I think if you look up the word Mother it says, “Guilt ridden being”. It’s a package deal. From the moment a woman finds out she will be a mother she feels guilty. We worry about every little action and thought we have and feel guilty over how it will impact our child. It’s biological, I am pretty sure we have no real control over it. I have known this for years, as have my children, which of course allows them to take complete advantage of the situation. Hey there has to be some upside to it, right?
However my guilt hit a new level a year ago when our third baby was born nearly three month early. After being in the hospital for six weeks being under sedation and on bed rest my uterus finally gave out and my body failed to hold my baby within me. Sydney Beth was born via emergency c-section on a beautiful October morning. When I was finally able to see her small, barely three pound body several hours post surgery my first words to her were not, “Mama is here” or even “I love you” but rather,
“I am so sorry my love. “
I was sorry that my body had failed her; that she had to endure more in her first three hours of life than most people do in a lifetime. I was sorry I wasn’t able to hold her and comfort her. I felt I had done this to her and there was nothing I could do to fix it. My guilt was overwhelming. As I looked at my tiny little baby buried under tubes and wires, unable to even touch her, I was furious at myself and my body. My maternal guilt had reached an all time high.
In addition to the guilt I was feeling about our baby, I was feeling terribly guilty over being away from my two older children. Jack had just started Kindergarten and was going through an exciting and scary adjustment and I was missing all of it. My now middle child Sarah Fiona was not even two and suddenly her Mama was ripped from her world and for nearly four months she only seeing me a few hours a week. When I was in the NICU I was worried about home, when I was home I was worried about the baby. I was never at peace, never without drowning guilt.
The last year has been spent trying to stabilize myself and our home life. Many hours have been spent contemplating this giant bag of guilt I still carry around. What I have discovered is: It Sucks.
No magic answer, no great insight, no Oprah “ah-ha’ moment. Maternal guilt simply sucks. Maybe maternal guilt (which I should mention I believe to be VERY different than any other form of guilt) really is more a reflection of love than anything; the greater the love the greater the guilt. Children are so deserving of all things beautiful, good and peaceful. When life falls short of giving our kids these things it just seems off-center somehow and ultimately eats as our soul.
Perhaps someday I will have some great revelation and shed myself of all this guilt. If I do I will write about it…although I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath. I am prepared to take this bag o’ guilt to the grave.