A very common discussion that my husband and I have had since getting married is starting a family. We both know we want children, and hands down it’s the one thing we know our families want as well. However, about a year into our marriage I had a shocking revelation: I didn’t know if I could actually handle having children. It’s not because I didn’t think I couldn’t handle the sleepless nights, the stress and the other “take the bad with the good” situations that would come with children, but because kids get sick. A lot. And I’m talking puke.
Emetophobia is the fear of throwing up, which encompasses not only me getting sick, but others getting sick and that doesn’t fade for anyone, regardless of how close I might be with you. Friends, family and significant others have all fallen victim to my flight instead of fight senses, and it’s left them feeling cast aside and hurt. That in turn leaves me feeling guilty, depressed and ultimately like I’ve failed my family. They needed me and I turned my back on them; I made them feel like they didn’t matter because I couldn’t handle them catching a little stomach bug.
Thankfully, my friends and family understand me now, and recognize that I’m doing my best to stand up to this panic and if I only sit one room over instead of across the street in my neighbors driveway it’s an accomplishment.
But how do I know that my future children will understand that? What if they see me as someone who is afraid of them when they are sick and stop coming to me? What if they misinterpret my fear as a lack of love and think I don’t love them? Or worse, what if I pass my phobia on to them?
Children don’t have the capacity to understand that the reason I would be fleeing from them when they need me most is because of throwing up. They would see me running from them, and I could not live with myself if I was the cause of my child feeling like they could not be honest with me, come to me when they are feeling bad or even form a meaningful relationship with me because of this phobia.
I know, I know. I can hear the chorus saying, “You know that’s not true! You could have a meaningful relationship with your child regardless of the phobia.” And you’re completely right, I could. I see so many women in my support group having wonderful relationships with their children who have this phobia and I cannot express how much hope that gives me for the future.
Plus, kids don’t spend every single moment of their lives throwing up. That is, unless you were me as a baby who really did spend almost every waking moment of my infant life puking. Of course, I can recognize that I was a rare case and not every child is like that. With that said, I’m sure you’re asking yourself why something that is such a small part of having children could make me delay having children?
Because in my eyes it would be unfair of me to bring a child into this world that depends on me when sick if I can barely depend on myself some days. For me, it is so important that I am able to better handle myself so that I can dedicate the time and emotional stability I feel like my children will need. And I know this phobia is, by far, the biggest hurdle I would have to jump to have children. Every day I am working towards having my own family that consists of more than just cats and dogs.
When I got married, my husband and I decided we wanted to wait about 5 years before trying to have children. We wanted to be established, ensure our future children had stability, and taken some time for ourselves before attempting to bring something that is so life changing into the picture. Now, though, we’ve been married for two years and I don’t feel any more confident going into starting a family. If anything, I feel less confident and I worry every day I won’t be able to be the mom I know I could be because my future child has become this beacon of fear, panic and anxiety.
But then I look at everything I’m doing to make it possible. I see my husband who is patient, kind and supportive. I look to my counselor who tells me that with time, courage and persistence I can conquer this phobia and live a normal, phobia free life. I listen to my family and friends tell me how proud they are of me for facing this phobia head on and that they’ve seen how I’ve changed over time.
When I think of all of that, it makes me realize that all these doubts and concerns will only push me to keep moving on towards my goal. I have three years to work on improving my anxiety and finding ways to cope and handle whatever this phobia throws at me. And if that doesn’t work I know I have an amazing support system that will be there to push me to my best and pick me up when I fall.
Making the decision to be a mother when you have emetophobia is not easy. It’s not something that should be taken lightly and it’s something that outsiders looking in should commend a woman on if they do start a family. When someone with emetophobia decides to be a mom, it means that they have weighed the pros and cons, they have acknowledged that there will be sleepless nights – not because of crying but because of the anxiety of sending a child to bed with a tummy ache and fever. There will be melt downs and compulsive cleaning, and times when they just wish they could run away from it all… But they decided on it anyways. They felt that regardless of all the panic having children would inevitably cause it was worth it.
I’m not a mom, and I won’t be a mom anytime soon, but I cannot tell you how proud I am of emet moms who have taken their phobia in stride with their children. You are what I aspire to be, and I hope you know that there are people like me who see how you deal with this and make it look easy and realize that one day that will be me.
Until next time, Internet.
If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!
Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.