t h e w o r l d o f i n v i s i b l e i l l n e s s


I used to think that if something didn’t turn out right (cake batter or laundering a stained blouse, say) the way to apply a fix was to add something.  More flour to the batter.  An applique over the stain.  I’d like to say those solutions worked, but we both know better.

So why do we seek to add a BIG COMPLICATION to an already-complicated situation?  I’m not talking returning a dog to the pound because he digs under the fence.  Or changing your mind about that four grand worth of furniture.

When a couple is pregnant (no, when a woman is pregnant; his job came and went) minds can’t be changed.  There’s no refunding or returning or throwing away.  Unless the baby is really ugly, adding an applique is foolish.  That marital satisfaction “plummets” after a baby arrives on the scene surprises couples.  That the surprise lasts for at least 18 more years is an even bigger one.

For couples who may always be in the throes of adjusting to the vagrancies of an invisible disability, a child’s demands may prove to be a tipping point.  If  disability involves fatigue (lupus, ms, cfids, heart condition, Lymes disease, and others) the impact of irregular and insufficient sleep is critical.

Such small examples and those few questions represent the immensity of the potential problems a couple with children may face.  Having a baby in the house is only the beginning.   Have the strength to hold and carry a baby?  Balance and mobility to walk with one?  Can you keep up with a toddler?

I get tired just lookin’ at this kid.

Attend every soccer game?  Cope with a tantrum?  Make dozens of cookies?  Help with homework after your own work?  Stay awake worrying when your teen is past curfew?  Teach your kid to drive?  Have the ability to exercise patience throughout a child’s growth?  Does your mental health enable you to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally present in a healthy way?

Face it:  Relationship is hard work.   Every.  Day.  Parenting is hard work.   Every.  Day.  And when the two are combined every day has the potential to be twice as hard.

There is no discounting the joy that children can bring, any less than relationship can complete us in a way we can’t do by ourselves.  However, like most everything else, awareness of what your choices may mean is the key.  Deciding to add a child to your family will present challenges and difficulties; expect it.  That your disability will be impacted in negative ways will happen; expect it.

Be sure your decision about having children is a hard one to make.

What do you think? How do you balance parenting with your invisible disability? Do you wish you’d made a different decision?  Comment and let us know.

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist in private practice.   In the high plains of Colorado with her partner, David, and their twin tabbies, Petey and Lucy, they all live with her multiple sclerosis.

Categories: Effect of invisible (hidden) disability on relationship

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