Lately my husband and I have been talking about starting a family.
While half of me would be delighted to have a tiny version of him, the other half of me is terrified we’ll end up with a tiny version of me.
Wait, hold up, I should explain: I don’t hate myself (at least not everyday). I have some pretty epic depression going on, as well as some mild ADHD and social anxiety. I mean, it’s under control and all -most of the time- but it’s been with me for years and I’m very aware that it’s hereditary.
So what does this mean for my yet-to-be conceived foetus?
Will my hypothetical small human come out crying uncontrollably? Oh wait, that’s what babies do. Will it weep for hours on end, not being able to tell anyone what’s wrong? Oh, wait. Ok well will it be unable to get itself out of bed, feeling totally out of control of its own life? Oh.
So you see my problem – for the first year or two of my baby’s life I’m going to be totally confused as to whether it has inherited my messed up brain (and is therefore royally screwed), or if it’s just being a baby. Wait, am I a baby? Don’t answer that.
I know, I’m getting ahead of myself – getting all anxious about something that hasn’t even been conceived yet. But maybe that’s just it – my body might already know this and is probably building up walls in my uterus as we speak.
Click through to see some of the most influential Australians who speak up about their mental health. (Post continues after gallery.)
Can I even make a baby? Are my eggs depressed too? Who am I kidding – of course they are. Look where they live. It’s not exactly a stunning chateau with ocean views (though it is on the waterfront).
I can picture them now: all my eggs sitting there in their squished up little ovarian studio apartment, having meetings about everything that could go wrong and how the world is a horrible place and being alive is just way too exhausting, deciding that it’s just not worth it. And over in Block B, the other eggs can’t get motivated enough to even hold a meeting, and when they finally do nobody can concentrate so they start doodling on their notepads instead of taking minutes. Then somebody puts on a cat video and the whole meeting just goes to shit.
Meanwhile, my husband’s sperm is just bouncing around the main drag with ridiculous energy, wearing Ray Bans, clutching tiny tourist maps and insisting on a fruitless hike up to Mt Cervix and beyond ‘just for a look around’ (uhh, yea, If you’d ever been traveling with my husband this would make a lot more sense). Then the egg that’s just been evicted will burst out, going full kamikaze for the exit, bitch-slapping each and every confused sperm on the way out “So long, suckers!”.
Have you watched Mia Freedman talk to ReachOut about life after year 12 exams? She’s helping year 12 students remember that their exams aren’t everything. (Post continues after video.)
Let’s say that by some miracle one of my eggs has a good day, accepts the invitation and makes a tiny person. The obvious question is always right there staring me in the face: I hold in my genes a condition which is hereditary. Does this mean I should tie my tubes and cut the chain? Is it my responsibility as a mentally ill woman never to reproduce? Is it selfish for me, or for anyone else with a hereditary mental health condition, to create new people and pass on the crazy? Should we refrain from making babies when there is so much they can inherit?
The answer is no fucking way.
I am not my illness. I have more to pass on than just crappy moods, bad days and unexplained tears.
I am creative. I’m intelligent. I’m curious and empathetic and sensitive and kind. Sure, I swear like a sailor, I get upset and grumpy and my eyes leak for days on end, but does that mean I can’t create an incredible human? No.
Living with my ‘problems’ makes me see things differently. I feel a tonne of emotion, I know right from wrong and I’m really not a bad person. I dream and I try every single day – and as far as I can tell, those are some of the most important lessons that we must teach our children.
I would never want my child to feel pain, but I know they will. Mental illness awareness is growing by the day, and a vast amount of assistance and empathy will be available to them, much more than I ever had growing up.
Plus, they’ll have something even better – a mother who knows exactly what it’s like. A mother who will hide under the covers with them and cry with them without asking a single question or telling them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘suck it up’. A mother who teaches them to love what is special about them, to be grateful for their strengths and be friends with their weaknesses.
So my eggs can whinge and cry and rage it, but I know that just like me they hold a tiny glimmer of hope that one day the clouds will lift. And if it’s true that you can’t love another until you love yourself, then maybe loving a mini version of you is the way to your own heart. In the meantime I’ll be here, holding my husband’s hand, going on those hikes ‘just for a look around’.
Bexy McFly is a writer from Sydney. You can read more of her work here.
What do you think of being a parent with depression?