Family planning and MS

Choosing to have a family, in the knowledge that you have MS, is never easy.

It's a huge life changing decision, even when you're well, so I would never pretend that my choice was simple. However, it was fairly uncomplicated. 

Catherine Doran with her husband and children

Image courtesy of Stephen Latimer Photography

My husband and I had only been engaged six months when my MS diagnosis hit us like a juggernaut. Our wedding was planned for 12 months later. So of course having a family was on the agenda. We simply had to decide if, and when, we wanted to make that leap.

Perhaps we were naive, but children were a priority for us and we choose to plough on regardless.

I'm actually glad of that naivety almost five years on. Because now we are parents to two beautiful girls who fill our lives with joy daily.

I think, in retrospect, that I may have waited longer; given ourselves some time to find our feet as a couple, with MS in the picture. Instead, we adjusted with a bundle of joy by our side.

Yes, it was tough going. Battling fatigue and constant pain accompanied by night feeds and temper tantrums is not a walk in the park. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

In recent times I've been asked if I've ever felt guilty, knowing that my children would grow up with a 'sick' mum. Honestly, I don't. I believe that guilt is something that is part and parcel of parenthood and I take heart from the fact that I am a great mother, regardless of MS. 

I also think all parents carry guilt, about everything from forgetting their kids' lunchboxes to missing sports day because they're at work.

Another way of looking at it is that I went into motherhood knowing what lay ahead. Many others haven't got that luxury. Illness, in all of its guises, does not discriminate. Every one of us could fall sick in the morning, and the prospects may not be as good as mine. 

That may sound flippant, and it's not meant to. I merely mean that having multiple sclerosis is not the worst thing to happen to me. It's something I would rather live without but it's here and I'm learning to live with it, not fight against it. For me, that means carrying on regardless, including having a family. 

Of course, I also hope beyond hope every day that MS does not attack me too harshly while my children are growing up. I always beg silently to let them get to an age where they can understand MS properly before it does its worst.

But if it does, my husband and I will face that bump in the road together.

As a family unit we are stronger because of MS. Every day is lived to the fullest, every joy is celebrated ten times over.

We know we have each other, no matter what lies ahead. As parents, and children, surely that's all that matters.

Catherine Doran, 32, lives in Northern Ireland with her husband Joe and their two daughters, Charlotte, 3, and Lucy, 1. Diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2009, she works as a journalist at the Derry Journal three days a week. She blogs at www.alifecopingwithms.blogspot.com

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