It’s Mother's Day on Sunday and my partner and I had a lot planed for 2020. It was meant to be a big year for us. I'm 36 years old, I've been with my partner for 12 years, married for three. We were planning on having a baby this year. And then the pandemic hit and like everyone else, all our plans went down the drain.
But even before the pandemic, I couldn't just start a family like everyone else. This is because I have bi-polar. I have to be off my mood stabiliser epilim before we start trying. A medication that has kept me mentally stable for the past 15 years. A medication that I have had a longer relationship with than my actual relationship. And I'm scared.
I saw my psychiatrist at the end of last year and she reassured me that I was ready to start trying. I wasn't so sure. Even at the idea of trying for a baby, I could feel anxiety coursing through my veins. A new family means your whole world changes.
Then the world did actually change.
There are jokes and speculations that the lockdown might cause a baby boom. And one could argue that isolation is the perfect time to have a baby. After all, there’s nothing better to do. But when I'm depressed I don't feel like having sex — ironically, the one thing needed to make a baby. It's a vicious cycle, to say the least.
There are jokes and speculations that the lockdown might cause a baby boom.
All this came to a head on the lead up to Mother's Day. A day that’s particularly hard since I've lost my mum. When quarantine began, many people found — whether it’s through sheer distance or social distancing — that they haven’t been able to visit their mothers. At times, it feels like the entire world is experiencing the anxiety I feel almost every day. Without a mother and not being a mother myself, the day becomes a painful reminder of what I’m missing.
My cousin Steve got married over the Mother's Day weekend last year. In his speech he got all the mothers in the room to stand up to toast them. I could see my cousins waiting for me to stand up also. It would have been an amazing pregnancy announcement. Only I wasn't pregnant. It's a year later and I'm still not pregnant. I can hear my biological clock ticking loudly and time is running out.
It's a year later and I'm still not pregnant. I can hear my biological clock ticking loudly and time is running out.
Looking back, I was expecting to fall pregnant as soon as I came off my contraceptive pills. That was back in December. And in spite of coaxing myself into remembering the fact that this does take time, that the wait is natural, each period makes me feel like a failure.
They say that as soon as you relax you'll fall pregnant. Only the virus has hit the world and now no one can relax.
Being bipolar and coming off my mood stabiliser makes me feel all my emotions more intensely. When I'm anxious I can't sleep. In the lead up and during the pandemic I had gone a whole month without sleep. Ordinary tasks like getting dinner on the table begin to feel impossible. I become less present. And feel less worthy of my partner's love.
Being bipolar and coming off my mood stabiliser makes me feel all my emotions more intensely.
In the dead of night, the same anxious refrains play out on a loop: Sleep is important to stay mentally well. Parenthood means losing sleep. Can I be mentally well if I become a mother? Or should I choose to become a mother and lose myself?
I’ve always had niggling doubts about whether motherhood was the right thing for me. But over the years I've come to realise that even though my mother was never formalised diagnosed, she likely suffered from bipolar, too. Mood disorder is hereditary. Like the virus, a lack of knowledge about an illness can generate overwhelming fear. And if my mother could be a great mum even with her undiagnosed bipolar, then I might have a fighting chance with a better understanding of how to control the chemical imbalance that unsettles my mind.
What this pandemic has taught me is that yes, yes I do want to have a baby. And there never is a perfect time to start trying. This Mother's Day may not be mine. I may never have a Mother’s Day to call my own but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t try.
Madalene Chu is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @MadaleneChu.
This article was edited by Candice Chung, and is part of a series by SBS Voices supporting the work of emerging young Asian-Australian writers. Want to be involved? Get in touch with Candice on Twitter @candicechung_
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