Friday, June 19, 2009

Secret Guilt

I have a friend whose marriage has been marked by trauma related to physical and emotional abuse, and mental anguish unthinkable. But when she found out she was carrying his child, her heart - her life- was filled with renewed purpose and hope. Because new life was growing inside, she felt she could hold on and find the strength to do what she needed to do regarding her future and the tumultuous relationship. When the unborn baby died, she cried in anguish and assured me, "I wanted my baby!"

I have another friend who was informed early in pregnancy that her baby had trisomy 18, a condition not compatible with life outside the womb. She and her husband chose to carry the baby regardless of what would happen after his birth. She said that pregnancy presented the only opportunity she would have to parent her child - she treasured every day they had together.

I remember when my son, Christopher, was in the intensive care for 10 days because he was born too soon. The doctors constantly bombarded us with a slew of bad news ranging from quadriplegia to blindness. The truth is I just did not care. I wanted my baby and would find strength to manage the difficulties that arose when he came home.

No matter the circumstances regarding one's life situation or the prognosis of a child - as parents, we never give up the hope of bringing our children home. We become superhuman and purpose to overcome every obstacle standing in the way of that happy reunion. But when things don't go according to our hopes and fervent prayers - when our babies die - we often harbor a secret guilt.

We reflect upon every single thing that could have derailed our most important mission. We search for the many ways this most horrid outcome was our fault. Some might reflect on a nicotine habit, a missed visit to the NICU, stress, a secret thought, a stray comment, faltering faith, a critical decision, a missed prenatal appointment or medication, trusting the misinformed doctor ... this list could go on and on. These random events do not cause the deaths of our children!

I think guilt and self-blame are our ways of claiming control over a situation that we are powerless to change. I've found that once I admit my total lack of control and give it back to the One who is always in control, I find peace. Don't get me wrong, I still hurt, but I no longer have the cloying monkey on my back who holds on by putting his webbed paws over my nose and mouth! And sometimes this "giving up control" and stopping the self-blame-game-of-shame is a constant struggle. I have to give up control several times a day. It's never been a one-time deal for me.

Here's a bit of advice from one who has been there-done that TOO many times: Put that guilt-laden monkey in his place and, like I told my friend ... you will breathe again ...