I think it’s fair to say most mothers have felt some kind of guilt at one point in time. I think it’s also fair to say for some that guilt starts as soon as they get that positive pregnancy test.
The shock or exhilaration is quickly taken over by a memory of drinking a bottle of wine the previous week, eating blue cheese or a runny egg. Not taking the right vitamins, doing some random strenuous activity….You get the picture.
Mine began when I found out I’d failed the glucose test at 26 weeks pregnant. This wasn’t helped by the fact I was drinking a can of fizzy pop and eating sour skittles when I took the call (hello pregnancy craving!!). From then I had to go to hospital every two weeks for monitoring. I was suddenly high risk. And diabetic.
I was soooo good. I really wanted to keep my sugars low with diet and in the beginning I really struggled just eating a slice of bread. Luckily for me though, 4 or 5 weeks into my new diabetic status I had cracked it. No bread at all. No junk. Small regular meals and snacks.
However the guilt continued when the doctor told me I was losing weight. Then that Dixie had stopped growing at 36 weeks. And her placenta wasn’t doing its job. I couldn’t grow my baby. Guilt.
I was told at 37 weeks she needed to be delivered by c-section as she was breech. I couldn’t get her in the right birthing position despite all my exercises and acupuncture. Guilt.
By two days old it was clear she wasn’t able to latch on and breast feed. I couldn’t even feed my baby the way I’d hoped. Guilt.
I did the next best thing for me and pumped. And pumped and pumped and pumped. Till my milk dried up when Dixie was around 10 weeks old. I couldn’t produce enough milk. Guilt.
Diagnosis day came and went in a blur. Chromosomes? Who’s responsible for that? Did I do something to cause my body to reproduce a third chromosome? Guilt.
The geneticist had told me that Dixie’s heart issues could be as much down to my diabetes as it could be to the trisomy. Which ever way I looked at it, I couldn’t give my child a healthy heart. Guilt.
These feelings continued through those early weeks and months.
I wasn’t spending enough time with Maisy. I wasn’t giving her my full self. Guilt. I wasn’t getting the best out of Dixie, I wasn’t interacting enough. More guilt. My house felt chaotic, it was a mess because I couldn’t get into my stride. Guilt. I wasn’t looking after myself, there was no time. I was so exhausted. Even.More.Guilt.
I tried to be the best at everything. I tried to do everything. And yet, I was barely holding anything together. In fact I felt like i was a failure of a mummy. When I would hear how well I was ‘coping’ I desperately wanted to be that person they assumed I was. Bright smiles and its all good. Even daddy L thought I was doing great because that’s all I let show. GUILT!
It went on and on. And on.
My lightbulb moment came as a passing comment. An innocent observation that truly helped me crawl out of a dark place. And once it was said, everything kind of fit into place in my mind. And it was so simple. I was trying so hard to control everything that I had hugely unrealistic expectations of how I ‘should’ be coping. I wasn’t letting anybody help because I believed I had to do everything myself. As their mum. And when things didn’t work out how I expected them to, I felt guilty. Like it was my fault.
But I couldn’t control everything. I couldn’t DO everything. Nothing would be perfect. Asking for help isn’t failing, because I’m only me. Just one person after all. And that’s ok.
I couldn’t control how Dixie grew (or didn’t) in my womb, as much as I couldn’t control her being head up and not head down! I couldn’t control Dixie’s heart, or her inability to progress developmentally as fast as I want. I couldn’t control the fact she was unable to drink out of a cup or chew a slice of toast.
I couldn’t control the way that extra chromosome had altered Dixie’s genetic make up.
I wanted something to blame. That something was me. But it wasn’t my fault. It isn’t. And I know that deep down in my heart.
Im not sure that this is a ‘normal’ mummy phase. Or whether its more predominant in those mummies dealing with a child with extra needs. Or parents even. Or whether this is just a me thing. But if you are out there, blaming yourself for something you know deep inside that you can’t control. Please stop. There is more than enough stress and worry in life without adding this notion that you’re not good enough. Not brave enough. Not the best mummy or parent for your child. YOU ARE!!!!
So there we have it. I would be lying if I didn’t still have little slithers of guilt here and there, whether its not paying enough attention to Maisy, not working Dixie hard enough or der der derrrrr taking a day off therapy!!
But I also acknowledge on the whole, I really am doing my very best. And I know you are too.