Mother, May I?

Bringing a beautiful bundle of joy into the world is an exciting, yet terrifying time of life that forever changes the course of your own. You want the very best for your innocent offspring and develop fears that your child will be shafted in this competition called “Survival”. As a mother or father with Dermatillomania, these fears are more prominent with worries that the new arrival we are sworn to protect will experience a life of intolerable challenges and pain much like our own.

I am not pregnant nor do I plan on becoming a mother in the near future other than the tubby white cat I’ve been Mommy to for the past 13.5 years. As a 27- year- old woman, I recognize that my biological clock is starting to tick; I personally don’t want to be carrying a baby in my mid- thirties with the added complications that age brings to a pregnancy. The older I get, the more the idea of having children is pushed back in my mind because I am so focused on helping CBSN get started, spreading Dermatillomania awareness, beginning a career in my chosen field, and… well… just enjoying the life I have with my loving beau. I don’t know if a baby will ever be in my cards, but I know that for now it’s not the direction I’m steering toward.

Other than the justified reasoning that my back condition and financial situation prevents me from considering motherhood for awhile, I do have a deep fear of bringing a child into the world that will end up with the debilitating severity of Dermatillomania I have. I recognize that conditions have improved for this generation than what I grew up in and my child wouldn’t have to feel completely alone in knowing that his/ her mother has the same thing; however, my child would feel isolated from the world and experience that loss of control that I had, that I still have. I do not wish this on my enemy, let alone any innocent baby I bring into the world.

For the sake of identifying with one gender- specific pronoun, I will use “she/ her” when referring to a child although the following is just as relevant if I chose to use “he/ him”. Would my child hate or blame me for conceiving her with my knowing that I genetically put her at risk for having the same excruciating mental, emotional, and physical pain that I have with Dermatillomania? Would I be capable of tending to her needs while juggling such an all-encompassing disorder? Would my behavioral/ emotional patterns be thrust onto my child through mimicry, causing her to have the same deficiencies I have? Would she experience disordered thinking from not learning the tools that I struggle with mastering?

How do I explain to my young child that this is something I have to do without her thinking it’s something she has to also. How do I tell her not to do the very thing that I do every day? I do not want my child to pick, even if it’s just removing one whitehead from the tip of her nose. How do I promote that type of hypocrisy while telling her that her mommy isn’t as strong/ powerful/ perfect as all children believe? How do I ensure that my hypersensitivity to this subject doesn’t backfire- how do I know if my fears are going to affect her certainty of becoming a picker or not?

Click for credit.

Click for credit.

What are the chances I would pass this disorder to my child? Would she be entering into the world with no chance at all of walking this earth without stares and feelings of alienation? Among relatives and close family members, we suffer from a few BFRB’s (although my Dermatillomania is sadly off the charts regarding its severity and how it affects my daily life), OCD, depression, anxiety, BPD, Agoraphobia, Emetophobia, addictions (alcohol, smoking, drugs)- and that’s just what I know of. As for physical ailments, the list is increased and it seems inevitable that any child I would have at least a couple of these issues.

Who doesn’t have their strengths and weaknesses? Who gets away with living this life unscathed by outside influences or internal battles within the body or mind? Genetic predispositions aren’t always unavoidable, but what bothers me is that I am still affected. I don’t want to be “caught” picking which teaches her that it is normal to handle life this way, but I don’t want her to grow up (age- appropriately, of course) walking on eggshells with knowing that Mommy is keeping a secret. Exposure has an increased relevance to a child’s development and I do not want her subjected to my vices.

Maybe if she has Dermatillomania it can be more easily nipped in the butt as opposed to my experience where professionals blatantly ignored my concerns until I was 18. Being in the youth system between the ages of 10- 18, there were many pivotal moments that a professional educated in BFRB’s could have even acknowledged my issues instead of having an inept one (in this specialization) focus on “How GREAT I did in school!”; if one was trained in treating BFRB’s then there would have been more than just the mere recognition I craved- treatment would have been provided. Instead, I had many years of battling my picking that was reinforced daily, which made the disorder that much more ingrained and problematic in reversing.

I will not let this disorder determine whether or not I will have my own children. If I choose to go down this path, it will bring about more challenges than the average person experiences. I would have to come off of the only anti-depressant that has ever stabilized my depression, stop taking NAC, and never “give in” to my urges to have  a cigarette every once in awhile (officially, I’ve quit my daily smoking for a year, minus the one here and there, as of 2 days ago). Maybe my stomach will not be able to handle that anxiety and it will succumb to my usual physical reaction (chronic diarrhea) which would NOT allow a child to form in my womb due to a severe lack of nutrition it could cause.

If my future hubby and I choose to become parents, I will have the same worries that all new mothers have. Will I be able to protect my child[ren]? Can I provide them with the chance of a satisfying life with minimal despair? Will they be happy?

…will I be a good mother? Am I even worthy of the gift that is motherhood?
Deep down I know I’ll do just fine, but I would only want the very best for my child[ren].

  • Megan

    As both a parent and a sufferer of Dermatillomania, I guess I have some thoughts on the subject. I do worry that my daughter will suffer from anxiety disorder and dermatillomania as I have, and I learned very quickly that she is watching everything I do. The best I can do is be aware of myself and my actions. If I find myself picking, especially in front of my daughter I need to show her that I can’t do that. I tell her, mommy shouldn’t do that. I let her see that I was wrong.
    It is so important that we remember though, that just as I am more than just a person with dermatillomania, my daughter and future children will be more than whatever issues life may hand them.

  • Marissa

    I understand your concerns. I’m 30 and haven’t ever been in a serious relationship, so motherhood is not in the cards anytime soon. My mother’s side of the family is where the mental illness comes from (depression, anxiety, agoraphopia, trich) and I am anxious about passing it on. I see how my depression, anxiety, and picking affect my folks, especially my mom, and I would be heartbroken to see it in my own child. Right now I have a dog who has separation anxiety when I leave her for work, which is kind of funny because we obviously aren’t genetically related but she has anxiety. I assure myself that I could always adopt, but I would like a child who has the awesome (non-mental-illness) genes I have and have inherited.

    Unrelated, how long did it take for you to have the NAC working? It’s been a month for me at 1200mg twice a day but no measurable change.

  • I’ve known for about 10 years that I didn’t want to have kids for a plethora of reasons; this one didn’t factor in until just recently when I joined the FB support group and was asked if either of my parents picked. My mom is STILL a rampant picker and probably doesn’t even know it’s a problem (never mind that SHE has said problem): I would bet a large portion of the why behind my picking is that it’s an ingrained habit – I grew up watching my mom fuss and fret over this zit and that pimple, unconsciously picking while she watched TV, then berating herself for all her “picky marks” later. No surprise: I do the same thing.

    I know that being aware of an issue makes you far less likely to repeat the mistake with your own children, but considering half the time I don’t even realize I’m picking until I’ve drawn blood, I don’t have a lot faith in being able to ensure I refrained from such behaviour around my children.

    Just one more reason for me to remain childfree – I don’t want to pass this along to anyone else.