Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Guilt Revisited

In previous posts I have talked about the guilt that I had after Paige was born. Not only was it overwhelming but it was unproductive and killing me slowly. It was hard but I let go of it and was quite proud. I have often been found on others blogs telling them that they too need to be free of it.

Yesterday, while doing the dishes, I turned to check on Tyler. Since he is usually half in the dishwasher removing the dirty dishes that I've just placed there, I was surprised to see him sitting on the kitchen floor. He was playing with a ray of sunshine that was coming through the window over the sink. He'd "catch" it and then let it go. He spent time holding up jars of food (the cabinet was now empty) and holding them in the ray of light. He even figured out how to hold the jar so the light would bend. I was in awe. (he's going to be a rocket scientist ya know-hehe) There he was, playing by himself, with sunshine! It was a beautiful experience.

So, boy was I shocked when I was slapped with the guilt that followed.

As I sat there and watched my breathtakingly adorable child find wonder with a ray of sun I was thinking to myself, "wow, he is so much easier than Paige! So this is what it was supposed to be like."

How dare I compare my children! Paige has gone through so much. It's no wonder why she had a hard time as an infant and toddler (any beyond). How dare I feel comfort that Tyler is so much easier.

I was a mess yesterday. There it was again. That damn guilt. I thought I had left it behind years ago!

As I tried to fall asleep I felt sick. I had a headache, my back hurt, my stomach hurt. Damn guilt.

Then I forced myself to say good bye to it again. Let's hope it's gone for good.


Aidan's mom said...

Oh Stacy! I am so sorry you revisited the guilt. Just when I think I have shed it all, somehow it tries to nose its way back in.

It is probably little comfort, but Paige and Tyler may have been very different babies even without the prematurity. My brother was SOOO difficult as a baby/toddler (my mom literally could not put him down and often even cooked with him propped on her hip) that my parents often joked if he had been the first kid, he'd have been an only.

Hugs, sweetie. I HATE the guilt. Those are crappy days when the guilt hits.

23wktwinsmommy said...

Beautiful honesty and insight Stacy!
I share this as well. There are some days when I am so strong, when the guilt is no where to be seen, and then it will sneak up and knock the wind out of me. Some nights I stay up crying thinking I'm not doing enough. Wondering how the world will accept my children. Thinking, if I had carried them to term I wouldn't even have to think about these things! ugh it's draining.

Recently I had to leave work early for the kid's NICU eval. When I returned to work, my coworker asked how it went. I told her Serena was doing well and was ahead of her adjusted age developmentally as of this visit. My son was delayed in most areas, and that he probably has cerebral palsy, mild, but still affecting his development in several areas. I told her he'd never be the star athlete his father is. Before I could say another word, she said "It's ok, you're young. You can always have more."
At first I didn't grasp what she'd said. I said something else meaningless while my mind went over her words. Did she really just say that?
I know enough now to know it was an ignorant comment not made to be hurtful. But it was, and I felt guilty later for not saying something to her...for not educating her. For not standing up for my child.

So guilt can take many forms, and I doubt it will ever leave me forever. But sometimes you have to put those feelings in check...guilt you have to go away, you don't belong here.

future of hope said...

I am going to venture to say that the guilt that you just experienced was magnified by the prematurity issue, but was not caused by it. The guilt you experienced is the guilt of every parent with 2 or more kids. In addition to my own, I have helped raise many other children over the last 18 years. No two are ever alike. You have dream infants, and then you have those that make you understand child abuse, lol ( DISCLAIMER - THAT LAST STATEMENT IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY!!!) Lots of times siblings have totally opposite personalities. Enjoy your easy going child - tell guilt to take a hike!

Anonymous said...

Stacy said

As I sat there and watched my breathtakingly adorable child find wonder with a ray of sun I was thinking to myself, "wow, he is so much easier than Paige! So this is what it was supposed to be like."

I do not see where this is guilt. This is an observation. This may be truth, indeed, - "what it was supposed to be like."

I observed many things with my non preemie non-medically intervened second born child that I did not observe with my first.

I heard coos and sounds my first born never made, ranges of emotional expression and interaction I had not experienced.

A multitude of things that were so much easier.

It is ok to state the truth. What you observed is not the fault of the child. It is not the fault of the mother. Mother, child, family community are left with the sequelae of the birth in ways that are obvious and in ways that are not.

I have felt similar feelings. I did not call it guilt. I called it feelings of incredible grief and loss for both me and my child.

Anonymous said...

I have four children. My fourth child was a surprise--I was thirty five and had been diagnosed with diabetes since my last child's birth. I thought the diabetes was going to be the main issue in the pregnancy, but it turned out my age was the real enemy. My placenta began to die and was the size of a post-it pad when the doctor delivered my son six weeks early. I was lucky, he only spent sixteen days in the NICU--my first and only experience with the NICU.

Now, however, I find that he lags behind developmentally. I find myself comparing him to my older children, frightened he is not developing properly and will not be as healthy and happy as the others. What could I have done differently? What am I doing wrong?

My point is--it does not matter who your child is or even who you are. You are going to compare your children and you are going to be wracked with guilt over it because your children will never compare equally. Each child is different and someone is going to come out on the losing end. You simply have to accept that all children are different and accept them each for who they are--good and bad.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Stacy.

Moms always feel guilty. Moms always compare their kids. We feel bad about it, but heck, we're human.

We've known each other for years. You know my kids. Katie's always been easy and Thomas has always been a lot of work. They are uniquely remarkable. They are wonderful people and I love them both so much.

I say, embrace the guilt. You're gonna have it so why not embrace it? The guilt is just that little voice that makes you consider your actions and your thoughts. The guilt means you're trying really hard to love each child in the way that child needs your love.

If I had a magic wand I'd wave it and my kids would be perfectly healthy. Katie wouldn't have been so undercooked that she was raw and Thomas would be healthy. But we've made the best choices we could for their future based on the information we had at the time.

My mom had 5 kids. Apparently, I was awfully demanding (shocking, I know). I ended up with more attention than some of the other because I demanded it. None of us were premature. Some of us were just easier than others.

I know that you have fought hard for your kids. Paige is a bright girl and she's made remarkable strides because of your hard work. Tyler is a sunny little guy. Your kids are blessed that you're their mommy.

Wow, I just realized that 10 years ago tomorrow I held Stinkie for the first time. She was almost off the vent. It was Mother's Day and she was 2 months old. They gave me a card with prints of both hands and feet. All the other moms got a card with their child's hand. Even at 2 months she was the smallest kiddo in the NICU. She's now my easy child.


The Preemie Experiment said...

Thank for the nice notes everyone. I'm much better today!!

future of hope said...

TPE (Stacy), I am glad that you feel better today! This comment has nothing to do with your original post per se, but it does address the key issue - GUILT.

My guilt these days has very little to do with my son's early birth. It happened, smack dab in the middle of a perfect, no issues pregnancy, no one knows why. I did nothing to cause it, and likewise, with so little warning, could have done nothing to prevent it..... Anyways.... My guilt hits me full force whenever I look back at my son's early years. All of the time spent focused on this milestone or that, pushing and prodding for just "one more" skill, all the time spent running from PT to OT to SLP and back again. I would give literally anything to go back in time and get off of that merry-go-round. We lost so much. So much fun, so much "bonding", so much discovering and play. All in search of what was "supposed to be" instead of "what is". If he hadn't spent so much time pushed beyond his limits, would his social/emotional outlook be better? I missed so much that can't be gotten back - so many "firsts" that came so late that they brought with them more anxiety than joy. I was so wrong. I want my baby back. NOT my "preemie", not my "special needs child" but my BABY. the one that I had in my arms, and that I dreamed away.

Sis Sarah said...

My 33 weeker after leaving the NICU basically has had no problems other than hard to feed during infancy. My 35 weeker acted much the same, but at 6 months started having lung issues, and now is on o2 24/7. I feel your heart ache when I see my son who cannot always do the same things, have the same freedoms ect as his sister.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am so sorry that you feel guilty comparing your children. We all do, you know. Even "normal" children have differences, and some kids are just easier than others.

The Passionate Peach said...

Glad I found your blog. My son was a micro-preemie and I have done the same thing around the guilt issue. It is hard to determine how much is guilt and how much is the grieving process, but it slaps me in the face too.
I think about what he would be like if he had been full-term ~ the same wonderful, wonderful boy I know ~ but I'm sure there would be differences. I don't want him to have to go through life continuing to have to work harder for everything because of his early birth and it forever changing him. Thank God for restoration and healing.

Your children are both awesome and you are a great Mom. Thanks for writing so that others can share.

Amanda said...

It was you and Paige who first shed the light on Sensory Disorders while I was on one of my endless searches for why my 25.5 weeker acted the way she did. And once again you have managed to open my mind to many of the feelings I feel everyday. Guilt. I now have 3 kids. Newt(nicknames used) is 6 and was fullterm, the gore is my preemie 3 yr old that has the ADHD/Sensory issues and the boy/KC is 1 and a fulltermer. Newt was so easy and an absolute delight so much so that at 2, during an outdoor excursion we watched her try to play on a seasaw by herself and decided she needed a playmate. A few months later we became pregnant with our twins. The gores were born at 25.5 weeks. we lost one of them 3.5 months later And somewhere in the midst of our sadness, anger, disbelief, and marriage problems from the stress of it all came our boy. Who by far is the EASIEST baby I've ever seen in my life. So everyday I am guilt ridden with why I continue to think how much easier it would be if I just had Newt and KC. Now how fair is that. I cry myself to sleep many times for being so thoughtless and unappreciative of what God has given us and continues to give us with the gore. She is a blessing but I do struggle everyday with feeling thankful, just because she is so difficult. My family keeps telling me in a year it won't be so bad. She'll be able to comprehend things a little better and KC won't need quite as much of me. I keep trying to decide if I can survive that year...and then, the guilt kicks in again!! I've decided it's just a never ending battle of being a MOM!