The risk of having a child with or without bipolar illness was something I contemplated a great deal but did not necessarily pray about. With my first fiancé I was bound to the idea of adoption – that a diagnosis of bipolar and a diagnosis of clinical depression were too much to hand down to the next generation. My fiancé at the time did not agree with me and wanted to have a biological child(ren) rather than adopt.
When I met my soon-to-be husband some seven years later, he also was adamant about having a biological child. Instead of two clinical diagnoses of depression and/or mania, we each brought to the table a pre-existing condition; I brought the bipolar illness and he brought an alcohol dependency under remission at that time for about 15 years. Somehow in our first year together, my soon to be husband and I settled on the idea of a natural conception. We were blessed with early success in pregnancy within a couple of months of trying which at 39 (when we conceived without any assistance) is somewhat of a miracle in itself. My position at the time of carrying my child is that Nurture is a strong proponent in the Nature versus Nurture battle. If we can avoid a divorce event or something similar such as the abuse I suffered at an early age, perhaps my daughter’s child within will be upright and healthy and right in her relationship with God. Since my daughter’s birth, we have sought continually to provide for her spiritual development and her spiritual journey.
James and I are open with our daughter who is 16 about Dad’s alcoholism and about my bipolar illness. We talk about responsible behavior for our family as avoiding alcohol and for engaging in and not avoiding emotionally challenging events. We accept that to have a meltdown and cry is an important process for growing up and challenges Mom and Dad to listen. We also talk about the importance of mood recovery. Once we have cried and released the source of our anxiety or concern, we then try to move on and recover the mood and move onto the next event or challenge.
I am hoping to teach my daughter how to be more fluent in her emotions not just successful in her studies as I have been learning to be in the last several years. She already is exhibiting signs of emotional maturity that I did not have at that age. She is not obsessed with being the top student in her class. When she feels upset about something like a misunderstanding with a friend, she is largely able to talk about it and express her feelings. When she is emotionally or physically tired and ready for bed, she says so.
I feel that with God’s blessing we will move through whatever illness may come our way – this including the current testing for breast cancer. With God’s help we will manage through any abuse incidents that may have presented in my life so as to avoid the repetition in my daughter’s life as she continues to blossom and to bloom into a beautiful young woman.