A gluten-free blog about the life of a celiac in college (and now grad school). Full of personal stories about life with celiac disease and fibromyalgia; gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes; and product and restaurant reviews. Plus, reflects on body image, dating and more with a chronic illness!
I've used the analogy before: celiac disease as a masked bandit, stealing my weight, my running and my self esteem in one smooth swoop. More than ever, though, I wonder, "Will I let it get my possible future children, too?"
The genetic risks of having a child has crossed my mind before. Although I haven't publicized it on the blog, I actually have another autoimmune disorder called fibromyalgia. For those of you who don't know, it involves the over-firing of pain receptors throughout the body. This causes people with fibro (as we call it) to experience constant pain, stay sore longer after physical exertion (because the muscles heal slower) and even have "fibro-fog," the ultimate brain fart.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 10 after I severely broke my wrist and didn't go to the hospital until the next day because it "didn't hurt more than usual."
Flash forward eightyears when celiac disease added more pages to my tree-killer of a medical file. Just like after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, celiac disease didn't seem too bad at first. After all, I figured I'd already experienced the worst of it, i.e. the joy of gluten shredding my insides. At least with celiac I could stop m y pain by walking away from the bread! And, luckily for me, going gluten free has drastically improved my fibromyalgia symptoms as well.
Nearly ten years into fibro and a year into celiac, though, my vision of the future is littered with medical charts. I'm finally at the age where I have to perform the nope-no-sex-for-me dance with the doctor. Now, compared to schoolgirls giggling at a slumber party, my dorm mates and I seriously discuss how many kids we dream of having. I've always had the same answer: "Two at least, three at most, including one or more adopted."
The adorable mini-Casey!
Except now, as I look down at my skinny legs and pat the belly bloated from forced over-feeding to make up for lost wisdom teeth weight, I wonder.
I wonder: Do I dare birth a child knowing my genetics could damn them to my same fate?
Now I won't sell myself short. My genes aren't celebs, but they're not on the streets. I'm moderately intelligent, extremely hardworking and (sometimes) socially competent. Plus I can whip up a killer gluten free pizza.
But I also carry the time bombs. With one little gene, they could never know what it feels like to not hurt. They could have to suffer through glutenings, to be the weirdo who turns down birthday cake at a party, to view their body as an enemy that constantly needs to be restrained. I could be the reason they cry.
I could doom them to this...
I also wonder, though: How can I not dare? How can I let yet another part of me - my choice to have a biological child - be driven by my disease(s). The fact is, genetics don't play by set rules. My parents debated over whether to have me for worry of passing on my Mom's fibro (which was, at the time, misdiagnosed as the fataldisease of lupus). They decided to do it, and, in the end, I got fibro from Mom and celiac from Dad. Go figure. No, really, someone show me the figures.
Because when, or if, I have a baby, the figures will be equally impossible to calculate. My baby may get it, they might not. Scientists may have a cure for celiac disease, fibromyalgia or (hopefully) both by that time. Maybe not. And we won't even mention the variables that my husband might bring...
One thing that is certain? If my baby inherits those diseases, they'll inherit otherthings as well. They'll inherit the feeling of accomplishment and empowerment after eating out safely for the first time. Medical jargon will form a bond between my child and thousands of other affected individuals all around the globe. And if my health struggles have given me anything, it's an appreciation for good days and a solid spine of stubbornness during the bad.
Street cred? Not so much...
Disease can steal a lot from a person, but, as I dream vaguely of a child - biological, adopted, or just babysat - in my arms, I know there is one thing it can't take from me: an open-ended possibility. And right now, a baby of my own is just that.
Have you ever felt like a disease stole something from you? Does a health problem/food allergy/celiac impact the way you view having kids? Comment below!