Swimming through the gene pool ...
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|Sun, 04-13-2003 - 9:01pm|
In addition to being the poster family of interpersonal dysfunction, my dh's family represents a potpourri of psychological/neuro disorders. Both of his brothers are bipolar; one has never been able to hold down a FT job and he is now in his late 40s and still lives at home. DH (41 YO) has suffered on and off from varying degrees of depression for most of his life. His mom passed away about a year ago after a *long* battle with Parkinson's Disease. His great aunt died of a brain tumor. His first cousin (41 YO) suffers from a condition whose symptoms resemble MS (she has lost the use of her right hand and arm, and she also suffers severe tremors in that hand when she is tired or stressed) but which, over the past seven or so years, doctors have been unable to diagnose with certainty. Another first cousin (late 30s) suffered from a "nervous breakdown" a couple of years ago when things went badly in a job situation. You get the idea.
So, anyhow, despite all of this, dh and I decided to reproduce nonetheless. Our son (6.5 YO) is the delight of my life. He is bright, funny, happy, and (IMHO) just plain magical. Okay, he can be a royally frustrating PIA, but he is generally an awesome kid who I love to pieces. He has been diagnosed with ADD and also has a "touch" of ADHD. I suspect he may have more than a touch of ODD and I am kind of afraid that he may emerge as being bipolar one of these days (among other things, his meltdowns are legendary). My parents warned me when dh and I married that -- given his family's background -- we might want to think twice about having kids. We have seemed to get off relatively "easily" (so far) given the genetic pool we had to work with. But, that was not a "given".
In so many ways I feel like I was such a "careful" mom-to-be with ds. I was never a drinker or a smoker, but I had NO alcohol at all when I was pregnant, and I stayed out of any place that was at all smokey. Took all of those prenatal vitamins; worked out in a prenatal exercise class. I imbibed nothing with NutraSweet, and almost no caffeine. We also had Tay Sachs testing (we are Jewish) to make sure that he would not be born with that disease. Because of my "advanced maternal age" when ds was born (I was 35 - yep, advanced in the medical world!) I had an amnio during my pregnancy -- so, as a result we knew with pretty good certainty of so much that WASN'T amiss with his health, but obviously not any of the behavioral stuff we're dealing with now. I took great care of myself when I was pregnant with him. But I still have this nagging feeling that, somehow, we did something "wrong", or selfish, by having ds because of the tough times he may face ahead. (I cannot imagine my life without my son, though.)
My mom made a comment tonight to me (again) about ds' "schtick" being a result of dh's genetic make-up. We had gotten together for a casual dinner out with my parents, and ds (who I HOPE will start to really feel that Strattera kick in SOON) was not ... wonderful. I guess that I always have *some* guilt in the back of my mind about what we have set ds (and *his* kids) up for in life, and now it has come to the forefront for me once again. I feel like maybe we were NOT very responsible to have kids when dh's genes are not exactly what Darwin would have predicted would survive in his whole "survival of the fittest" theory. Like maybe it was a selfish and stupid "call" on the part of myself and dh. Oh yeah, and the icing on the cake is that I realize now that, in all likelihood, *I*, myself, have ADD; that would explain a whole lot about my life too -- funny how finding out information can help you put a whole new spin on your *own* life, huh? So, I, too, am to "blame" for my son's difficulties, apparently.
I know that I am rambling, but I wanted to know if any of you have had this same dilemma with your kids: Have you experienced any guilt over the knowledge that you might knowingly be passing on some not-so-great genes to them? Did you think twice (at least) before conceiving because of the gene pool you were working with? And, if you had *no* prior indication that your kids might have any of the types problems they now face ... if you *had* known that you were likely to have kids who would have a tough time, would it have made you think twice about it? And, finally, would you feel any differently about knowingly passing on a genetic predisposition to other more "black and white" medical conditions (heart problems, diabetes, and birth marks come to mind).
I hope that these questions are not hurtful or insulting to *anyone*. They are just weighing on my mind tonight (it has been a particularly tough weekend) and I wanted to know if I am alone in how I feel or if I have any "company" in Guilt-Land. Thanks everyone! ~ ruth