Ebony J. Ford
The Biggest Lie Of Them All: Part 2
On our last blog, we talked about how what mom guilt is, is not and how it can be useful. But today I want to dig into what it is that we feel mom guilt over. What causes us to doubt that we are doing our absolute best by our children?
I remember my very first tinge of mom guilt while trying to conceive years ago. Sounds crazy right? But it’s true! I’d sit for hours imagining the moment when I found out I was pregnant, how I’d tell my husband and how we would share it with the rest of the family. But then I started thinking about the health issues I had in the past. I started wondering if I could really care for her on my own. I began to wonder what I would do if I was having a really bad Lupus flare and needed to care for her. Would I have the strength to push through? Looking back on it now, it seems silly. OF COURSE I could press through whatever pain and fatigue I was feeling! Not caring for her simply wasn’t an option. After all, I had pushed through how I was feeling to support everyone and everything else, regardless of its effects on my health. CERTAINLY, I could persevere for my child. But mom guilt often negates rationale.
While pregnant I began feeling guilty about the grief that she was coming behind. If you’ve ever experienced pregnancy after infertility or pregnancy loss, you understand just how nerve racking of a time it truly is. You want to trust that everything will be fine but part of you just can’t. You want to fall madly in love with your baby but you also want to guard your heart. And that was where the next wave of mom guilt came from. I knew in my heart that it would be a mistake to not enjoy every single second of my pregnancy. But in order to fully enjoy it, I felt like I needed an assurance that all would be well. And no matter how much I prayed, there was always that nagging thought in my mind that I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital with my baby.
And when Reign was born, the heaviest blow of mom guilt was dealt. Although it was a great time of celebration, it was also one of fear and uncertainty. I had never seen a baby so tiny and after hearing all of the odds against her, I just wasn’t sure if she would survive and what life would be like for her. As the days went on, the weight of what we had just come through really hit me. Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome were responsible for almost claiming my life but also causing hers to start far earlier than expected. But I was predisposed to both conditions not only because of my race and weight but also because I have Lupus. I had no idea the odds stacked against me when I got pregnant pertaining to those conditions. I was so concerned about losing her that I never even considered these conditions. And honestly, I had no reason to as all of my tests came back perfect until days before I had her. But again, there goes mom guilt nullifying what I know to be fact.
While she was in the NICU mom guilt wouldn’t let me stay home for a day and take care of myself, despite being readmitted to the hospital for my blood pressure and incision issues. I felt like I HAD to be there every single day for as long as I could. The nurses practically begged me to go home when I was discharged from the hospital because they could see just how tired I was. The stress of the NICU as well as a lack of sleep greatly impacted my milk supply eventually causing her to use donor milk to supplement what I couldn’t give. And eventually I couldn’t even pump an ounce of milk. Thankfully it came as we were about to be discharged and she was about to be started on high calorie formula anyway. But did I give myself grace? Of course not! I beat myself up for weeks as if I had not just spent the last 3 months pumping every 2 hours and trying all I could to improve my milk supply.
So, as you can see, from the time she was only a thought all the way through the NICU, I allowed guilt and feelings of self-doubt to take residence in my mind, heart and spirit. I only wish I had someone to tell me to be as gracious with myself as I would've told someone else in my position to be. When Reign came home from the hospital, I not only felt a sense of relief but also fear. I wondered if I’d even know if something was wrong with her. I thought I was done with mom guilt, but it was JUST beginning!
To Be Continued...