimes more than once a day, especially when difficult feelings arise. I go straight to being with them. It’s working.

My very sweet hairdresser just had a baby. Since I’m getting better I hope to be able to volunteer my services as a babysitter sometime soon. Don’t know if she’ll take me up on it or not.

Sometimes I think about becoming a doula. Natural childbirth is beautiful. See “The Business of Being Born.” It’s available at Netflix for free download to your computer if you are a member. You can probably get it in a video store too. The way babies are born nowadays is as insane as psychiatry. The whole time I watched it I was filled with the same kind of anger—nature gone all wrong at the hands of modern medicine. This movie shows the natural beauty of birth in contrast to the pressures of modern medicine handling birth.

I haven’t looked into what would be involved in becoming a doula but it’s just one more thing I think about among the many career possibilities I have. What could be more life affirming than bringing babies into the world?

20 thoughts on “Motherhood lost

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  1. People certainly told me that all my life and it didn’t come true….but that still doesn’t mean it won’t come true for you….

    I didn’t think I’d ever marry….and finally I did….

    you don’t really ever know what the future holds…

    who knows maybe I’ll adopt at age 50 when I’m kicking ass and in great shape emotionally and physically…not likely but not impossible either!!

    thanks for sharing…I know it’s painful at any time if it seems terribly unlikely and I’ll leave that for you to determine….

    I know it’s terribly unlikely that the above hypothesized scenario for me will ever come true.

  2. Thank you for writing this post. I’ve always wanted kids, but I’ve just recently realized that I’ll probably never have them. It bothers me a lot. I know I’d be a good mother, but I realized a little while ago that I would be a terrible single mother. So I don’t think I’ll get to have kids, and it’s mainly because of the manic depression.

    I’m sure people will tell me that I’m relatively young and have plenty of time to find someone to be a father or second mother to my children. That doesn’t mean I’ll believe them.

  3. I can’t think of anything good that came out of it all. Maybe Helen had a bash at being a mum for 12 months or so? Is that good?

    I still suffer flashbacks from those meetings. Everything about the meetings was intolerable. The oppressive tone, and even the venue, held deep in the bowels of the building, in a windowless basement room, lit only by fluorescent tubes.

    Even the humble stenographer was involved in the farce. His transcripts of the meetings were carefully airbrushed before publication, to avoid future criticism of the panel’s actions.

    The panel members oozed so many lies, it was almost unbelievable, quite astonishing to witness so-called professionals brazely engaging in Misconduct in Public Office.

    I can remember one “senior social worker”, probably in her mid to late 50s, certainly no rookie, baldly lying to the panel.

    She claimed that Helen had failed to contact her within a given time frame.

    I knew that to be a lie since Helen had used my phone, in my presence, to leave an answering machine message for the woman. To be sure, Helen had also sent a fax to the social worker’s office, before dropping a typed note through her Department’s door.

    I called the social worker on this: “Are you saying you didn’t receive any of that correspondence?”

    She glanced anxiously up and down the panel, but made no comment. Nothing was mentioned “for the benefit of the tape”, as they say.

    When I read the transcript, I realised that every word I had said about that social worker’s deceit had been removed from the Official Record.

    I have heard that in criminal trials, the Court transcripts must be approved by the judge (nudge nudge wink wink)… It is evident that the same censorship takes place in Child Protection hearings.

    Sorry if this seems comes across as hijacking this thread, which was about the wonders of motherhood. Please feel free to hose it off, if it spoils things.

  4. This thread set me thinking about “Helen”, a friend of mine who became a mother.

    Helen was a very clever and attractive young woman, who was most of the way through a medical degree when her mother was killed by a grotesque form of cancer.

    The emotional pain pushed Helen over the edge and she suffered a psychotic breakdown.

    Over the months, Helen made a good mental recovery but for reasons still inexplicable to me, she became attached to a loafer she met in the psychiatric hospital who idled his days smoking heroin.

    She fell pregnant by him. I felt sick for her.

    Social Workers assigned to Helen’s case warned her that immediately at birth, her child was going to be placed on the “At Risk Register”, a statutory Child Protection database.

    The reason they gave for registering the child was Helen’s “potential for neglect”. Get that.. *Potential* for neglect.. No *evidence* of neglect, just the *potential* for it. Totally subjective words.

    At the time, I don’t think Helen realised the full implications of this.

    She gave birth to a beautiful blond baby girl with sparkling alert blue eyes and an infectious giggle. Even now, years later, it still makes my eyes swell up thinking what became of that sweet little kid.

    Stalinist social workers essentially seized control of the child’s life from day one.

    Stringent conditions were attached to the child’s upbringing.

    Helen was forbidden from ever allowing the child’s father to see his child.

    She was ordered to take the child to a Government nursery between 8am and 4pm.

    She was ordered to obey a nightly curfew and to reside at a hostel for single mothers, located many miles from town.

    And she had to show up at regular Government Hearings into the child’s welfare.

    All of those conditions came with serious penalties for failing to comply. The most serious of which was jail time, or worse, the loss of custody of her own child.

    Helen was a pretty fiery girl. I especially admired her for that. But it meant she was defiant. It was predictable that at some point, she was going to ignore the frivolous “child welfare” conditions imposed on her.

    She duly screwed up, and big time. She skipped a nursery session and took her child to visit its father. She claimed he “had a right” to see his daughter. The nursery reported her absence to Social Services who then tipped off the cops. They worked on hunch, and staked out his flat, battered their way in and took custody of the little girl.

    An Emergency Child Protection Conference was convened. The panel was empowered by law to take the child permanently into its “care”, there and then.

    Helen wasn’t even allowed a lawyer at the Hearing.

    I remember the pompous jerk who chaired the meeting bellowing to her protestations: “NO! You are NOT allowed a lawyer to represent you! This Hearing is NOT about YOUR interests as a mother! It is about the interests of a child!”

    I went along as a friend. Even that was frowned upon. Christ! It was some experience. Like a Diplock court crossed with a McCarthy hearing. Justice it was not.

    The various self-righteous goons assembled at the meeting spewed a litany of lies. Social workers, shrinks, cops, even the teenaged half-wit from the nursery had been primed to tell a damning tale of neglect.

    The nursery worker recounted how the little girl had arrived at the nursery one morning with a dirty bib and soiled nappy.

    Helen politely explained that it was an hour’s walk to the nursery, and that “little accidents” are inevitable in that time.

    No good. Neglect it was. Case closed.

    Some how Helen scraped through that particular Hearing, still with custody of her daughter.

    But it was just one of many Hearings to come. [*] Each Hearing turned the thumbscrews ever tighter.

    The Stalinist Nanny State was determined to gain a vice-like grip on that child.

    Then the inevitable happened one New Year’s Day. Helen’s daughter was seized from her for good. Social Services told so many lies, I forget the spurious reasons they cited as final justification.

    It’s pretty painful to recall much of what happened next. Many times, Helen tried to take her life through overdoses of pills, cutting herself, running into traffic. She became a revolving door mental patient, and that is where I last saw her.

    She had gone completely mad. her beautiful daughter wrenched from her, never to be seen again.

    I google Helen’s name from time to time, praying I will learn she is alive and well, but with a deep-down fear of finding a press report to the contrary.

    [*] Something particularly disgusting happened in the midst of all those Hearings.

    There is a fortnightly publication in Britain called Private Eye. It has a reputation for fearless reporting.

    By extraordinary coincidence, in the middle of all the hearings into the custody of Helen’s child, Private Eye magazine ran an expose about an elite paedophile ring, operating in the very same division of the very same social services department that was handling Helen’s case.

    I could scarcely believe what I was reading. Paedophiles were running the Social Services Department?!

    I discussed it with a lawyer. Should I mention this in one of the child protection meetings? Should I hold up a copy of Private Eye magazine, point at the jerks on the panel and demand to know “what the Hell is going on?”

    The lawyer said she “strongly advised” against that. To this day I wish I had ignored her advice. Things might just have turned out better.

  5. Hello Gianna,

    Like the others I was moved by reading this post.

    “When I cry my thoughts go something like this—we are animals, put on this planet to breed. It is what we evolved to do. It is our purpose in life. I’m missing out on what would make me fundamentally a woman. I will never truly mature without the rite of passage of motherhood.”

    I struggle with this exact chain of thoughts sometimes. On most days I have accepted that not everyone gets to have kids. Not everyone can have kids. Not everyone should have kids.

    I console myself by telling myself that if I had had kids when I was in my 20s they would have been taken from me. Or I would have seriously screwed them up. I always feared all my life that reflexive parenting would take over. My mother modeled the poorest parenting skills imaginable. I have never been witness to good parents or good parenting.

    When I think of crying children I think how do you silence a screaming kid? You scream back louder and longer until they shut up. If that does not work, you hit them until they shut up. That was my mom’s parenting strategy when manic.

    When depressed she just told us our whining and crying and bickering was making her go grey and giving her a nervous breakdown. If she had a breakdown it was because we forced her to it.

    For awhile I admit I wanted to be a parent if nothing else but to prove that I could do what my mom did not. That I could raise a child to be reasonable normal without raising a monster, a criminal or a kid that self injures or tries suicide. That I had to prove I could do it, to show everyone I could.

    That is not a good reason alone, to have children.

    While I have become adept at rationalizing all the very good reasons I didn’t have kids, and I should not have kids, it still hurts, a lot, from time to time.

    Sometimes the pain of thinking that because I will never be a mother, I will never truly know the full range of female development and what it means to be a complete woman builds up and I cry too.

  6. Hi PJ,
    welcome and thanks for your thoughts…
    I will at some point find a way to have children in my life. Right now I have to get healthy enough to be able to follow through with a commitment.

    I’ve thought of Big Brothers and Sisters and would love to do that sometime….the hospital job sound nice too.

  7. I’ve seen your name and comments on others blogs and I thought it was time to check out your blog!!

    Motherhood certainly is a gift. I have 2 children, ages 6 & 4. I’ve wanted children since I was a teenager, so much that I would put a pillow under my shirt and imagine it was a baby.

    That being said, children are a lot of work! There isn’t much sleep involved in the beginning stages!! I wasn’t diagnosed as being bipolar until just this past December. I was very fortunate (blessed!!) to have had my children before I had to be medicated.

    Your story reminds me that I need to be more thankful for my kids. There are times when I am more frustrated and angry, than thankful and loving.

    Just from this post, it seems to me like you would make a wonderful mom. One thing that we are ALWAYS looking for in the city I live in, is people to volunteer to go to the Pediatrics Ward at the hospital and just hold, comfort and care for babies and toddlers. And, I was an only child so my mom got me a big sister from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. Just another thought!!

    I enjoyed reading your post, and I think I’ll have to visit again!!

  8. I am so pleased with all these comments. I feel part of a wonderful sisterhood here today where we all found something in common with one another through motherhood whether or not we are actually mothers.

    I am so glad I wrote this post.

    Love to all of you wonderful women who responded so thoughtfully and with such vulnerability.

  9. Gianna, this post was so moving for me. I was relieved to hear though, that you like to read about motherhood etc. because sometimes I feel like I hold back in talking about my kids in case those without kids get triggered into negative thoughts. I also sometimes feel shame around the issue… having to do with the notion of ‘should I really have had children, given my struggles’. It’s a big issue for me. Perhaps one that I’ll blog about soon. I want to thank you, though, for being so honest and candid about your thoughts and feelings. You are a real blessing to me, and many many others. ~coco

  10. People’s responses to this post have moved me deeply. Thanks so much for sharing so much of yourselves.

    I think the issue of motherhood whether we have kids or not can be fraught with difficulties as your stories attest.

    I am grateful for all of you.

    I want to welcome you. I’m so glad you decided to leave a comment. I always wonder about the hundreds of readers who don’t leave comments…it’s very nice to hear from one of you who clearly understands and has shared at least some similar life experience.

    A couple of you mentioned pets, and yes, I do indeed have pets. They are wonderful and I love them very much, but, like you Marian, I don’t anthropomorphize. I’ve never been comfortable calling them my children nor do I refer to myself as their mother as many people do with their pets.

    Pets are wonderful and my life would be lacking something incredibly important without them, but they are not children.

    I’m not sure how long you’ve been reading—did you know I also moved from SF to a small town in the Appalachian mountains? I found that particular detail very interesting about you…would love to know more about how you’ve acclimated because I haven’t very well!!

    thanks again everyone!!

  11. Oh Gianna, I don’t know what to say – other than the fact that I feel for you! Just look at the two of us: you desperately wanting a child of your own, me reluctantly browbeaten into motherhood…
    [There was never any question as to whether I’d be a good mother, bond properly w/my child, etc etc – just that the fundamental desire was NOT there.]

  12. I have been reading your blog on a regular basis due to your incoming emails. It’s so good to find that there are others “out there” who are trying to find stability in a crazy world.

    My story is similar, although I am 56 years old and, since losing my mother 2 years ago, have been obsessing about being childless.

    Being on lithium for over 17 years and having difficulties with relationships, made my possibilities of being a mother near impossible. I did get pregnant at 26 and had an abortion due to the circumstances (father unsupportive, my unemployment, being isolated, etc.). Never did I think that I would be childless forever.

    My family was extremely small: both parents were only children; I never had aunts, uncles, or cousins. Just me and my brother, who also doesn’t have kids- he married a woman who had 5.

    Every day I’m reminded of my “issues”. I live in a small city that is very family oriented. I moved here from San Francisco after finally settling down in a committed relationship at age 45. My husband doesn’t want to adopt or to foster kids, so my life is led as a part-time elementary school tutor.

    Animals are my salvation, though! I have 3 dogs and 2 cats and am considering becoming a certified animal therapist but my follow-through (ADD?) has always been “iffy”.

    Just wanted to let you know that there are others of us out here that did not become pregnant for some of the same reasons; nobody wants to bring up a special needs child if it can be stopped.

  13. I was reading old emails today that my daughter and I exchanged in the year after I had my breakdown. She was 20 at the time. We were so close, talking about everything, making each other laugh, being silly. She admired me because I was going to be strong enough to get off the drugs and I admired her because she was amazing in every way. Three years later, her admiration has turned to telling me that I’m one of the most negative people she has ever met. She long ago ran out of understanding why I never feel well. Her initial support for me leaving her father has turned to anger because the consequences have been so deep. She judges…I come up short. The one I love most of all needs her space. And in the end, I can’t even feel it, or let myself feel it, because if I did, if I really considered the impact of ativan on my life…

  14. If I was there I would give you a BIG HUG. I have 3 friends who, for various reasons could not have children. 2 adopted kids. I think you should definitely offer to babysit the newborn! I’ve actually been thinking of doing this myself with a neighbor who just had a baby. I miss holding babies. Kids always need kind and gentle mentors in schools, etc. I think there is a lot you, the kind and gentle person that you are, could give to kids or as you talked about, bringing babies into this world.

  15. Gianna,
    This post made me cry…It sounds like you made the best decisions you could at the time, though…early motherhood is hard enough without being on all the drugs and needing a lot of sleep…which you don’t get with babies around. And I can fully understand not wanting to take risks with a child’s well-being when you were on all the meds. I know I was absolutely against any medications when I was pregnant.

    I agree with what Zoe said above…there are many ways to channel those nurturing abilities you have…

    And who knows? Maybe once you’re off all the meds, you could give it a whirl. Forties isn’t too late to become a mother, you know!

    *hugs* to you.

  16. I found this post very moving Gianna. For me motherhood happened by accident and at a most inauspicious time. While you were on a cocktail of drugs, I was a ‘revolving door’ mental patient during the last of my childbearing years, and that was when I had my child.

    Sadly the difficult circumstances my son was born into caught up with us, and in the end he had to go to live elsewhere. At the worst times the pain of loss was so bad that I wished he had never been born. There was also tormenting guilt and worry for him and how he would be affected. Most of the time I feel blessed and privileged to have had at least some years with him and that I still have him in my life, even in a limited way.

    All I can say is, I have a sense of your great nurturing and mothering qualities. I always had the sense that, if I could never have kids, those nurturing abilities would simply be freed up to be channelled into other areas where there would always be a need for them. In other words, love and nurturing is always in short supply in this world. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story about motherhood.

  17. I’ve got no kids either, and sometimes wish, I had. Life, though, was just too chaotic while time was. I never really felt ready to take the responsibility. I used pets (horses, cats, dogs) as a kind of substitute, though I tried not to “anthropomorphize” them, as we all know, this very well may spoil the animal and actually make life miserable for him.

    I’ve worked as a riding instructor for some years, which was really rewarding. – Maybe even more than being a school-teacher, I imagine, since the kids already are motivated to a certain extent when they show up… – And no matter if we talk “troubled” kids living in dysfunctional surroundings, or not, they usually very much appreciate and benefit from the recognition from a grown-up who’s not their parent.

    I think, it would be a great thing for you, if you could do some babysitting. Maybe there also is some other kind of possibility around where you live, where you could spend some time with kids, some (volunteer) work at a recreation center, or something like that?

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