“Aren’t you afraid he will get your disease?”
The question uttered by a colleague at a department picnic this past summer when I was still working as a college instructor. This colleague had known me for a few years. She had known me when I was still adamantly not going to have children. She knew of my diagnoses. And this was the first time she had seen me since giving birth. This was the first time she met my son who had just turned one year old.
And this was the question; a question about my fear of passing on my psychiatric illnesses. Not a question concerning the million other things that happens with new motherhood- a question of genetic loading.
I wanted to respond with my sarcastic self and give a blank stare and state, “why no, I never thought about that.”
Seriously, I waited until thirty-six to entertain motherhood. I had heard for years from psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers about my genetic loading. I had read countless articles about the increase in odds of a child being diagnosed with a mental illness when a parent is also mentally ill. I, myself, am ABD in my psychology doctorate. I think I may have visited this topic before.
Did this woman not think that when this little boy looks at me with his big brown eyes that I earnestly pray he will never know the torment of violent mood swings or the torture of psychosis?
But, at the age of thirty-six, wisdom had also joined in to calm my fears. Therefore, I did roll the dice and become pregnant. And here is why:
First, I know that with genetics, 1+1 does not always equal 2.
Second, I am so much more than my diagnoses. Yes, I live with schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and PTSD. But, I am also so much more than my illnesses.
Third, if my little man is afflicted with a mental illness, there is no one more capable than myself and his father to help him through the maze of that journey. We both know that maze forward and backward. We can be the support he would need and deserve.
And lastly, I love this little man with all my soul. And as we know, the greatest of these is love.
So, to my inappropriate colleague, I must say that it may happen. And if it happens, this little man has all the love and support in the world to fight every day for him to thrive.