My wife’s biological clock went off, and like any honorable husband, I took cover and hid. We were living in a small apartment, so it didn’t take long for her to find me. I was frightened. I didn’t recognize this woman. She just kept saying, “Baby, baby, baby…” At least, that’s all I heard. It was like a zombie movie, you know, the moment when the husband realizes his wife’s been bitten. He doesn’t have a choice. He has to kill her. She’s no longer human. She only has one purpose, only instead of “brains” it was “baby.”
The thing was, we’d had this talk. She knew my feelings. Long before we said, “I do,” I told her I would never bring a child into this world. I was very clear. There was no deception, no manipulation. I’d been diagnosed as bipolar II, and I’d made the decision to never put that on anyone, especially a child. Studies show that it is, in all likelihood, hereditary.
My youth was filled with darkness. I was in third grade the first time I thought of killing myself. I should’ve been chomping on Big League Chew. I should’ve been playing with my Hulk Hogan action figure. I should not have been dangling my feet outside my second-story window telling myself to lean forward so I’d land on my head and not just break my legs.
It’s hard for me to write that. It might be hard for some of you to read. That’s why I had no problem with my decision to never have kids. No one should have to go through that.
Now, I’m not saying people with bipolar should remain childless. There are a lot of parents out there who can provide for a kid suffering like I did. My parents couldn’t. They didn’t even fully know what was going on. I kept most of the awful thoughts to myself, because even as a boy, I knew it wasn’t “normal.”
And I don’t blame or hate my parents for having me. They didn’t know what they were getting into, and when I was growing up in Kansas City, people didn’t go to shrinks.
But I know exactly what bipolar means, and to risk passing it to a child would be selfish at best, and bordering on abusive. Yes, I’d love to have a kid, teach her to read, ride a bike, to hide a dollar under her pillow as I swiped a fallen tooth, but I couldn’t live with myself when the tears came, not the crocodile ones from skinning a knee, the ones that come with the need to end everything.
I reminded my wife of this. She said, “I understand, Anthony, I do, but you’re not hearing me. I need to take care of something that’s not you.”
It broke my heart. There was no question she’d be an amazing mother. It was criminal to block her from sharing this gift with another. Still.
“I just can’t risk putting this on a child, Jess. I’m sorry.”
The look on her face told me I’d made a grave misstep, that’d I’d woken the zombie. In any second, she’d be feasting on my damaged brains. Then she said:
“I’m not talking about a child!”
“Jess, I’m… You’re…not?”
“No! We can’t even take care of a plant without killing it.”
“I don’t want to have a baby.”
“I want a dog.”
“A dog…? A DOG! Oh, thank God.”
The next morning we rescued Sunny from a shelter.
It’s the best decision we’ve made since walking down the aisle. Every morning, Sunny wakes me with a few licks and her wagging tail. We’ve taught her a half-dozen tricks and sat by her side at the hospital when she almost died from a reaction to a bee. She’s given me responsibility and shown me that even when the depression hits, I can still get out of bed to take care of this sweet girl. She might never cure cancer, run for office, or learn to drive a car, but she’ll also never need braces, bail money, or college tuition. She’s a dog, but sometimes we treat her like a baby, wrapping her in a blanket and singing “The Rainbow Connection” in our best Kermit voice.
I’m still not ready for a child, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will be, but if in a year or two my wife wants to have a discussion, I’m not going to just immediately say, “No.”
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7969902@N07/510672745/”>Pierre J.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/scabeater/3272684874/”>Scabeater</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasukaru76/5023702628/”>pasukaru76</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>