As a child, a daughter, I’ve never thought much about the fact that what has happened to me has a significant effect on my parents and their parenting. All I’ve thought is that I know they are proud of me, and respect who I have grown up to be. I’ve never stopped to think that maybe on the days where I struggled my mum or my dad were feeling responsible. Feeling guilty.
Maybe they weren’t.
I don’t know if it’s something that normal mums and dads feel, but I know that it’s intensely heightened for preemie parents.
I think it stems from the fact that this thing that women are supposed to do, this growing, nurturing and birthing of children, we can’t manage. We didn’t manage.
Is it our fault that our bodies threw these miracles out into the world months too early? No. I know this, reasonably, rationally. But that doesn’t stop me feeling guilt every day. Hating myself and hating my body for failing at the one thing that we, as woman, are supposed to be able to do.
So we start on the road with our newborn, feeling like there was something we could have done to keep them safe, feeling that before we have even started ‘parenting’ we have failed miserably.
And something that I’m sure you’ve all experienced in one way or another, is that once you feel guilty abut something, it’s incredibly easy to find plenty more things to feel guilty about.
We drown in guilt everyday about our Charlie David. We name 100 reasons why that wouldn’t have happened, and it happened completely and utterly because we did or didn’t do one of those things. Which we know isn’t true. That’s the thing about guilt. You know it’s not real, or true, or rational, but you let it rule the roost.
Each time Oliver is upset or unstable it’s my fault because he’s out in the world when he shouldn’t be.
Each time someone tells me about their big (huge) healthy full term baby I feel guilty because I’m angry at them, when really I’m angry at myself.
Each night when I leave the nicu to go home I feel guilty because I’m leaving my boy in the hands of someone else. I’m not even looking after him. What kind of mother is that?
Each time I enjoy a meal at home, or out, I feel guilty for finding enjoyment in things. This has been particularly hard for me, as food is a passion, a stress release, a joy. So sometimes I eat and it’s so good, and it clogs up in my throat as I fall apart because how is it possibly okay to feel good about this when your children are going through hell (oh yeah, a hell that’s your fault by the way Rebecca, in case you forgot about that for a split second..).
The more good days we have, the more we can push that guilt slightly lower, bury it underneath some of the positive things. I don’t think it’ll go away (not until I’ve got through a few years of therapy anyway) but, like pain, I think we will feel it slightly less each day, and maybe some days will go by where we don’t feel it, and in that way we will live our life as Charlie and Oliver’s parents.
So if sometimes we are out with you, and we go quiet, or the smile falters for a second, it’s just us trying to push that guilt back down again, to keep it in check so we can experience the joy of the moment, because it’s okay to be happy even though everything is sad.
No one minds.
Charlie and Oliver said, mum, it’s okay with us, we don’t mind.