Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vitiligo and Pregnancy

Forgive my recent absence from the blog as I have been becoming more acquainted with my toilet bowl in the New Year than with my MacBook... due to morning sickness!

Yes, I am very happy to announce that I am expecting my first child this year :) I wasn't sure if I wanted to let such a wide audience of people, who don't know me personally, know about this... but now that I am safely at five months, I believe that the past two years of connecting with people with Vitiligo from around the world served a huge purpose in my life. I see Skinned Alive as a part of my bigger family now and a forum where I can release some of my worries.

This blog post is, however, less about announcing my pregnancy than it is about voicing the thoughts in my head regarding the theory that Vitiligo is hereditary. In my particular case, this is not true, as I am the only one in my family and family history with the condition. However, as it has been explained to me, it is more to do with the presence of a specific gene than the presence of the actual condition. This concerns me deeply when it comes to having children of my own now, understandably so.

In certain regards, my actual journey with Vitiligo, albeit ongoing, was so long ago in my mind (my childhood with changing skin colour) that in some ways I feel I have surpassed those particular trials and tribulations and moved onto a different set of difficulties following my return to Trinidad which now concerns my race and identity.

To imagine my child ever having to go through something that in some ways I have forgotten (for want of a better phrase) or pushed to the back of my mind, is a really hard thing to think about.

I can't deny the possibility that my son or daughter may one day develop the condition. Even if I don't wish to think about it right now, I must accept it and be prepared. The questions running through my head:

  • I was strong enough to get through it as a child, but as a woman, do I have what it takes to help my own child get through this? 
  • Can I be like my mother; will I have those qualities as a mother (not as someone who has Vitiligo) to guide my child through this, or any condition, with unconditional love and strength and be able to mask how I may be feeling about what they are experiencing in order to get them through it? I know there must have been nights my mother - and father - cried without me knowing, all the while pushing me to be social and live a happy-go-lucky childhood... The thought almost kills me...
  • I won't always be there to defend my child in the event that something happens or that they are visibly different to their peers. Will I be able to teach them enough to give them the confidence to step out and face the world when I am not around?
  • Even if my children do not develop Vitiligo, they will still need to learn about why their mother looks so different (even to them) - will I raise kids who are strong enough to not let what others say about 'Mummy' affect them, be it in the school playground or on the street?
Of course, I will teach my babies to be tolerant of people from all walks of life and of course they will know all about their mother's condition as they grow older and can process such information. I just hope that the same strength of character that my own parents showed - which I could never understand as a child due to ignorance but today speaks volumes to me with everything that I accomplish thanks to what they did for me and gave to me in terms of personality and drive and passion - is a strength of character that I can find when I need it. 

Even though she is my mother and the closest person to me since birth, she had to watch me grow through something that she could never fully understand due to not having experienced it. And that's gotta be hard if it's your child. If my children experience Vitiligo firsthand, will it be an advantage that I know what they are going through and can relate to them in that sense? Or will I be too emotionally involved in their experiences by recalling my own journey and stumbles and placing it on their shoulders? I'm in two minds about this (and very emotional in front of my computer screen right now!)

At this point, I can only pray for the best and know that the same people who helped me to become who I am, will help me to raise my child to be exactly who he or she was meant to be, Vitiligo or not. When all is said and done, bring it on...