a Family as an
Adult With CF
Like most of life’s big milestones, the decision to start a family can be filled with questions and uncertainty. Taking the time to think through how life might change can help you feel more confident in your choices.
It’s a massive transition, and a big milestone too. It speaks to the state of my health too…the work my CF team has put into place to get me to a good spot, and the routine I’ve put in place to keep myself in a good spot. All of that is the foundation through which the parenting journey started for me.”
–John, new parent living with cystic fibrosis (CF)
Is being a parent
right for me?
“Am I ready to become a parent?” is a question that many people ask themselves, but like almost every other decision for people with CF, there are a few more factors to consider, such as:
- What does your support network look like? Is your partner or other support in your life prepared to take on parenting duties?
- How will daily life change for you once you have a child? Think about both immediate changes and long-term lifestyle adjustments
- Have you considered the financial impact of raising a child, on top of your own costs of managing CF?
- Have you considered growing your family through alternative means such as adoption, surrogacy, or IVF?
- Has your partner or donor been tested for CF mutations? This may not apply if you are planning to adopt a child or children
- What is your pre-pregnancy health status? Having good lung function and maintaining good nutrition may put women in the best position to become pregnant
- How will your health impact the time and energy you can put towards parenting?
Parenthood is a choice that is right for many people, but not for everyone. Research shows that it is healthy for children and teens to regularly interact with adults who are not their parents, and these relationships can be fulfilling for everyone involved. Being a beloved aunt or uncle to the children of friends and family members, volunteering with organizations that work with children, or mentoring students in your workplace are all places to start.
Amber Dawkins, a mom with CF, enjoying time with her family.
Balancing parenting with self-care and healthcare
Many new parents expect for their self-care to take a back seat while they focus on adjusting to life with a newborn. But for people with CF, taking a break from your healthy routine may not be sustainable. Staying nimble is the name of the game in parenthood, but taking some time to think through how a child will fit into your family’s routines and how you and your partner will divvy up responsibilities can do wonders to help you prepare. Try talking about these scenarios:
- Which of your treatments can you perform while your child is present? Starting to involve your child in your treatment routine early on could be a great way to teach them about the reality of life with a parent with CF. This involvement might change with the age of the child: newborns may be soothed by the sounds of a vibrating vest, while older toddlers and children may be delighted to be your treatment helper
- How can you make exercise part of your family routine? Many new parents use their babies as “weights” to add extra connection and challenge to body weight exercises, and playing outside with an energetic child may double as a workout for you too
- What are some easy ways to ensure you are keeping your nutrition on track? Smoothies, granola bars, and trail mix can be eaten with one hand, or on the go
If I'm not healthy, then the rest of the family's not healthy… I try to get up before my family even rises to get my breathing treatments in, to get some exercise in, and it truly sets me up for my day.”
–Tara, Parent living with CF
It takes a village
Identifying your support system early may help to reduce stress while integrating a new member into your family. Giving specific tasks to certain people can also help to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that you get the support you need. Use these ideas as a starting point to help you ask for support:
- Consider splitting up the newborn “night shift” with your partner to ensure that you get enough dedicated time for sleep
- Ask family members and close friends to help provide childcare, to help give you time to exercise, complete treatments, or rest
- Ask friends to set up a “meal train” to drop off prepared foods for your family, so that you can ensure you continue to eat well