Sunday, 17 March 2013

Claire: Guilt

Yesterday I sat and chatted with a dear family friend who suffered the loss of twins more than 45 years ago. As we chatted about our losses, it occurred to me that parents of lost babies suffer from a huge amount of guilt.

We both talked about how we had, at times, questioned whether something we had done had caused the death of our babies. She told me that the day before she had given birth to her twins she had stood on a low stool while her husband pinned up a maternity dress in readiness for alteration. After her babies had died a week later, and despite not even falling or stumbling off the stool a week prior, she had wondered whether this action could have led to their premature birth. I was saddened to see her eyes well with tears as she recalled her losses all these years on.

I remember accepting gifts for my Laura before she was born and irrationally wondered after she died had I jinxed her by doing so. The weeks after she died as we packed away all the baby clothes we had prepared for her, I wondered whether we had been too sure that she would have been fine, whether we had somehow been overconfident of her arrival. Ultimately, I wondered whether, in some way, I had let her down.

My daughter Laura was born with a congenital defect that would have been caused in around week 5 of pregnancy, in all likelihood before I even knew I was pregnant. I’m not a smoker, not a heavy drinker or drug user. I eat well and am pretty healthy and I’m in a good strong and happy relationship. I’ve been assured that nothing I could have done or not done could have influenced how this defect formed. Medical professionals still don’t know why this anomaly (present in approximately 1 in every 3500 babies) happens. Yet, still I wonder whether it was something I did wrong.

We torture ourselves with guilt, possibly because we care so much about our responsibility at becoming parents. Being an older mum, I worried a lot. I worried from before I did the pregnancy test. I worried through all the horrendous sickness. I worried right up to the 12 week scan. I worried all the way through the 20 week anomaly scan (and afterwards) and right up until my daughter was found to be breech. I worried about having a C section, I worried about everything, but in the end all my worrying could not alter what eventually happened to my beautiful little baby, who died aged 2 days old on the operating table during surgery to correct her oesophageal atresia.

My husband is thankfully a very rational, practical and positive man. Without his reassurance I am sure I could easily descend into a pit of guilt, which is such an unhealthy emotion. When I begin to head down that road again he pulls me up (sometimes harshly), and reminds me that “it just happened”. I guess this is part of acceptance. I truly struggle with accepting that Laura is gone, but I have to admit that it is true. The best thing that I can do for Laura now is to talk about her as my much loved daughter and keep her memory alive.

1 comment:

  1. That guilt... it just never goes away. I feel guilty every minute of every day that my body let my girls down and I just couldn't keep them safe. My head knows somewhere that it wasn't my fault but that does not take the guilt away. A mother's basic instinct is to protect her child... I feel I failed in that.

    Like you, I have a rational, positive husband who also helps me stay focused and who keeps me going. He is my rock.

    I know my girls are gone but I am not sure I will ever accept it. I am learning to live with it and move forward but I will never get over it.

    Thank you Claire for such an honest, insightful post xxx