(The following is liberally copied from a letter I recently sent a aquaintance, but I think it sums things up rather well.)

Women with MS supposedly go into “remission” when pregnant, but if you haven’t heard, “remission” is quite the little misnomer when it comes to MS. Someone can be in “remission” without having experienced a symptom-free day in years. All it really means is that you aren’t currently in the midst of an attack that’s creating new lesions on your brain to give you new fun symptoms–nothing about the symptoms you already have. Which in my case are fatigue (yes, I know, fatigue doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but trust me when my husband brings me a cup of tea, and I’m stirring the sugar in, and I find myself thinking “Wow, I hope these sugar crystals dissolve soon because my arm can’t keep up this stirring thing for much longer” then it’s a pretty ever-present problem), some weird inexplicable neurological pain, a stupid drunken-looking walk and a weak right hand. Pregnancy, however, exacerbates these symptoms to a pretty unlivable degree. Sometimes I mentally list the meds I’ll be taking as soon as pregnancy–and nursing–are over, imagining chemically-derived alertness, alleviation of pain, and so forth.

And of course, I have no real right to complain, as pregnancy is the ultimate selfish, narcissistic act among most of the people I know. “Wow, you’re pregnant, are you sure that’s a good idea?” “What are you going to do if things get worse?” “Don’t you think you have enough on your plate right now?” I find myself trying to hastily explain decisions that kept my husband and I up at night for weeks and nearly drove us to divorce, issues about the feasibility of pregnancy right now versus waiting for a degenerative neurological disease to possibly get much worse. It’s pretty much seen as an almost criminally irresponsible decision. And maybe it is. I also know that it was the only possible decision we could have made under the circumstances, when we were still reeling from the diagnosis and the fact that I wasn’t just a bizarre hypochondriac and wouldn’t be “getting better.” I got my diagnosis the same week I discovered I got funding to spend a summer doing research in Bhutan. Suddenly that was out of the question, and a million other things had to be reevaluated, but hey–at least we could say “Let’s have a baby” and do something vaguely life-affirming. We’d both wanted more children, and were waiting for the “right time,” this seemed like the best indication we’d ever get that the cliche that “there is no right time” was, in our case, very true.

So presumably, the last thing I should do is complain. And yet, I somehow dislike the implication that by “choosing” to have a baby, given that I have a chronic illness, I’m entitled to do little more than smile bravely as pregnancy and that self-same illness wreak total havoc on my ability to function. Whatever.

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