Sunday, January 29, 2006

Got to Get Past the Guilt

Yeah, so anyone with a kid knows that this whole parenting thing, but I think especially this mothering thing, is a guilt-laden proposition. We feel guilty about what we do, what we don't do, what we can't do, what we must do -- All Guilt, All the Time! That's our motto here on WMOM.

When I was pregnant with my son, I was put on restricted activity at about 30 weeks. Not bed rest, not house arrest, just a general admonition to take it easy. When at home, sit down with your feet up. Don't go hiking, don't go for long walks, don't spend hours on your feet. Driving carpool is fine, occasional grocery store outings are okay, and go ahead and cook dinner for your family each night. But then sit down and put your feet up.

When I reached 36 weeks, those restrictions were basically lifted, and when I was, by dates, 37.5 weeks, I gave birth. Now that we know that the dates were off and that my kid was premature, I've had a lot of time to go back and analyze everything carefully. I have the wisdom of hindsight, the knowledge that comes from obsessively googling the same searches again and again, and way too much time wasted thinking and overthinking that day.

When I dropped my daughter off at preschool that morning, her teacher, who is also my friend, mentioned that I was unusally crabby, and suggested that I might be in labor. I called my midwife, who agreed that I should come in for a look-see. It was Friday morning, and at my appointment two days earlier, she had mentioned that she felt fairly certain that I'd be having this baby in the next 38 hours. I got there, she checked me, and said I was 3-4 cm dilated, and we could go ahead and call this early labor. By anyone's standards, 37.5 weeks is full-term, so I was cleared for a homebirth. So I went home, and my husband and the midwife both arrived shortly thereafter.

The midwife had me take some homeopathic stuff to help establish a regular contraction pattern. I walked around the block several dozen times with my husband. I got to 7 cm with no real contractions, so the midwife broke my water. About 20 minutes later, I had a baby, and about a minute after he was born, the midwife first mentioned that we might need to go to the hospital.

For a long time, I felt certain that his prematurity was really my fault. That if I hadn't gone in that morning, the baby wouldn't have been born early, wouldn't have had trouble breathing, wouldn't have had hyptonia, and we wouldn't be here today. I still feel that way sometimes, actually. And now I can add in wondering if something in my genetic makeup caused this, or if my son doesn't even have what they think he has, which means that I simply allowed myself to see symptoms of it where there were none -- it never ends.

The reading I've been doing over the past few days talks about "mourning the loss of the child you thought you had," which is heartbreakingly sad to me on several levels, not the least of which is, it means, in a sense, mourning who my son is. You want guilt? Try that one on for size.

I think it's important to get past the guilt mostly because -- and this is an awfully hard pill to swallow -- this isn't about me. I can't serve my son's needs if I'm too busy wallowing in my own guilt. Which, of course, is something else to feel guilty about.


Lisa said...

I can so relate to this post. I have a lot of guilt too and what-ifs that I think about on a daily basis. The day before I had Julia, I fell down the basement stairs. I landed on my side and was quite shaken up. I went in for a NST and she was fine. My water broke the next day and I had her 2 weeks early (and I know the dates were exact because she was an IVF baby). All the tests we've run to try and determine the cause of her IS are normal, except her MRI that shows she had a small bleed in her brain at some point. The doctors don't feel this caused her epilepsy due to where it's located but her gross motor skills are way behind and it's that part of the brain that had the bleed. But why is this the only thing that we can find? So much guilt involved, even though it was an accident. Anyway, long story short, I hear you.