Pregnancy can be exhausting and painful even on those with good health. So it’s even more difficult being pregnant and having a chronic illness. I’m now 35 weeks pregnant and it’s starting to wear me down. But that doesn’t mean that those of us with chronic conditions can’t carry or have a child of our own. There is still a massive stigma surrounding us who have an invisible illness or un-curable but not life-threatening illnesses. And one I have experienced since becoming pregnant is people rudely asking;
“So, if you are that sick – why are you having a baby?”
The first time someone said that to me I cried for an hour when I got home, how dare someone make out that because I am chronically unwell I am not fit to be a parent? I just couldn’t understand it. Yes, I struggle more than a healthy woman would carry a baby, I get exhausted walking up the stairs, I am in pain constantly in different parts of my body and find walking increasingly hard-work. But that doesn’t make me unfit to care for my own baby. I have made sure this baby will have the best start in life and improved myself a lot to make sure I will be the best parent I can be. There is nothing wrong with being disabled or chronically unwell and having a child. It doesn’t mean I make my illness up and it doesn’t mean I can’t look after my son. It means pacing myself, learning to take rests often and make sure I keep my body as healthy as it can be.
So, these are my top tips for anyone who may be reading this who are currently pregnant and chronically unwell or someone who wants to have a child of their own and is afraid of what others may think.
1. Don’t listen to other people.
Yes, it sounds very cliche, but everyone seems to suddenly become a doctor or social worker when a person becomes pregnant. Old wives tales will be told and judgments will be made, especially if you are young, unwell, genderfluid or in a same-sex relationship, as some people don’t think anyone who isn’t married and older than 25 should have children. Don’t listen to them, let them tut and give you looks. You or your partner is carrying your baby, not anyone else.
2. Be kind to yourself.
As I struggle with BPD and anxiety I have found myself at times being very hard on myself. I remember eating some mayonnaise accidentally during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and crying my eyes out thinking I was a bad mum. I wasn’t a bad mum for eating something on accident. It’s not like I was downing a bottle of vodka but my mind wouldn’t stop telling me how much of a failure I was. Be Always kind to yourself even when those thoughts come. Carrying a baby is amazing but hard and you have to give up a lot, so never ever be hard on yourself for accidently eating something or getting a bit stressed. You are doing amazing and them thoughts need to be buried.
3. Rest, rest and more rest.
Take as much time as you need to let yourself rest and never feel bad for it. If you can no longer walk to the corner shop then that’s just fine, if you can’t bend down to get your shoes on then that’s also fine. And even if you can’t get out of bed one day that’s fine as well, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about needing to rest. You are carrying a lot of extra weight and baby is taking a lot of your vitamins, its damn hard but you have got this! Don’t ever feel guilty for needing those rests and just remember only because your chronic illness is flaring up doesn’t mean it will stay that way after the baby has arrived.
If you are what society deems ‘not appropriate’ to have a baby, well tell them to go do one. If you want a child, no matter if it is through pregnancy, fostering, adoption or surrogacy then don’t let what others think or say stop you. I’m a 20-year-old who is chronically unwell, unable to work and suffers from mental illness who got pregnant after only a few short months with my partner. But I am happy, I know I will do amazing regardless of what others think about my situation and anyone else out there should feel the same way. As long as you aren’t putting any harm to your baby then don’t ever feel bad. Everyone deserves the chance to have their own family.
Written by: Gemma Price