Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Hello, My Name is Guilt

My first Mother's Day. Also Day 63 of Tucker's NICU stay. We got to take off his CPAP gear for 2 minutes of this picture.

My first Mother’s Day and Day 63 in the NICU.

I pushed the elevator button for the 7th floor. The doors opened, we stepped off and started the familiar walk past the waiting area of balloons and flowers. We didn’t need to stop at the receptionist desk, they knew us. We stopped giving our parent code two months ago. We did not have to show our hospital bracelets. The ones we still hadn’t taken off, they were the only sign that we had a baby and they were worn and tattered. The receptionist immediately buzzed us in to the scrub room. And then she said it. “Happy Mother’s Day!”  I smiled. It was my first Mother’s Day.  It was also Day 63 of Tucker’s life in the NICU. On a day that I should have felt overwhelmingly maternal, I felt something else.

The day was special of course; there were footprints and picture cards that Tucker’s primary nurses had so thoughtfully made. There were Mother’s Day cards taped to his isolette that my husband had given the nurses the night before to “plant” throughout the day, made to look as if Tucker had mysteriously left them. I was, at times, happy and sentimental. But there was something else. It was just under the surface of my thoughts, nagging me in the still moments of that day. That familiar thought that creeps into every preemie mother’s mind when she spends a day with her baby in the NICU.

You know her, probably all to well. Her name is Guilt. And she is chatty. She makes you believe that you, and your defective womb, are to blame for your baby’s struggle. She won’t leave you alone in the NICU or even after you come home. She tells you things like, “he wouldn’t be suffering if you could have carried him longer.” She convinces you that your body failed this baby. She whispers to you as you watch your 2 year old in physical therapy, “she wouldn’t need therapy, if you had known those were labor pains, silly.” She mocks you in the waiting room while your baby is in surgery, “your faulty uterus is the reason he is in that operating room”. She invades your memory and blames you for the loss of your angel.  She is relentless. She can be brutally harsh.

And she’s worn out her welcome. Come to think of it, she was never welcomed in the first place.

It is time for us to let go of preemie mom guilt, forever. This Mother’s Day is the perfect time. Let logic take over when guilt creeps in. Logic, by definition is, “the interrelation of facts or events seen as inevitable.”  Say what? That’s right, it says inevitable.  The inevitable outcome of your preemie’s existence cannot be changed by the amount of guilt you carry. In fact, guilt can really be a pesky intruder to our lives. It can start to bend our perspective of reality. So together, let’s show guilt the door and let her go. Give logic a chance. She’s a nice girl.

Logic will tell you that you are not to blame. Logic will tell you that there is no way you could have known the issues that would develop with your difficult pregnancy. Logic will tell you that you carried your baby as long as you possibly could. That his early arrival was inevitable given the facts you knew in that moment, at that specific moment in time. Logic will whisper to you at therapy, “look how awesome your preemie is, because you give him everything he needs to succeed.” Logic will tell you what your doctor, friends, husband and family have been trying to convince you of for a long time-it is not your fault.

If you need a little more nudging to help you let go, connect with other preemie moms to talk through your guilt and together, make the decision to mark guilt off the invite list. Or consider therapy to help you surface and release the guilt. It can be overwhelming at times. Every preemie mom has her own history and journey with guilt. We all have felt it. Let’s make this the year we don’t give her a place in our lives. You did everything you could to get your sweet baby safely ushered into this world. There wasn’t more, in that moment, you could have done to change the outcome.  Don’t let guilt creep in this Mother’s Day. Take the day and cherish the gift of being a mama, without fault. Make peace with your womb and let go of the guilt. You rock. Happy Mother’s Day.

Heather Hucks About Heather Hucks

Heather Hucks (NC) is the mother to a 24 weeker, Tucker, who weighed 1 lb 7oz at birth and spent 151 days in the NICU. She still balks at the sound of a fast food fry machine alarm that sounds eerily just like a brady alarm and has come to learn that Tucker’s NICU list of complications is somewhat mild when it comes to a 24 weeker. So far, he has no major issues from his prematurity. Heather has also learned to resist sneaking a peek at the playbook for life. She has seen through this experience that she isn’t the author and doesn’t write the plays. She works full time, blogs about her family, and tries to limit cupcakes to one a day. You can read about her parenting rookie stunts at Team Hucks or find her on Facebook.

Comments

  1. Thank you! I had my twins at 23 weeks 2 days before Mother’s Day last year. Last year was nearly impossible for me. My OB had left a Mother’s Day card on our daughter’s giraffe incubator. At that point, I was uncertain I was really going to get to be a mom, but my husband and all the nurses said that I definitely was one. I felt like an awful mom at the time, after being in labor for 5 days trying to hold them in, and only making it to get one steroid shot the night before the inevitable. Good word, good blog post. Thank you, I feel it has helped me a bit as I mentally prepare for our twins first birthday and my second Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

    • Carly, so true and I’m glad you found some similarities in our “guilt-ness”. And 1st birthdays are hard in their own right! Our 24 weeker turned 1 about a month ago and it was a hard and happy day all wrapped in one! I wrote a post about on my personal blog if you want to check it out: http://www.teamhucks.com/?p=436

  2. Thank you! As a mom to 24 week triplets (2 survivors and 1 angel) and a 35 weeker born after a complete uterine rupture and placental abruption, I can’t hear this enough! Happy (early) Mother’s Day!

  3. Melissa D says:

    Heather, thank you for sharing this! My 26 weeker was born in June of 2008, so this will be my 4th Mother’s Day, and I agree that it’s time to let the guilt go. You’re so spot on with this entire post–something only preemie moms fully understand, I think.

  4. “Make peace with your womb.” I love it. It’s so hard to not think of what you could have done differently, even though you know logically there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. I love that you say that logic tells us what happened was inevitable. As a mom to 24 week twins, I have dealt with a lot of guilt too. I think I am slowly letting it go. This was a great post!

  5. Awesome post! Thank you. A preemie mom once told me that guilt was one of the most unproductive emotions and it never changes the circumstances for the better.

    Happy Mother’s Day!!!

  6. Heather — this article is a gift. Thank you. Luke (my 28 weeker) turned 2 today and for some reason this birthday was much harder for me than his first. Even though he’s done amazingly well, the pain & guilt associated with the day he was born is enough to take my breath away.

    So as I have another cupcake with Luke tonight, I’m raising my glass of milk and toasting to Logic. Amen.

    • Sarah-Luke is so lucky to have you as his rockstar mama. I’m not happy about the circumstance by which we met, but I’m very glad to have you in my preemie mama corner. Happy Birthday Luke-the tallest 2 year old preemie I know!

  7. Melissa Ayala says:

    Very nicely written Heather. My 23 week twins were born 19 months ago, my son survived, my daughter lived 11 days. Guilt is something I know oh so well, and unfortunately continue to know. Thank you for this article it’s a preemie step closer to letting guilt go. :o)

    • Melissa-so, so sorry that one of your angels is on the other side of heaven. It is almost a daily letting go of the guilt, and small steps away from guilt are better than no steps away. Thank you for sharing and for reading.

  8. TwinMom says:

    Thank you for this article. I gave birth to my twins 11 weeks early, only 2 days after Mother’s Day last year. I am happy to say that they are almost one and doing great now, but the guilt some days is overwhelming. I hope some day that i can forgive myself and let go of all the things I “could have done differently.” Happy Mother’s Day to you as well!

  9. WONDERFUL article, even for moms who do not have a preemie! As moms, I think we feel guilty about so many things- you are right, we are all doing our best and, logically, we know this.

    One of the most important things I tell new preemie moms is, “It’s not your fault. You wouldn’t tell ME it was MY fault my son was born early so please don’t tell yourself that.” They will need to hear it over and over again but something just hearing it and pointing out how many positve things their child has going for them help. A little.

  10. Thank you for this! I had my 27 weeker last August,. She weighed 2lbs 9oz. She spent 62 days in the NICU and it’s been a tough road. I had what they call “Chorioamnionitis” (chorio) a bacterial infection. The guilt that runs through me is not knowing how I would have contracted the infection….one of those unknown mysteries.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Karen John says:

    Thank you for your post because guilt is with me daily. I blame myself for the lost of my Son Dylan, even though his sister survived. You have giving me Hope( which is my daughter’s name) that someday I will no longer feel such guilt, and I appreciate it

  12. Greetings from Mexico,
    I’ve just read your post and let me tell you that you have written exactly the way I fell right now. My son, Mateo, is a 29 weeker hero who lights up my days, but 2 years ago, when he was born, (June 2011) most of the time I felt so guilty and I can say that sometimes I hated myself for all this horrifying situation we have been through. Now, two years later, I’ve realized that it was not my fault, it happened because it was supposed to happen like that. I enjoy now my life, I love my boy with all my heart, and there’s only hope and happiness in my life.
    God bless you all!!

  13. I’m late to the game here, having just read this….but it struck a chord with me. You said so beautifully what I have been trying to convince myself of for the past almost 4 years. I have said some of these EXACT words to myself and my husband before. Most times, logic wins out….but that guilt has a way of creeping back in sometimes. It’s always helpful to know that others feel the same. Thank you!

  14. Ginnie B. says:

    Just finished reading this and you are so correct. Although I have had many Mothers Day’s as my 3 surviving children (26, 34, and 30 weeks) are adults now and the oldest 2 have each given me a Grandchild. I still find that Guilt creeps into my life every so often, even after promising myself no more of those feelings. It comes usually when I least expect it. The last time was in the delivery room 8 months ago while holding my daughters leg as my Grandson was about to be born. I felt the scars on the side of her heel by her ankle, the same place 32 years before they used for taking blood gases. Within a split second I was in the NICU praying that our 1st born would survive. At the time 2 lbs 13 oz was so small, in fact we later learned she was the second smallest NICU graduate at the time. I have so much to be thankful for as doctors had told us to institutionalize this same child as she would never be able to walk, talk, or feed herself. We refused to listen and 3 months later took her home to love and take one day at a time. Now she is married, and a mother herself. My children all are great, what more could I ask for? Nothing!

  15. As a NICU nurse for 30 years, I tried to help moms with this guilt. The recurring question always was “what did I do wrong?”. I hope that reading your comments can help some of these moms let go of the guilt and focus on what they are doing right for their babies.

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