I’ve always looked forward to one day having children but MS has forced us to press pause on that for now.
Within a year of my diagnosis I’d gone from running a half marathon to using a wheelchair and living with chronic pain. We got married in 2017 but we knew we wouldn’t be rushing into having children. I have to consider that I take over 100 tablets a week to manage the pain and spasticity-related issues caused by my MS. Thankfully, according to the pain clinic, it’s possible to remain on the majority of these medications while pregnant, but there is still so much to consider.
Like, is it worth having a baby if that causes me further disability and pain, and how is that fair on my husband or the baby? As much as we’d love to become parents someday, I’d much rather put what we have now first, to put my health first.
I owe it to myself, my husband and any future baby that I fight to get myself in the best possible health I can before we consider heading down that road.
Even then, I have to consider things like how will I manage lifting and carrying a baby with weakness in my arms? How will I manage my fatigue? What do I do if I’m in a pain flare?
I worry about the future, of course I do, but I’m excited too, excited about the adventures that await us and hopeful about the new MS treatment I’m about to start. This child-free time, in a strange sort of way, seems like a gift. It’s probably not time we’d have had together were it not for MS.
But it’s time that we treasure and thoroughly enjoy - from getting to travel loads to getting a dog and having the time to rediscover my love for art, a hobby that helps me cope on the tough days, there’s been many positives. So when my husband’s job offered us the chance to move abroad for a few years, we seized it. We head to Germany this autumn and we can’t wait.
None of us know what the future holds, so we’re grabbing life by both hands. Age is in my favour so if, in a few years, we can have a baby without it compromising my health then that’s what we’ll do. If not, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. It’s the here and now that matters most.
I was diagnosed with MS when I was 31. I had recently gotten engaged and becoming a father seemed like a natural progression. Throw MS into the mix, however, and there's a lot more to consider. For example, fertility became a major factor when deciding which medication to take. I was given so many information packs but as my MS was relatively stable, I only considered medication that would not affect my fertility.
Thankfully, less than a year later we were expecting our first child.
When initially diagnosed, one of my first thoughts was “how long until I'm going to need a wheelchair?” I now know that relying on mobility aids is by no means the end of the world and in many ways can really help improve a person’s quality of life. Accessibility is the issue that concerns me, as one thing I’ve noticed as a parent pushing a buggy is there are so many obstacles to overcome, such as access to elevators and cars blocking
pathways. This opened my eyes to the issues people using wheelchairs face on a daily basis.
Places tend to be avoided if they are not easily accessible, whereas a small change in mindset regarding accessibility would make a big difference to so many people.
My son is two-and-a-half now. I struggle lifting him for any prolonged period nowadays as the base of my spine becomes too painful. I attribute this to an unsuccessful lumbar puncture I had while being tested for diagnosis. It's difficult trying to juggle family life at the best of times - you want to prioritise your child's wellbeing at all costs. Yet, with both parents working full-time, trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, having to remember to take your medication and vitamin D supplements, all the while dealing with fatigue, brain fog and countless other symptoms, conscious that if I sway far enough away from the daily routine then a potential relapse could be waiting for me - it can be a strain to say the least.
That said, there's no stopping him from getting up to all sorts these days. Cuts and scrapes happen so often now he believes plasters are the solution to all life's problems. So when his Daddy is having some well-needed rest and he bursts into the bedroom.... "Dada, get up
Dada!!" "Sorry son, Daddy isn't feeling well and needs to rest"
"I will get you a plaster".... I can't help but smile.
Keith will write more on this topic at www.keifib.wordpress.com
Rosie also blogs about life with MS at www.sherunswithms.wordpress.com