I’ve been a single mom for a long time. It’s very much a part of my identity. My former husband has always played a role in our son’s life, which I’m so thankful for, but on a day-to-day basis it’s just me and Jake.
Sometimes I wonder if MS is part of the reason I’m a single mom. I recently came across a really interesting article online that cited a study showing that divorce and separation rates are consistently higher among couples in which one person has a disability or chronic illness.
The study, by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found that 96% of breakups among couples with MS involved a situation in which the woman was the person living with MS. Yes, the rate of MS is higher in women, but that percentage is still alarming.
Another finding: The longer that people had been married, the more likely they were to stick together after a diagnosis.
When I read those statistics, I realized the odds were against Andy and I. We were married in May of 1992 — I was a mere 21 years old and he was 25. On Dec. 22, 1993, we welcomed a healthy, happy baby boy named Jake. Eight months later, my recurrent optic neuritis convinced my eye doctor to run some tests to rule out a few things. The MRI showed MS lesions, some of which I likely had since I was 12 when I lost the vision in my left eye.
Fast forward to over a year later, and I was moving out of the house that Andy and I had built together. We would soon file for divorce. It wasn’t something that I ever envisioned for myself, or wanted for my family. We’ve remained friends and have done our best to parent Jake together; and I think we’ve done a pretty good job if Jake is any reflection! There are plenty of days I wish we had been older, wiser and stronger. Strong enough to beat the odds and survive — even thrive — as a family.
Yet, I’m also a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe that raising Jake mostly on my own, when mom is sometimes “sick,” has been a good thing. He’s extremely compassionate, very empathetic, and incredibly loving.
I’m not saying he’s this way because his mom has lived with MS for almost his whole life, but I can’t help but think it has played a role in shaping the wonderful young man he is today at age 18.
I didn’t ask for MS and I didn’t want my marriage to end. But stuff happens. For better or for worse. I’d like to think for the better.