*Trigger Warning: Certain links may take you to unsupportive places. They are linked specifically to show you that they are real. Read at your own risk.*
I always knew I wanted to have children. Having a mental health issue made people doubt my ability to be a mom. Having a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) made people completely rule out my ability to parent. It is heartbreaking to share with others your desire to have children and for them to tell you that you shouldn’t because of your diagnosis.
Moms with BPD have a really bad reputation. There is a decent amount of research that addresses how mothers with BPD can damage their child’s development and not be effective mothers. There are also many personal accounts of the issues of growing up with a mom who has BPD. I will not argue with someone’s personal experience of having a mom with BPD. I may argue a bit with research because research should be challenged to ensure accuracy. Where I will always argue is using this information to condemn mothers who have BPD and feed the discrimination. Seeing titles such as “Surviving Childhood,” “Living with Crazy” and “My Insane Life with my Single, BPD mom,” deeply hurt me and others who have a BPD diagnosis and want or have children.
When I became pregnant in January 2016 I was very nervous about how my sometimes poor emotional regulation would impact my child. I knew that if I wanted to be the best BPD Mom and fight the stereotype I would have to ensure that a few things were in place.
- Therapeutic support
I shared with my online therapist (through Talk Space) my fears and hopes for my child so she could help me reach those goals. Joining a hospital program that is specifically for pregnant women who have mental health issues ensured I had knowledgeable professionals following me. I continued to practice dialectical behaviour therapy skills. These are the skills I could use in times of stress and to communicate when I needed help with my child.
2. Building my community
I joined postpartum support groups online and in-person so I could connect with other mothers (with or without a mental health issue). There is nothing better than being up for a 3 am feeding, feeling completely out of it and finding another mom to talk to about it because they are up as well. Other moms remind you that what you are going through is normal, overwhelming and not always permanent.
3. Ignoring all the messages that do not help me.
All the links I posted above, I won’t listen to them. Thinking that my child needs to “survive” me or that I will make his life “insane” will not help me become a better mom or a better person. This will only lower my confidence in my ability to mother. Instead, I will look to resources that lift me up such as articles written by moms with BPD.
4. Educating my child about my experience.
This is something I will do when he is older. I will talk to my child about what I go through and what I do to help myself. I hope to teach my child the same skills I have learned since children learn through adults how to regulate their emotions, cope with stress and communicate their needs to others. This will not be a taboo topic to my child.
A few years ago, I expressed my concern of BPD mother discrimination during a mental health presentation I gave to housing support workers. One of the participants gave me a note the note above. It reads, “Kristen- I wanted to let you know that I did my counselling program with a woman who had a Borderline Personality Diagnosis. We keep in touch on Facebook and she has 2 adorable children. She’s one of the best mothers I know.” This is the message I want to hear.
My son is 3 months old. He is the love of my life. If there is one person in this world I can pull myself together for it is him. I will not always be a perfect parent because no parent is perfect. Family and friends have said that I am doing a great job as a first time mom. This confirmation is so helpful and needed.
We cannot generalize an experience and we cannot leave mom’s with BPD fending for themselves if they need support. We need to focus on the strengths of these mothers because they do have them. When you help a mother you help her child.
About Kristen Bellows
Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com