So You Think I Shouldn’t Have Had Children

18 Mar

I’m an optimist.  Optimistic about situations but mostly about people.  I believe people are good.  I believe we are are more alike than different.  And I believe in the power of communication and connection.

So when I saw this tweet from Anderson Cooper’s @andersonlive two weeks ago, I hoped for the best.

ALParenting Tweet

The tweet was intended to foster controversy, but surely the general public doesn’t believe that moms are taking medications because it is “trendy.”  My twitter tribe took to their computers and responded in force.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 5.26.47 PM Andrea Tweet

And then just when I was beginning to think that people would understand that mothers are treating their illnesses, I made the mistake of visiting the comments on the Anderson Live FaceBook page.

FaceBook Screenshots Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 5.34.38 PM Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 5.34.14 PM

The PPD Blogger community responded in force there, too, with thousands of words about stigma, motherhood, and mental health.  And there *were* comments that reasonably placed the responsibility to determine who genuinely needs medication on the shoulders of the medical community.  But I was shocked at the large percentage of folks who believe that people suffering from mental illness just shouldn’t have children.

These folks believe that mental illness is a character flaw and possibly a death sentence – they believe that because I take medication for anxiety, I shouldn’t have had children.  Because I am an optimist, I choose to think they are just uneducated, products of a culture awash in stigma and misinformation.  I hope that with exposure to education and to individuals who thrive (yes, even as parents) despite their diagnosis of “mentally ill,” they might change their minds.

But if not – if they still believe that the mentally ill shouldn’t procreate because of a perceived burden on unborn children and society in general, let me ask this:

If an ideal life is the criteria on which a person’s right to reproduce is to be based, who among us would ever have children?

Would these same dissenters tell a paraplegic to refrain from starting a family because of the difficulties the children may encounter being raised by a parent with some special needs?  Should my diabetic friend and advocate Melissa have not had children because her disease puts her at risk of disorienting low blood sugars?  What about a parent suffering from a genetic disorder that may be passed onto their child?  

I am just like any other person treating a medical condition. Make no mistake.  Though they are invisible, my anxiety, PPD, and PPOCD are (or were) medical conditions.   20% of the US population suffers from mental illness, with the average age for onset of symptoms being 30.  That’s one in five.  Your neighbors.  Your sisters and brothers.  Your friends.  And quite possibly your parents.

If you are a mother with a mood or anxiety disorder, I want you to hear that those trolls above?  They are wrong.  I know you.  I know how hard you work to keep yourself healthy and happy.  I know that despite your mood swings, you are a loving parent who lights up your child’s life.  And though you may need the assistance of medication and therapy to combat your anxiety, you bring to their world your talents, your strengths, and there is no better parent for them.

Don’t let the ignorance of a few Facebook comments cloak you in shame.  We are all flawed.  It’s what makes us beautiful and real.  As people and as parents.

34 Responses to “So You Think I Shouldn’t Have Had Children”

  1. Charity March 18, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Oh so glad I didn’t read more of those comments. I am not as gracious as yourself.

  2. Kimberly M (@momgosomething) March 18, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I really wished that I had seen this unfold. I’m glad that all of you stood up to this jerk hole. This isn’t the first time he’s razzled feathers. He should be using his platform to help eliminate stigma and to educate the public. Such a shame and waste of air.

  3. MelissaBL March 18, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Well said, my friend. Your optimism and faith in people proves how exceptional a parent you must be. Who would deprive any child of the opportunity to learn such grace by example?

  4. (@KathyAMorelli) March 18, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Hi Susan – Intelligent response to those who are well, just trolls, and to the Anderson network promotion team. .

  5. Tina March 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Very well said Susan! I loved how you ended the piece. It is so true.

  6. motherhoodisnotforsissies March 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Like we knew BEFORE we had our children that we were going to suffer from PPD. You think it never crossed my mind that perhaps I should never have been a mom. You think i never spent HOURS wondering why I could cope without my medication. God help those souls that find it their right to judge and criticize and think they could / have done it better without the help that some of us need. What small minds with too much time on their hands. Thank you to Susan for showing yourself the same compassion you do others. Continue to be kind to yourself.

  7. Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) March 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Hey, that’s me! :>

    What a well written and thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing your take and standing up to fight the good fight when needed. Sending love – because we’re all real. And those douchenozzles know diddly!

  8. story3girl March 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Sad that people are so disconnected that they can make comments like that. It’s because they don’t think of people with mental illnesses as people, because they could never in their wildest dreams imagine YOU into existence. Because anyone who has ever met you knows that you totally should have had kids and that your girls are so lucky to have you.

    Maybe that’s the solution. Everyone in the country just needs to meet you.


    • learnedhappiness March 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

      Me? No, not just me. You. Jaime. Lindsay. Katherine. Andrea. Yael. Yuz. Miranda. Kathy. Kim. Charity. Christi. Rachel. I could go on and on. We are ALL examples of great mothers.

      • Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) March 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

        omg, that almost made me cry. *sniffle* Love to you, my friend. To the whole lot of you-s and us-es and each and every mom in need of this reminder. xo

  9. Lesley March 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Beautiful! I know I hesitated to ask for help the first time because my MIL, a former psych nurse, kept spouting on that all women with PPD were fakers or baby killers. I was so afraid that my husband would feel the same because that was his background experience. Luckily I was wrong. But stuff like this makes it so very hard to get help.

  10. heidi.d March 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Part of me says “Good for you for standing up for yourself and your beliefs” and another part of me says these sensationalist comments are all a publicity stunt and we should ignore it.” I hate to give him the attention, thus clicks he’s trying to get.

    • learnedhappiness March 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      I understand where you’re coming from. I considered that before contributing to the dialogue that unfolded on twitter and the facebook page. Ultimately I feel like when mental illness (especially PPD and women’s mental health issues) are getting airtime (both Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper did shows on it that week), if people like me don’t speak up, then only the trolls have a voice.

  11. Robin Macfarlane March 18, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Awesome post! I especially love this: “If an ideal life is the criteria on which a person’s right to reproduce is to be based, who among us would ever have children?” Brilliant. I am definitely going to be quoting you later on 🙂 Stigma needs a swift kick in the butt, and it’s up to us to get it done.

  12. Kristin Novotny (@littlemamajama) March 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Well said, Susan! It’s so unfortunate to see so much ignorance. Thank you for being willing to speak out.

  13. Esther (@cornmuffinsmama) March 19, 2013 at 2:16 am #

    Very well stated. Such hateful ignorance from these people.

  14. Amber @fourkidslater March 19, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Well put. Ignorant people never cease to amaze me.

  15. Me March 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I am sure the people leaving those comments would be shocked to learn how many of their friends, relatives, co-workers take some sort of mood stabilizer, anti-D, anti-Anxiety medication or have at some point in their life.

  16. tranquilamama March 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Susan, this is such a brilliant post . Thank you for this well stated reminder. Thank you for showing us all how to handle this issue with grace. The grace you show us and yourself never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for inspiring me to be more vocal.

  17. Adrienne Bolton (@TheMommyMess) March 22, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Wow, I wasn’t up on this controversy. People are so quick to judge and say hateful things. Your children are blessed to have a mom who knows her limits and faces her fears, even if that means being judged by the Anderson Coopers of the world. Keep your chin up! I suffer from anxiety and pretty certain my kids are better off when I take something! 😉

  18. Rach DonutsMama March 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Those comments sicken and anger me and reveal the deep seated ignorance of many in our society. It’s not just ignorance, but plain stupidity and an unwillingness to even understand the issues. I’m a bright, educated woman who has struggled with depression and anxiety and I’m a freaking fantastic mother. I’m involved, I educate my child and talk to her. I cook daily for her, play with her and she’s thriving in an incredible way. And I have weaknesses just like every single parent in this world. There’s no perfect parent. You can’t make sure people have a certain IQ level before having kids or make sure they pass other tests. Why this stigma?

    And BTW, the fact that Anderson Cooper has Snooki on his show should tell you about his ignorance.

    • learnedhappiness March 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      When did AC stop reporting news and become a talk show host. Ugh.

      You’re right, of course. And it literally makes me grin from ear to ear to hear you speak about what a great mother you are. Because it’s true. I think that when folks feel they must make judgmental comments, it reveals something about their own shame. Their ignorant comments are about their ignorance, not ours.

  19. (@KathyAMorelli) March 25, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Nice post.

  20. Kayly Newcomer March 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    I’ve been periodically checking in on the comments there and found your post. Well said! Thank you for being more gracious than I was in my response. I am not nearly as optimistic as you are. 41 years on the planet appx 31 of which with depression and anxiety has conditioned me to see the worst in people in response to this illness.

  21. Raine March 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    omg. Anderson Cooper. that was definitely trying to make a stir. who has heard of people taking meds just to be trendy? I think most of the time meds are the opposite of trendy. Theres the whole stigma around taking them – that those people are perpetrating. I can’t even believe how people think. Maybe people with mental illness shouldnt have drivers licenses? huh? jerks.


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