I've been communicating with a woman and now her boyfriend on my sex support site about her various medical conditions and my concern for their child. As her boyfriend gets more detailed about her various mental illnesses (she is an anorexic cutter with borderline personality disorder who is now in hospital with myocarditis) - I find myself saying things I feel need to be said to protect the child, but feel very unaccepting of the mom and who she is.
Can a woman with a mental illness be a good mom? Of course she can.
Is this still true if she refuses to get counseling or medication to help her, and facing serious medical complications, and is having suicidal thoughts? I'm not sure, but I think not.
If you support a person's right to refuse to be mediated or to get counseling when they have a mental illness (as I do) - then why is it different when she has a child? Does a seven month old child trump what a mom thinks is best for herself?
Is it the responsibility of a woman who is a mother to subject herself to medication and counseling if she becomes a mom? If she thought it was best for her before she became a mom why is it different after she becomes a mom?
Is it ok to take risks when you don't have another person to be responsible for? but what if what the medications do to you is an unacceptable risk and you think they will make you a bad mother?
Is it OK for a mom to feel suicidal? Is it OK to be a cutter or a have a diagnosis of some sort and refuse treatment, but once you feel suicidal that means you have to accept help?
If you have a history of feeling suicidal, should you not be allowed to have children? Does everyone have the right to conceive, to parent? Is it unfair to prevent a person who hasn't done anything wrong except to happen to have a mental illness from having a child? Isn't that like punishing someone for what you think they will do rather that what they have done?
But then there is the child.
Do we as a community of adults have the responsibility to take educated guesses about how fit a person is to parent? If that is the case then what other people should we make educated guesses about? - women who are poorly educated? women who are racist? women who are unmarried? women with labels of mental retardation?
How do we know who makes a fit parent? I am sure there are women who fit every "typical" label that exists and can still not be good at parenting. Or can anyone be a 'good enough' parent if we all surround our children in our communities with support? Is it too much to expect any mom to do it all?
So is the answer for this mom I am trying to help is to say - it is your choice not to get treatment, it is your choice to live with your mental illness without medication, but if that is your choice you have to accept help/ intervention from the community that is concerned with the welfare of your child? I wish I knew.