One thing I have found that many mothers who have lost a child struggle with is guilt. It may seem like a strange thing to struggle with. Why feel guilty for losing your child? It’s obviously not your fault. That is easier said than done. I have felt guilty for a barrage of things since losing Asher.
In the hospital after he was born, I was holding him in my arms looking at him and crying, just saying “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”. I couldn’t stop saying it. I said it to my husband too. I was so sorry. Hubby looked at me and said you have nothing to be sorry for. But I did. I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t save him from this fate. I couldn’t do anything to avoid it and I was so, so sorry for it. I confessed to Hubby after losing Asher that I felt like I wished this outcome onto him. I felt so guilty for it. I was always afraid that this would happen. He told me of course I didn’t wish it on him and that he thought about it too during my pregnancy. I’m sure every parent worries about this outcome, losing their child and having to give birth to a stillborn. But they rationalize it as “well I’ve seen it happen to others, but it won’t happen to me.” I remember thinking “what if he is stillborn?!” constantly. I thought “Would I share it on my blog? I could reach other struggling mothers with it”. “How could I deliver a stillborn baby?!” I am such a hypochondriac, I always go to worst case scenario. In my pregnancy, losing him was my worst case scenario and something I thought about constantly. I was so afraid of losing him that I was obsessed with his movements. I would have moments where I thought “ I haven’t felt him in a while. IS HE OK?!”. He would sense my anxiety and would move instantly, calming my nerves. That morning when I had that same thought, he didn’t move to calm my nerves. I knew something was wrong. When it was confirmed, I felt so sick to my stomach. Like my thoughts of this possible outcome made it happen! Like I was a terrible person for even having thoughts like that, for thinking it was a possibility. But I’m human. Everyone thinks of worst case scenario. When I verbalized my guilt for having these thoughts to other mothers, so many said “of course I thought of that!”, “That was my biggest fear!”, “We all thought it while pregnant!”. Our thoughts can’t manifest something like this to happen. When you have thoughts like those, it is your biggest fears and anxieties being verbalized in your mind. My guilt for those thoughts has passed because I have accepted that I couldn’t have done anything to prevent this outcome and that worrying about something does not cause it to happen.
I know that many women go back and think about what they did during their pregnancy that could’ve caused this outcome and feel guilty for various things. “I shouldn’t have eaten all that candy.” “I shouldn’t have had caffeine.” “ I shouldn’t have worked out so much.” (that was definitely not a concern of mine since I hate working out) “ I should’ve done more of this or less of that” Etc. You can drive yourself mental thinking about all of the what-ifs and things that you could’ve done differently. The truth is, none of that matters. My one cup of caffeinated coffee a morning did not cause my son’s heart to stop beating. Many mothers have 2 cups a day while pregnant and have healthy babies. One long walk with Murphy didn’t cause this outcome either. Many mothers lift heavy weights and work out their entire pregnancies to have healthy babies. Personally, I never felt the guilt after losing Asher for doing something while pregnant. I did everything I could while pregnant to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. I did things that many other mothers do, who end up having healthy children. Nothing I did was different. There was nothing I could’ve done differently to have changed this outcome. God had control over the situation and he needed Asher more than us. Cutting out my one cup of coffee a day would not have made a difference.
After losing Asher, I struggle with guilt related to my grief. I feel guilty for doing things. I feel guilty for smiling and laughing. I feel guilty for not crying all day, every day. I feel guilty for going back to work. I feel guilty for being able to speak about him without breaking down into hysterics. The guilt is everywhere since losing him. When I was on my disability leave after having Asher, I went out to eat a lot with friends or family to get out and distract myself. It was very easy to kind of put my pain aside and act fairly normal, laughing and joking with people. I would come home and just feel absolutely horrible. I felt like a horrible mother. How can you go out and laugh with people when your son just died?! How can you think about anything other than the terrible loss you just had?! How can you function?! How can you go home from the hospital and watch TV?! How can you listen to music?! Etc. The guilt is related to the fact that I feel like I’m grieving wrong. I feel like I should be an inconsolable, sobbing mess. But I can’t be that way all day every day. I was the week after he was born and I gave myself multiple migraines. As hard as it is, life moves forward. Everyone says I shouldn’t feel guilty. Asher wouldn’t want us to be sad and depressed. He wants us to be happy. It’s easier to say that than to accept it. It’s been almost two months and I still struggle with the guilt. I feel it constantly. I know I will continue to struggle with it. When life seems “normal”, it feels wrong, like he wasn’t here. I feel guilty every time something seems like it was before. Everything should be different but it’s not and it won’t be. That fact is what causes my guilt.
I can sit here and tell other struggling mommas that you shouldn’t feel guilty but I know me saying that isn’t going to change how you feel. Grief is a slow, slow process. And the grief of losing a child is never-ending, it just evolves. There will never be a day where I don’t think of and miss my son so much that it hurts. The guilt is just part of that process. I’m slowly learning to feel less and less guilty, but I know it will take time. Hopefully, eventually, the guilt will disappear and I will just be left with the ache of missing my son every day.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”