Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Won’t Roll the Biological Dice

Because of my ominous genetic history, I decided I would never have children. Got a problem with that?
. . .genetic testing showed that I have a 67 percent chance of passing on the illness responsible for my younger sister's death. The statistics were sobering, and they meant that my husband and I would never have a child of our own. I grieved the loss of that version of our future. But knowing my child was likely to carry danger in her cells, I chose not to take the risk. My husband understood.

I knew that in deciding not to be a mother, I was making a choice that would define the rest of my life. But my fear surpassed longing: fear that my child would be ill and die before her time, or that my child would be well and I would worry her away from me.
Now that is a selfless choice.

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Kelsey said...

Both me and my partner have mental illnesses with significant pass-on rates, and that is one of the major reasons we have chosen not to have kids. I have had a difficult life due to my illness (bipolar disorder), and it is not something I would wish on anyone.

I am thus amazed when I hear people tell me "but...there's a 30% chance your kid might not have it, so you should still try". To me, that seems selfish. I do like kids, but I think it would be extremely selfish to spin a roulette wheel with such bad odds, where the only person to suffer the consequences of my decision would be a child. So, I am always amazed when I hear people call me selfish for not taking that risk, when really, I see it as the opposite - choosing to take that risk at a child's expense seems extremely selfish to me.

Jennifer said...

Amen, Kelsey. I don't know if I would have chosen to breed if my mother wasn't schizophrenic, but I consider it utterly irresponsible to have a child who might be condemned to such a life. And I've gotten the same thing from people: "You don't know the child would be afflicted!" Why in the hell would I take that chance?!?