Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guilt of a Preemie Mom

When the boys were in the hospital, I was racked with guilt.  Every pin prick, every breath on a ventilator, every shaky cry of protest, hurt me to the core.  If I had stayed in bed more, if I had drunk more water, if I had insisted the doctor examine me when I felt something was wrong . . . there were so many things I could have done that might have delayed their arrival.  At the very least, if we had known they were coming we may have gotten the steroid shots.

All of the pain they went through -- it was all my fault.  When they were in the womb, I was the only person who could protect them and I failed.  I failed to keep them safe.  For a long time that guilt hung over me, pushing me down, affecting every moment of every day.

Now the guy are healthy happy one-year olds and I don't feel the guilt or fear of the NICU.  I delight in every day with them, and that is that.  All I can do is protect them now.  I can't go back and re-do the pregnancy.

Recently, however, we were talking about kangaroo care, and how K always went right to sleep on Hubby's chest while on me he always fidgeted.  I said he probably knew I was the one that caused him the pain.  Hubby was really freaked out by that.  I guess he thought that I no longer felt the prematurity was my fault.  He thinks this is a huge problem.  I do not.  There are a lot of mistakes you look back on and regret, but you can still move forward.  I know a LOT of events combined to result in the premature birth of my boys.  Still, I feel it is natural and right for me to take my part of the blame.  Every time I hear of a woman on strict bedrest, wearing a contraction monitor, or living in the hospital in the days leading up to her delivery, I know that should have been me.  No matter what the doctors said, that we were out of the woods and everything should be okay after my cerclage, that a little activity was good for me, that the pains I was feeling were natural and not indicitave of early labor -- I was the one who trusted them instead of me. 

It doesn't affect my life now.  It is in the past and, like I said, I can't change it so I don't dwell on it.  My husband's shock and horror that I still have these feelings and have accepted them as part of my life, however, has rattled me somewhat.


  1. Our girls were only 5 1/2 weeks early, and spent only 10 days in the NICU, but I identify very clearly with the feelings of guilt you describe. My guilt stems, similar to part of what you said, in completely having trusted my doctor. If I could go back in time, I would have been much more aggressive.

    Our girls had no significant health problems, but I still beat myself up on a couple of big points...I didn't get to see them or hold them until they were about 16 hours old...I had a lot of issues in establishing breastfeeding, which I attribute to them being premature.

    Realistically, I know this is all such a moot point...we have two beautiful, healthy girls...but it is still a part of who I am. I don't dwell on it by any means (I actually just don't allow myself to think about it much), but I have committed to learning from it.

    My biggest take-away is that I know my body better than anyone, and I am ultimately responsible for its care...even if that means potentially rubbing a doctor the wrong way. And this of course transfers to my family...I know I must be the biggest advocate for their care, too.

    I'm sorry I don't have any real words of wisdom to share, but I just wanted to say that I understand. :) I hope you can shake off that rattled feeling soon, and continue to focus on those sweet - and healthy! - babes of yours. :)

  2. I can't tell you haw many times I have heard moms of preemies say they feel guilty or responsible. No matter how many times or from whom they hear that it wasn't their fault, the feelings of guilt still creep in. A woman can do everything right and still have a premature baby.

    According to a survey of moms of preemies by Babytalk magazine and the March of Dimes, even though moms realize it's not their fault, 64% said that they sometimes felt guilty for delivering early. So you're not at all alone in your feelings. Just remember that these are just feelings, not facts.

    BTW, your boys are absolutely adorable!

  3. Thanks to both of you -- I thought it was probably normal to harbor some guilt, and not harmful if you don't dwell on it. I was surprised at how shocked Hubby was. It's good to know I'm not alone.

  4. It is so easy to feel guilt. I still do at times. But the fact of the matter is that you gave them every moment you could. And even when they were too early you gave more of yourself than they can ever know or appreciate while they were in the NICU.

    The guilt does fade but I'm not sure it every disappears, but it is important to have grace for yourself. Your babes survived because of you first and foremost. Never forget that.

  5. I think most mothers feel guilty — about many different things at many different times. My guess is that your baby's restlessness when you tried to give him Kangaroo care was more that he sensed your anxiety and the guilt you were feeling. I don't think guilt does us much good and I'm glad to hear that you are letting it go. We all make mistakes, we all second guess ourselves. That's part of being a mom. But most of the things that happened to you and your babies were not in your control. I was on strict bedrest. I spent 11 days in the hospital hooked up to monitors. I followed every precaution and rule and bit of advice given by a whole team of perinatal specialists, but my babies were still born at 24 weeks. I wish you only the best on your journey.

  6. This is just a great post. I read the whole article and I really enjoy reading it. I find the article very inspiring and very informative as well.

    support for parents of preemie babies