Truth is, I bet there aren’t many moms without some degree of Mom Guilt. There are so many opinions and choices and SHOULDS about how to raise a child; what you feed them, how you discipline, how much TV they watch, how you put them to bed, what type of diapers you use, where you send them to school and on and on and on. Me included, I think a lot of moms have moments where we worry so much about what we should be doing that we forget to enjoy the miracles (special needs or not) in front of us.
With Preemie mom’s, I think that guilt can be especially severe. Our babies fight for their lives and often have lifelong struggles because our bodies didn’t get pregnancy right. This guilt isn’t about choices, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.
Now, I’m as rational of a person as I know – rational to a fault, probably. And I can say with clear belief and conviction that I did nothing wrong during my pregnancies. I followed the rules. Nothing I did would have sent a normal pregnancy into labor. It wasn’t carrying Kellen, it wasn’t rearranging furniture in a fit of nesting, it wasn’t because someone made me angry, it wasn’t because I didn’t listen to the signs (all things people have suggested, by the way). Guilt means intent, and I did nothing that should have put my pregnancy into jeopardy. And this I believe.
But guilt, in the context of mothering, is not rational. It just is. I’m beginning to believe we all have it. I see it in the faces and recognize it in the reactions of others. I don’t want to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s hard to talk about, but only because we think no one else feels the same. Today, I am betting I’m not alone.
So here goes, here is a raw (okay, some language was edited to be PG rated) snippet from my personal journal about the guilt that I deal with:
“The guilt can be crushing. I feel guilty that Owen lived and other babies did not and then I feel guilty that it seems like I’m guilty Owen’s alive – it’s not that don’t think Owen should be here, it’s just impossible to make sense of the seemingly random nature of who does well and who doesn’t do well in the NICU. I feel guilty when I complain because I should be happy that he’s home, alive and doing as well as he is. I feel guilty that I’m still sometimes jealous of healthy babies. I feel guilty for disregarding the challenges of parents who didn’t have as tough of courses (No, I don’t feel bad that your baby had to get his shots and cried for 30 seconds). I feel guilty on the days I don’t work on feeding. I feel guilty for knowing that there are days that this stuff takes me over, that my house is a disaster, that some days I’m in pajamas until right before Kyle comes home, that I don’t always answer my phone, or reply to emails. I feel guilty that I had nearly no hand in potty training Kellen. That he’s such a good boy and done so well through all of this and that’s because he’s amazing and had to and not because I’ve been a great parent to him. And then there is CMV. That is nearly unbearable. I tried so hard and beat myself up with guilt because I wasn’t producing enough breast milk and then the little I got was tainted with a virus that I was carrying. My breast milk nearly killed my son and likely has impaired him for life and still I let people make feel guilty for not giving him more. And PLEASE, please do NOT tell me not to feel guilty, because believe me, I feel guilty about that too.”
I’m sure that’s not easy to read, even if it’s only in my darkest moments, it’s not easy to feel. I do believe I have a pretty healthy perspective (much thanks to all of you that listen and read) and would not say guilt consumes me. But I know it sneaks up on me. It’s especially apparent in my defensive reactions to other’s opinions. If you want to see me get feisty with someone, just have them start preaching breastfeeding to me. I believe wholeheartedly in breast milk for babies, I understand and see the data that proves that statistically babies with breast milk do better than those on formula. At the same time, knowing the whole story, you can’t fault me for wondering if my milk was Owen’s best option. We thought we were making the best decision, but it seems we didn’t.
I’m not saying guilt is right, but I’m also not going to be ashamed of it. I’m willing to talk about it, because I want to fix it – selfishly for me, but for others too. I saw this uncredited quote on Pinterest that really struck a chord.Ain't No Roller Coaster