Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guilt is a Four-Letter Word

There's a line in a Tori Amos song, "I have enough guilt to start my own religion." I've heard the song, Crucify, many times but never heard that line until last week. I hate guilt. It's a useless emotion that only serves to make us feel bad about our choices. Why can't we be gentler with ourselves?

I feel guilt over what I did or didn't do that may have hurt my babies. Alex and Amelia never gave me signs that they weren't well. I was diligent about listening to my body, even calling the nurse when I felt nervous that I wasn't showing yet with Alex. Of course, I received the "all women are different and this is your first pregnancy so don't worry" line. I knew something was wrong, but didn't want to be perceived as "hysterical." A couple of weeks later, the ultrasound confirmed the worst. I know there was nothing I could have done.

Amelia died under very similar circumstances. We discovered at 10 weeks that she had died at 7. As with Alex, there was never any bleeding, and I felt helpless. I wondered why my body was killing my babies. I demanded testing and answers.

Even with blood thinning treatment, nothing could have saved David. He had a chromosome abnormality. I actually felt relieved that something happened to him that was completely out of my hands. Having a healthy son the following year confirmed my suspicion that the blood thinning treatment was the answer. I was angry at my doctor for not testing me for that after Alex died. I had to let that go.

I never suspected Elizabeth wouldn't make it. I was doing the same treatment. After we found out she had died, I thought back over everything I had done or didn't do. I tortured myself with wondering. Was it the peppermint tea I drank to alleviate the nausea? I had used sunscreen with deet once. Was it that? Did that kill my baby? How can so many babies die for no reason?

Gabe left me naturally at barely 6 weeks, and I know he was not well. I never got to see him on an ulrasound and will never know what happened to him. Even though he was with me for such a short time, the memory of the day we lost him haunts me.

I had bleeding with Madeline. Because I had lost Gabe after bleeding, I was convinced the same thing was happening. I was beyond terrified. I went to the bathroom constantly to check. I would pull over to the side of the road while I was driving so I could check. My doctor thought I had a hemorrhage, and a week later she suspected we had lost a twin. I chose not to believe that - it was too much. I asked if I should be on bed rest, and my doctor said there was no evidence that would help. I went with my doctor's orders and went back to my life, knowing that I would go insane with anxiety if I laid around all day. I also had a two year old who needed me. Should I have insisted on bed rest? Could I have saved her? She is who I feel the most guilt for.

I went to an expert before conceiving Rebecca so I could learn what else could be done. I took a different medication that made me impossibly tired and nauseous. I had the stomach flu for a couple of days with her and insisted my doctor give me an ultrasound so I could see if she was okay. Once we learned she had a chromosome problem, I assumed it was due to my eggs being too old. One more thing to feel guilty about.

I know rationally I had no control over what happened, that I did everything in my power to keep my babies alive, but that doesn't always offer solace. I think there will always be a small part of me that wonders what I could have, or should have, done differently.


A Shadow of My Former Self said...

This post resonates with me but in a convoluted way.

It's only been a few days since my loss and maybe the "I wonder what I could have done" will surface at some point.

For right now I wonder if I deserved it. The rational side of me is heartbroken at this thought.

Becky said...

So many losses, I am tearing up and trying to make sense of how this could have happened so many times to one person. I have only lost my one son, almost 3 months ago now, and having the hardest time to try and not feel guilty- I had to have done something wrong, right? I don't know how you feel other than from what you have wrote in your posts but know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

the misfit said...

I can only imagine what torture this must be. I know looking at it from the other side of the looking glass, it's obvious that it was not your fault. You did more to keep your children alive and healthy than just about 100% of women who have healthy children. I don't know how you could be asked to do more than "more," but those are your children and I understand that their loss is not something you can ever just "chalk up to experience." I pray you're able to find peace.

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