*If there is a history of a genetic disorder in you or your extended family, it's best to ask for genetic counselling before becoming pregnant. The number of tests available for genetic disorders is increasing every year, although they don't tell the potential severity of the condition.My first baby was born in 1996 and I couldn't have been more happy. The few "bumps" I had seemed to grow a little ... and a few more seemed to pop up. But they didn't hurt or cause me any issues, so I didn't worry...And when my 2nd child was born in 1997, I knew that being a mother was exactly what I was meant to be.
I was 7 years old when I KNEW I wanted to become a mother. Carol Brady was my idol, and I wanted to be just like her.
Neurofibromatosis never entered my mind, when it came to wanting children. In fact, as far as I knew, I had nothing to worry about with regards to NF. I was examined as a child, after my older brother Mike was diagnosed with NF, and my parents were told I didn't have it...so why would I worry?
I was confused when I began to have some NF symptoms, but was continually dismissed by doctors, whenever I would bring them up. I was simply "birthmarky and freckly", and didn't need to worry.
None of my obstetricians mentioned the bumps (that were very obvious)....Until my 6th pregnancy.
As I wrote in my book, Thriving with Neurofibromatosis , this was my wake up call...when I finally "got NF"...The moment I realized I had been overlooked and seemingly ignored by the medical community, and personally ashamed and hiding in fear from my own concerns and doubts for FAR too long.
That 6th pregnancy - when an obstetrician indirectly, but effectively, shamed me for bringing children into the world. I knew then and there I had a battle on my hands. I knew that I would have some explaining to do, to those in my life, around my life, and even to myself to a degree, to create an understanding as to why on earth I would risk damning my children with such a dreaded "disease".
It wasn't long after Brooklyn's birth that I began to understand and accept ALL that Neurofibromatosis meant for me, and for my family (which was A LOT). My own NF symptoms had gotten worse, and I was scurrying around Eastern Washington, trying to find a doctor who had actually even heard of this disorder.
I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, enlarged ventricles and a brain tumor--(which, from what the drs told me, have been there my entire life) while at the same time, vision issues and tumors began appearing in my children. It was all consuming, and could have easily overwhelmed me. But my choice to have children brought with it the responsibility to accept these outcomes.
3 of my 6 children would also get the NF diagnosis...And with that brought tremendous guilt. And this guilt was almost paralyzing...Almost.
NF could have happened to any of my children, even if I didn't have it. Or Downs Syndrome, or Muscular Dystrophy or a hundred other disorders lurking within the genetic code of the human race.
This blog, was born 3 yrs ago...After my decision to be proud of the choices I had made. Everything you do in life is a choice...and you can also choose to be proud (or not) of those choices.
As each of my children have grown, I have also grown. I am confident that my choice to have children was the right one. I would not wish Neurofibromatosis on anyone...But my children have given so much good to this world, and I can't imagine my life without them.
This isn't a post trying to justify my decision to have children, it's simply my story about my choice to do so. I respect those who choose not to have children. If I had known more when I was 19, maybe I would have made different choices. Maybe there is a reason I didn't know more, and maybe those reasons are named Bailey, Braden, Riley, Rachel, Riker, and Brooklyn.
Life in itself is a risk. My job now, is to provide MY children something I didn't have; A full understanding of what NF means for them....and what it COULD mean for them, if they go on to choose to have a family. Education - the E in "The E.A.S.Y. Way to Thrive" is my goal for my children, for myself, and for the world. Not so we can always make the 'right' choice, but so we can make the 'right choice for us'.