Issues facing a premature Mum
Apparently there are seven issues a premature mum is likely to feel guilty for, in giving birth to a child (children) early:
- I’m sorry I couldn’t give birth to you (having to have a c-section) tick!
- I’m sorry I was able to leave you (in hospital while I went home) tick!
- I’m sorry I wasn’t there more (I had to ‘sleep’) tick!
- I’m sorry I let other people to care for you tick!
- I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you, tick!
- I’m sorry I couldn’t feel more than numb, terrified and full of love, tick!
And the one that I struggle with the most, I couldn’t understand delivering my premature twins at just 29 weeks, despite knowing we suffered TTS, PPROM and infection. I became suicidal to try and process the final guilt factor; ‘I’m sorry you had to be born early and I couldn’t keep you safe.’
The Guilt of a Premature Mum
Why did this happen to me? To us? What had we done to deserve such a traumatic experience when all we wanted to be was loving parents?
The question didn’t occur to me straight away when the boys were delivered, as I focussed on expressing milk and our special care routine, watching and learning terms that most mums thankfully never need to know. But there were clear signs of post-natal depression.
After two months we were allowed home with our boys. I was thrilled at the prospect of establishing some form of normality.
Little did I know, the path of self-destruction I was about to take!
My priority at every point was to ensure the boys happiness and safety. I would play with them on their mats, and ensure they were happy, pushing tummy time, singing with / to them and storytelling, desperate to hide my fears and feelings from them, knowing how sensitive their senses really were.
I would ensure there was always someone here with me, as I didn’t trust myself. After all, I had already failed them in not being able to keep them safe inside me and was convinced I had caused them life long consequences.
The questions would whirl around my head – what had I done wrong? Why us? What does this mean for our boys long-term? I would phone up my husband in tears, pleading with why we listened and delivered the boys. The flashbacks of seeing our boys suffer in special care would haunt me; the guilt consumed me.
I desperately tried to understand what had happened, to process the series of events, but the more I tried, the more I failed and the more tired I was getting emotionally. I couldn’t forgive myself.
It must be my fault – my body and mind had failed my twins - I should have taken a different approach to pregnancy – been younger; during the pregnancy I should have stressed less, been more positive and less anxious, eaten better perhaps.
I was spiralling out of control – cutting myself, taking laxatives, I stopped eating and started drinking more than a sip each day as a means to block out the constant questions in my head, the flashbacks – to escape what I had done. I isolated myself from all my friends and lashed out at anyone who tried to help, including close family members.
On the anniversary of when I fell pregnant, I woke up feeling like a tonne of bricks had hit me over the head. The boys were with my mother-in-law and I continued to dart upstairs to grab a drink; all day until I blanked out. I couldn’t cope and wanted to escape what I had done; believing the boys and all my family would be better off without me.
My turning point
I will never know what happened that day and I pleaded with my husband to leave me, my sister in law said I was an unfit mother – and that day she was right. I was such a mess and convinced I had let everyone down. I had to act to restore what little faith anyone had in me, least of all my own!
I needed help and understanding. Three councillors later I found the right support. She pointed out I’d had a rough time, and it was ok that I felt down. She gave me permission to feel emotional. It all sounded so simple and yet it was the first time I acknowledged it. I am working with her now to deal with what happened and understand it was all out of my control and not my fault.
Despite everything, somewhere along the painful journey, I have bonded with the boys in a way I never knew I could. As they love to tag-team mummy and daddy, amazingly and with our patience (and despite my anxieties), they are hitting their milestones.
They smile with their eyes and their laugh is to die for. They get a gold star every time we visit the consultant, who says I am / my husband and I, are doing a fantastic job. Their physiotherapist also has no concerns to date.
Why have I written this?
It’s not something I wanted to write, such extreme reactions is not in my nature. It’s not like I can change what has happened, or how I reacted, and that is certainly not something I am proud of.
The journey we have taken has been difficult for all of us. We have already been to more hospitals, seen more consultants, councillors and doctors than I ever cared to imagine.
Can I dare to let go and believe my boys will be ok?
All I can do is reassure myself that they are on the right track, encourage them to continue to learn and grow as best we can. Each night, as my boys sleep through, I stare at their monitors, watching with a mix of awe, inspiration and fear. My boys, and my husband, are the strongest people I know.
Adding to the list of guilt in being a premature mum, I hope my boys never really have to know how low I sunk, but, if they do, I’m so sorry. I hope they forgive me and see how the strength of love can pull us all through, even the darkest times.
With thanks to the author for her honesty and courage in sharing her story with us.
Our author suggested The Mighty was a helpful website to go to for advise on coping with emotions and feelings of guilt.