Monday, 13 August 2012

My AVM Story: Reflections on Having Kids Post-Stroke

My niece, Gillian, is celebrating her first birthday on August 20. I will be attending her birthday party next Sunday. I've been thinking a lot lately about how having the stroke changed (or didn't change) my feelings about having kids

Gillian - A Force to be Reckoned With, And Not Yet a Year Old

Gillian has got quite the personality for such a little girl. I saw her over the weekend, and she's almost walking on her own - she doesn't quite have the confidence to let go of Mommy or Daddy's hand yet, but she's so close to taking off by herself. She talks constantly (some of it is even words!), loves looking at her board books, and is a total ham for the camera. She's got a big, broad, smile and a laugh that breaks my heart. She's just precious.
Just learning to walk...

Being a Post-Stroke Mom

Having kids isn't out of the question for me. It would require a lot of planning. I take some medications (for the seizure disorder that I developed after the stroke) that aren't safe for a developing fetus, so I'd need to be slowly switched off of the ones I currently take and onto ones that would be safe for the baby. I'd want to talk with my neurosurgeon about the possibility of another stroke.

I'd think that it would be remote at this point, but it's always in the back of my mind that the post-surgery stroke didn't happen at the AVM site. I've never been exactly sure why that stroke happened, actually.

And there's the issue of my weak side caused by my stroke, of course. My sister has a friend who knew of a women who raised several babies using one hand - she apparently got so good at it that no one thought anything of it. I believe it, but I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to figure out how to do.
Happy Gillian

Lots of "Mothering" Opportunities...

The logistics of having my children seem difficult to work out for me. Someone asked me recently if the prospect of that makes me sad. I guess on some level it does, a little bit. But I've been hedging on the idea of having children in adulthood since high school. It's not that I don't like children - I very much like them. When I was younger, I was frightened that I wouldn't be a very good mother. As I've gotten older, I've just never had the sense that other women seem to experience, that having children is something that I need to do.

I look around me and I see all sorts of children in my circle of influence that need a strong female presence in their life, and I think, "I can be that for them if they need it...if they want it."  And I don't think that it's a coincidence that in the job I had supporting youth with intellectual disabilities, I'd often slip and call them "my kids". I know the importance of professional boundaries and can easily keep them, but in my heart I'm very attached to and protective of all the people I support, the young people included...even the ones who come to me with many supports already in place.

And when Gillian breaks into a smile when she sees me, it's enough. I feel very fortunate just to be here after the surgery and stroke to be a part of her life, to be able to watch her grow and to be one of the women surrounding her with love and support.


  1. You're very wise about this, Sarah. I think as women, we're expected to have strong feelings either for or against having children of our own, but that's very often not the case, and it's something that can change over time for many reasons. I feel there's no way I could have children, or would want them in my circumstances (because of ill health rather than physical function) but I don't know what I'd want if I were healthy. But I count this as a blessing; I know some women - and men - who absolutely long to be mothers or fathers and can't be, and that seems to be very painful indeed.

    As you can say, it's good to be involved in children and young people, and it is very important that kids have adults other than their parents to look up to, to offer guidance and example. And the time, energy and love, we might have put into parenting is there to give our friends, families and others in our lives, so nothing is ever wasted.

    Gillian is gorgeous. I have a five year old nephew and my first niece is due any minute, but my sister has an intuition that she'll be born on the 20th. :-)

  2. Thank you for those words, Goldfish...they mean a lot, coming from you. I've been very lucky, that we've had a few close family friends for as long as I can remember that have been childless either by choice or circumstance and that have been always been sources of comfort, safety and empowerment when I needed it. They've really showed me that you don't have to be a parent yourself to have a profoundly positive influence on many childrens' lives.

    Gillian's my first niece. I can't believe she's been with us a year! I hope that your sister's delivery goes smoothly. :)