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Statistics show that if one parent has bipolar disorder the chance of a child developing bipolar disorder goes up somewhat, to somewhere around 10-20%. If both parents are bipolar, the likelihood that a child will develop bipolar disorder at some point in their life approaches 50%.

I have a good friend who frequently likes to tell me how fortunate I am not to have children, because, after all, if I did, they’d probably be screwed up.  Now, I know my friend sounds mean, but she’s not.  She is certainly blunt, but has good intentions.  She has two teenagers, and when they were little, their dad suffered from deep depression and “flat-lined” emotionally.  Therefore, he had little interaction with them, and they were primarily raised by their incredibly stressed-out mom, my friend.  She recalls feeling like a “single mom” during that period.

And now her kids are, in her words, “screwed up.”  She begs and pleads with me not to have children, and she may very well get her wish, due to medical reasons.  But it does dredge up a painful issue for me.

Growing up, I dreamed of having a husband and a couple of kids.  I was your typical girl in that respect.  Long before the thought of writing books ever entered my mind, I knew I wanted to be a mom.  Now I’m 29 years old and my husband is 37 and I hear the clock ticking.

But having biological children seems so risky.  I wouldn’t wish my bipolar on my worst enemy, so how is it any better taking a chance on your kids inheriting it?  So I figure, well, I can always adopt.  But is it fair to raise a child with the roller coaster of emotions that is bipolar?

Is bipolar a sentence for loneliness and dreams lost?  When all the little pamphlets say that people with BP can live “happy, productive” lives, does that mean happy and productive by mentally ill standards?

Is trying to have a normal life too risky and dangerous?

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I don’t know that I’ve ever written this before, because it is so deeply personal, but the older I get, the more I feel the need to talk about it.

Having children. When my husband and I got married, we moved into a 3-bedroom house because we intended to start a family a year later. I can’t describe the excitement and joy I had over the idea. I used to sit and sketch what I thought our children would look like. I loved them before they were even created. A girl would be Emily, a boy would be Noah.

But life got in the way. My husband became seriously physically ill, and I was mentally ill. We lost jobs, our finances dissipated, and our marriage started to crumble. Not only were we not in a position to have kids, we found that we couldn’t. The dream began to fade, and we downsized our living arrangements. But we’re in a different place now. Our marriage is good, our finances are more in order, and we’ve grown as Christians. I pushed it out of my mind for as long as I could. I vowed to focus on a writing career and poured out the love I had saved up for my own kids onto my 4 precious nieces and nephews. Our home is covered in pictures of them. We became surrogate parents to two of them.

Most of the time, I look around my apartment and deeply appreciate the peace and quiet, and I love the fact that our second bedroom has been turned into an office for me to work in. But sometimes I stand there in the doorway and envision a nursery. I picture our lives with children. When I try, I am able to focus my attention elsewhere, but down deep, I long to be a mommy. There are things I always wanted to shower my children with – a love for nature, the ability to swim at a young age, and a passion for all things Christmas. Most of all, I wanted to raise my kids with the knowledge of Christ, which is something I had very little of, and bring them up in a church family. I wanted people to look at our little ones and try and figure out which parent they looked like most. I wanted to throw them birthday parts, be honest and open with them about sex, and make our home a place for their troubled friends to come and feel like a part of the family.

I don’t know if we’ll ever have kids. If you asked me to my face, I’d tell you I didn’t mind.

But I do. Deeply. I’m almost 30 and I care now more than ever before.

It can be hard loving someone who isn’t here, and might never be, but I can’t help but love anyway.

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