Dating with a Disease – Part Five: Children

Babies? Wait, what? OK, this has clearly become a series about not just dating, but relationships, matters of the heart, and even families. Discussions about children often happen way before marriage (ideally anyway – you both want to be on the same page). Not everyone wants children, some people want a lot of children; regardless, it’s a topic that comes up. When talking about procreating or adopting children with Multiple Sclerosis, there are some pretty common questions that pop up.

Will they get MS?

I think one of the most common questions people think about when it comes to having children while suffering from MS, is “Will they get it? Will I pass this disease on to them?” The answer is a bit complicated and still not completely understood. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that “The average person in the United States has about a one in 750 (.1%) chance of developing MS. For first-degree relatives of a person with MS, such as children, siblings or non-identical twins, the risk rises to approximately 2.5-5%, with the risk being potentially higher in families that have several family members with the disease.” So the risk is small, additionally, genetics really seem to be one part of the equation that determines who gets MS. Other factors like ethnicity and geography are at play as well, so it’s not as simple as saying, I have MS so my child will have MS.

The genetic component in my experience

With my own experience, my father did not have MS, however, his father and his father’s father both had MS. We have a very well researched family history, and while looking through it, we can see that some of our ancestors suffered from issues that most certainly could have been MS, had such a diagnosis been a possibility at the time. So, anecdotally, looking at my own family’s history, there certainly seems to be a fairly important genetic component (or we are just super unlucky). That’s just my family though; there are many people who acquire MS and seemingly have never had another family member with it. Even with my family’s history, this would not stop me from having children, especially with the way new treatments have been coming out.

Can I care for them?

As my disease progresses, can I care for children? This has always been my biggest concern. OK, not always, but when I was put on disability, it became a concern. Financial concerns are at the top of the list (I’ve personally always believed that you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford to provide for them yourself). Having children is expensive, and I simply could not support a child alone. If I were married to someone with a decent job that could provide for us, I would then have a different concern. Namely, can I physically care for them? For me, that wouldn’t be easy, particularly for a young child. I personally would have to think very hard about that with my current level of disability.

Kids, man

Having kids while battling Multiple Sclerosis isn’t an easy choice. A few concerns are common; I do believe there is something worthwhile to offer, though. If you can deal with the logistics, I think there is a certain amount of pride children can take from knowing that their parent is battling a disease. Yes, there is a lot of heartache that will come with it, too. For all the negatives though, I think it can certainly have its benefits, too. I say this as someone who grew up living with a grandfather that was disabled by MS. While not my direct parent, he required 24 hour care from my family and that had a massive impact on our family.

Great source of pride

I can say now, years later, despite any inconveniences and pain that happened along the way, I am better off for having lived in that situation. It helped me have an appreciation for life and for caring for others well before I had MS myself. To this day, it is a source of pride for me that my family stood by him, took him in, and cared for him. Just as it’s a source of pride that he battled the disease for so long. Those things most certainly impacted me in a positive way. So for those of you who have children or want children and worry about your disease, remember that while there are some logistical nightmares, there can be some great benefits, too.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

My Other Articles On MultipleSclerosis.netFollow Me On Facebook

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (7)
  • Vanora34
    4 months ago

    Amen ❤thank you for writing this God bless you **

  • mollyculelove
    4 months ago

    Another great article thank you. I have my childhood love coming into town tomorrow and he wants to get married and start a family in the course of two years when he finishes school and saves up some money. I haven’t told him about my MS diagnoses yet. I had pretty much decided to not have kids after finding out about this MS diagnosis 6 months ago as I have a rare .7 in a million migraine condition I’ve had since I was 2 yrs old that they don’t know the cause of and my mom is sick with a laundry list of auto immune diseases and every woman in my moms side of the family has an auto immune disease. My sister started getting an auto immune illness before she died at 23. But now I realize if I would have kids it would be with him. But would also would be like playing Russian roulette of genetics with a child. Is that even fair to do? On a good day I can barely care for myself and am on disability. I just started my second Ocrevus infusion (so my first full dose) maybe it will help. I guess I will talk to my neurologist at my next appointment see what he says. How exactly does this disease impact a relationship? I just realized this morning that my body noticeably shakes and spasms in a way that it doesn’t from a year ago when he was here and I have a portacath now. He saw me grab my ear on FaceTime the other night from the intense loud ringing I get now I think from all my lesions and plaques in my brain and got really worried. Probably no sugarcoating the conversations about this disease is there? Any advice? On the upside he knows me better than anyone and accepts me better than anyone. Wish me luck 🙂

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you mollyculelove! Good luck! You’re right, there really is no sugarcoating some aspects of this disease. That said, nothing is guaranteed, to anyone. Plenty of people without a history like yours end up with issues too, or get hit by cars, or who knows what else. Life is unpredictable, whether you have disease or not. Science is getting better too (we didn’t even have Ocrevus a couple years ago, when I was diagnosed, we only had two to three options, when my grandfather was diagnosed, they had zero options, and I look how far they’ve come and it’s just amazing). I guess my point is, you should never rule anything out, be realistic, discuss everything, but don’t rule anything out. If having a child is something you both really want, it can happen. You can do just about anything with this disease, it may just take a tad more adapting and preparing than others, but you can do anything.

  • collena
    4 months ago

    Great article, thanks. So glad my children are older now, yet the genetics do still concern me in terms of grandchildren yet to come.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks collena! I most certainly understand that concern, but, even though it doesn’t seem like, medicine is getting much better too!

  • messeeone
    4 months ago

    I had my first son pre-MS. When I was diagnosed he was 8 months old, and people said, “Oh, you’re so brave!” When, four years later I had my second son, people looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t believe I am brave or crazy, just blessed and called to have kids. One thing I did do before having son #2 was rally the troops and enlist a close support group to help us and guide us, much like your family, Devin, coming together to care for your grandfather. It takes a small village, I think, people who can lend a hand, their time, and most of all, who “get” that it’s a trip that takes some planning, some tears and humor, and lots of love!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks so much for sharing bandmom! A great support system is so key to a successful life with MS!

  • Poll