In my conversations with other NICU moms, guilt is a theme that makes a regular appearance. While the emotion is the same, the reasons each person experiences it vary. I have heard other moms say that they feel guilty that their bodies failed. Another mom in the NICU told me that she felt guilty for folding a load of laundry while on ordered bed rest. Similarly to these moms, I have my own and different sources of guilt.
My initial guilt stems from ignoring my instinct. At twenty weeks, I started seeing spots. I was alarmed by the leap my usually low blood pressure made when the opposite was expected. My instincts were screaming that something was not quite right. I feel guilty that I listened to other people when they dismissed my concerns as “part of being pregnant”. I feel guilty for allowing myself to believe when I was told that “everything is fine”.
I wish I would have listened more to myself and less to others. However, this guilt was a painful lesson that served me later. I refused to “wait and see” as advised when Charlie started displaying motor problems and sought intervention. This bit of guilt serves a purpose. Because of this, I am finding it possible to slowly let go of it.
The rest of my guilt emerges from the NICU. I felt guilty for falling to pieces when Charlie was born. I felt guilty for mourning, for being angry, for the days when all I could do was cry in front of her isolette, for all the jealousy I felt, and the resentment I harbored. I felt guilty for feeling those things because I thought I was better than that. I felt guilty for being so petty and small. I found out later that all of those feelings are normal and part of the process. That bit of knowledge made it easier for me to work through that guilt.
Then, there is the guilt I have yet to reason with. I feel guilty that my baby survived the NICU. There was a baby that passed while Charlie was in the NICU. As I watched those sobbing parents prepare to say good bye, I knew that it was purely luck that it was not me preparing to lose Charlie. On occasion, I meet other NICU parents who were not as fortunate as we were and I feel guilty. Because I know we were lucky, I feel guilty when I grow tired, weary, sad, frustrated, and angry about our lot. This is the remaining aspect of guilt that I have trouble with. I am not sure what the answer is to relieve it.
With the passing of time, reading, and talking to other NICU moms, I have been able to come to terms with a large portion of my guilty feelings. I hope with more time, reflection, and discussion that I will one day be free of the remaining guilt. It is a heavy burden to needlessly carry around.