This is a reader submission from Hana Graham, who suffers from borderline personality disorder. She's working with her team of medical professionals to plan a baby and we asked her to write about the process.
TRIGGER WARNING: SELF-HARM.
I have a problem I'm sure a lot of mothers and future mothers out there, fathers too, have, but no one is talking about. It's a taboo subject in the first place. It caused a bit of a ruckus in a previous article I wrote for Mommyish. I'm sure one day I might expand on the very topic itself, but today I want to focus on it's aftermath. I'm planning to become a mother, or, well, to become pregnant anyway, later this year. I won't have to worry about this particular issue for quite some time. But one day, my kids are going to notice mommy's body isn't like everyone else's. They are going to come to me, and they are going to ask me, “Mommy, how did you get all these scars?”
I honestly haven't figured out how to answer them yet. Granted, I still have several years to figure it out. Maybe you can help me. I tried to research this online the other day, I really searched. I couldn't find any suggestions I approved of. The only stories I saw were about older siblings telling their younger siblings WAY too much truth for my liking. A kid shouldn't have to carry the burden of this particular truth around. I do intend to tell them the serious real truth one day, when they're old enough. Questions like “mommy why...” are not from kids who are old enough, they're like....from kids ages four and up. And to me, that is just too young for the truth. The truth is too ugly.
I can't tell my child something like, “Because mommy used to hate herself.” Or “Mommy hurts herself when she gets upset.” Why would anyone say that to a small child? That's just too much. It's too much for most of my adult friends to hear, let alone my own child. I only intend to tell them about it when they're older because it's something they might be more prone to, and I never want them to end up with a 15 year addiction and struggle. My body is covered in a network of scars, some barely noticeable, some absolutely horrific and obviously self-inflicted, including 15 burns on the back of each wrist. (For those who chipped in on the previous article, I'd like to proudly announce I'm still clean since the time mentioned in that piece!)
The only other advice I could find online wasn't advice at all. It was horrible people saying horrible things to pregnant women who had happened to struggle with self-injury in the past – or present. Who am I to judge? But I think it's downright wrong to tell any woman who is asking for honest advice on what to tell her kids about her scars one day, “give those babies up so they don't have you for a mother.” Extreme, much? It's more common than most people think, and it is on the rise amongst young people. I suggest, as I always do, education and awareness over condemnation and making these kids feel like outcasts. I digress, though.
I know I have years to think it over, but I've only come up with a few lies so far. My husband prefers the ones closer to the truth, whereas I'm leaning towards the dark humor, or the elaborate story. What do you think? Here are the explanations I've been able to come up with:
“Mommy saved you from dinosaurs.”
I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's something a little kid would love, isn't it? I know once they're older I'd have to tell them something different, and not even much older. That sort of rules it out. My husband seems to think I'm just being plain ridiculous or insane with this one. Actually, so does everyone. They're probably right. I thought it would be a cute story though. Like, when you were born, mommy and daddy were backpacking through the jungle looking for a lost pyramid full of treasure. Suddenly, a bunch of dinosaurs attacked! Daddy grabbed a nearby tree branch and started beating back the T-rex! Meanwhile, mommy was running with you in her arms but she ran into a bunch of velociraptors! She had to fight them off with one hand and her feet with you in her arms! I only have hope in this because I once told another middle school aged child in middle school, when he caught me bandaging my arms, that I had wrestled an alligator, and he totally believed me. I would hope it wouldn't take my kids that long to figure out I was bullshitting them though.
“I didn't eat my vegetables/clean my room/do my homework.”
It's certainly sassy and possibly productive, but also counterproductive, because I don't believe in ruling through fear. I can see myself having to bite my tongue if my kids won't stop asking why I have scars, because my impulse is to go, “Because I asked too many questions.” Dun dun dun.
“The faeries did it.”
(Image: Author's own)
Okay, first of all, this has already been ruled out for a couple reasons. Let me explain though. I live in Northern Ireland, and faeries are very much a thing here. My husband swears he doesn't believe in faeries, but when I went to challenge that by breaking a branch off a faerie tree, he shouted, “NO!” Thing is though, we want our kids to like faeries, not develop nightmares from them. And while a healthy fear and respect is encouraged, because actual faeries are malevolent and dangerous little creatures (they still divert roads around the faerie trees here – the fear is real), we don't want our kids terrified of them. The second reason is because I don't know what kind of revenge the faeries would take out on me for placing the blame on them.
“Mommy was sick.”
( I wore gloves on my wedding day because of the scarring.)
This is as close to the truth as I can get. It sort of makes sense, but I'm not positive it will make sense to a child, or that they'll accept it as an explanation. Yes, mommy was sick. I don't want them to think they can get sick and end up with scars though. And how do you even begin to explain mental health issues to a small child? I don't know how.
“Mommy had an accident.”
(Image: author's own)
Well, this is a lie, because almost every scar is deliberate. Some are not, but I picked the scabs of random injuries until they became giant pits that probably could've used stitches, and then they became scars, so they might as well be. I actually have a scab right now that is about a month old, from the aforementioned slip up, and it's somehow the first ever infected scab I've ever had. It's totally gross. Anyway, this is a sort of dismissive but simple answer they'd probably accept and I could make up the details if they need them.
“Mommy has sensitive skin, just like you.”
This is probably the best option. Our kids are sort of doomed to have the most sensitive skin ever. Even a little scrape on me turns into a scar, let alone things I did to myself and then picked at for ages. Apparently I am actually missing a couple layers of skin. There's no medical term for it that I know of, and it only came up once with a doctor when I was a baby, and my mom asked why I seemed to be in pain when she touched me. It's also super fair and super sensitive. My husband is Irish. The kids are doomed. This is something they could relate to without either of us having to go to a dark place.
(Image: getty Images)