A lot of people seem surprised by that, but from all the reading and talking to other baby-loss mamas, it seems to be a pretty normal reaction.
In the past month, my guilt has evolved.
It started out as what did I do? Was it fixing the paint upstairs? Was it too much caffeine? Was it because I caught my belly in the car door? Did I work out too much? Did I wake up on my back one too many times? And... did she know I was overwhelmed when I first found out I was pregnant? Was there a moment that she thought she wasn't wanted?
Then it became more of how I should have known. How I wasn't doing kick-counts. How I should have sensed something was wrong with my daughter. How I should have felt that final kick and rushed to the hospital to demand an emergency c-section RIGHT NOW.
And now, it's something like: What if I had just rolled over while she was somersaulting? Would that have caused her to straighten out her cord? What if I was 35 and considered a high-risk pregnancy? Would I have had more monitoring that would have allowed us to see there was something wrong with the cord? What if I had demanded to see the blood flow through the cord once I reached the third trimester? I now know that stillbirth foundations recommend that.
Right now, it doesn't feel as much like something I caused but something I could have fixed, if only I had known. Something I would do anything, anything to fix. If only I had known.
It's easy to feel like a failure.
Like a terrible mother.
If you've been following along, you'll remember that when I was in labor with Lydia and it came time to push, I screamed out, "I'm an awful mother!"
It's hard to shake that.
It's hard not to hate my body.
There are a few things that help.
On Still Standing, a website about child loss, Angela Miller wrote here:
"I have to tell you this. You didn’t fail. Not even a little.
You are not a horrible mother.
You didn’t choose this. You didn’t want this to happen. You didn’t do anything wrong. It just happened. To you. Despite your begging, pleading, praying, hoping against all hope that it would not. Even though everything within you was screaming, no no no no no no no no no no!!!!
God didn’t do this to you to punish you, smite you, or to “teach you a lesson”. That is not God’s way. You could not have prevented this if you: tried harder, prayed harder, or if you were a “better” person. Nor if you ate better, loved harder, yoga-ed more, did x, y, z to the nth degree or any other way your mind tries to fill-in-the-blank. You could not have prevented this even if you could have predicted the future like no one can.
Even if you did nothing more, you are already the best mom there is because you would have done absolutely anything to keep your child alive. To breathe your last breath to save theirs. To choose the pain all over again just to spend one more minute with them. That, is the ultimate kind of love. You are the ultimate kind of mother."
"This was not your fault. This will never be your fault, no matter how many different ways someone tries to tell you it is...
And especially if that someone happens to be you. Sometimes it’s not what others are saying that keeps us shackled in shame. Sometimes it’s our own inner voice that shoves us into the darkest corner of despair, like an abuser, telling us over and over and over again that we failed as mothers. That if only this and what if that, it would never have happened. That you woulda, shoulda done this or that so your child would not have died. That is a lie of the sickest kind. Do not believe it, not even for a second. Do not let it sink into your bones. Do not let it smother that beautiful, beautiful light of yours.
Instead, breathe in this truth with every part of yourself: You are the best damn mother in the entire world.
No one else could do what you do. No one else could ever be your child’s mother as well as you can, as well as you are. No one else could let your child’s love and light shine through them the way you do. No one else could mother their dead child as well as you do. No one else could carry this unrelenting burden as courageously. It is the heaviest, most torturous burden there is.
You have within you a sacred strength. You are the mother of all mothers. There is no one, no one, no one that could ever, ever replace you. No one. You were chosen to be their mother. Yes– chosen. And no one could parent them better in life or in death than you do.
So breathe mama, keep breathing. Believe mama, keep believing. Fight mama, keep fighting, for this truth to uproot the lies in your heart— you didn’t fail. You are not a failure. Not even a little."
And this poem. I love this poem:
by Stephanie Paige Cole
Your life began and
ended within my womb I
am a sacred space
because of you
And yesterday, my own mama told me she is proud of me. "Proud of me?" I asked, like that was so absurd. How could she be proud of me right now? And she went on to explain how proud she is of me for getting up everyday, for trying to make sense of this senseless situation, how I continue to take care of my son, how I'm growing and changing and honoring and loving my dead daughter.