A Mother’s Guilt

Bristol hugging pillow (Bristol)

I am a logical person who appreciates facts.

FACT: I did everything within my power to have a healthy and safe pregnancy.
FACT: Preeclampsia was not my fault and not even doctors know what causes it.
FACT: Some things are just beyond my control.

And yet, I cannot even express in words the amount of guilt that I carry for getting preeclampsia and being forced to deliver my twin girls at 28 weeks.  To compound the situation, my youngest girl, Bristol, suffers day in and day out as doctors struggle to find a way to heal her sick, undeveloped lungs.  She had a collapsed lung from a pneumothorax about 48 hours after birth, has been on both a jet ventilator and a conventional ventilator ever since.  Despite treatments of surfactant, steroids, and numerous vaso- and broncho-dilators, her overall lung condition has worsened, and doctors now say she has pulmonary interstitial emphysema and chronic lung disease.  As if that isn’t enough, she has contracted a couple of infections – one in her lungs and one in her blood – so they are giving her two antibiotics.  Because she is a fighter and often very restless, doctors also pump her with several sedatives, including morphine.  She is listed as “severely critical” and “unstable”, and her life journey so far has been a roller coaster with a few highs and a lot of very low lows.  When I look at her, my mind races with a million “what ifs”:

“What if I had never gotten preeclampsia?”
“What if I had made it just a few more weeks?”
“What if I had rested more during my second trimester?”
“What if I had eaten better or taken more vitamins?”
And the list goes on….

I even feel guilt for celebrating the successes of my oldest girl, Bella, who has (thankfully) not had any major issues thus far.  She has been breathing on her own and has only a nasal cannula (the same little tube you or I would get if we were in the hospital), which merely provides supplemental oxygen to remind her little preemie brain to breathe.  She has been on feedings of my breast milk through a tube since Day One, was off of TPN (IV supplementation) within about two weeks, and is now practicing latching on for actual breastfeeding.  This week, she began regulating her body temperature much better, so they removed her temperature probe and have allowed her to begin wearing clothes and swaddling in sleepsacks.  These are all things to celebrate…..but I feel guilty celebrating and feeling excitement when I have a sick child who is hanging onto life by a thread.

And at the end of the day, I feel guilty when I become exhausted and want to go home to sleep in my bed.  My girls – and especially Bristol – are fighting for their lives 24/7, so who am I to say I am tired?  But there are days when I just want to stay home and catch up on my sleep.  In addition to the emotional roller coaster we endure as parents of preemie babies in NICU, I am pumping my milk every 3 hours – which means that I haven’t had a full night’s sleep of 7-9 hours straight since before I went into the hospital.  My house is in disarray, I am behind on thank you notes for all of the generosity that has been extended to us, I need to run errands like grocery shopping, I need to take care of some paperwork and such for the girls and I – just a million things that are piling up.  I feel like I just need one day to myself to sleep and take care of all of that – but I can’t bear to miss a day with my girls, and I would feel guilty if I even tried.

As I struggle with my guilt day in and day out, I can’t help but wonder, “Is this just all part of being a good mom?”

Bellas first pjs (Bella)

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13 comments

  1. Jenny, please try not to feel guilty about what happened. You did the best you could! Feeling guilty is a part of being a mom! 🙂

  2. Jenny, I am continuing to pray for your precious girls. And for you to find the wisdom as a mom to know you need to rest in order to be physically able to be strong for your babies.

  3. Jen, as the mother of 3 preeclampsia births and 1 lost pregnancy, our hearts know it wasn’t our faults, but the guilt carrying part in our minds seem to prevail. One would think saying ” God wouldn’t give you anything you couldn’t handle” band aids the boo boo. We put on a smile and say thank you all the while still carrying guilt.Sweetie I want you to know
    I’m hurting with you and Blaine. You’re here and now is a test a testimony of tour faith, your walk, your strength,

    1. ..and how is the head of your life. You are on a journey that has it highest of the highs and lowest of the lows. I only wish I could switch your pain with my strength and energy. I had a long talk with my mom and had her church add ya’ll to their prayer list. promised to keep them updated. I love you as a friend, a mother, and a sister in Christ. it’s easy to look strong but if u wanna let go..I’m here!!! I love you!!

  4. Wow. I’ve been where you are – and it’s not easy. I developed eclampsia and HELLP syndrome at 32 weeks. I spent time in the ICU and went straight from there to the NICU to be with my son. This was 6 years ago – and I still have some issues with it. It is normal to feel guilty about the situation, but it is NOT your fault. Please make sure you get the support you need (including sleeping, eating, and taking care of yourself) during this time. You need to be strong for your girls – but you can’t do that without being strong for yourself. Good luck, I wish you and your girls well.

  5. Hugs to you momma. I could tell you not to feel guilty but ive been in your shoes and 15 months later i still ask the very same questions. Your little ladies are beautiful and their premature birth is not your fault though. Please give Bristol and Bella from me and my own preemie sweetie. Take time to breathe, take time to care for yourself as hard as it may be.

  6. Yes, hon, everything & all the feelings you’ve expressed are all part of being a mom. Moms never feel like they’ve done enough or have enougj hours in the day to take care of their family. If you are already experiencing these feelings, you are going to be a wonderful mother. For now, you & Blaine need to put your faith in the powerful healing that only God can provide. I am friend of Blaine & his family. Bristol & all of you are the prayers of our entire community. May God bless you in this time of trial.

  7. I have so many regrets in my life. The biggest one….. Why didn’t my daughter call me when she needed me most. My sons are the same now. If they only knew how l need to hear from them to reassure them. That l a still here. And always will be. We can’t go back and undo. You need to take care of yourself first. So you will be there when they really need you. Its not easy being a mom. You will learn to forgive a lot. And still keep going. Because your children always come first no matter how old they get. Or you get. You will fight for them. No matter the cost. They are the reason you wake up every morning. And at peace when you go to sleep. There will be so many times when one child will excell the other. But still you love them all the same. Because they all have something special about them. No guilt jenny! Just be there for them the rest of their lives. Is all a mom can do!

  8. Hang in there mom! The guilt will never go away it’s all part of being a mom, but the feeling of the what if’s will start to fade. They may resurface every once in a while ( still happens to me and my twins are 2). One thing my aunt had told me, (who is also a mom of twins) is that God never gives us more than we can handle. I sure don’t know how I managed the long NICU days and sleepless nights of getting up and pumping, especially after the c-section. Your story has brought me to tears tonight, and remember all that happened with my birth. I experienced almost exactly what you did. My babies were due March 9th and born January 13th. In hindsight I should have saw the signs of preclampsia, especially with me being in the medical field. But I didn’t want to admit to myself that I wasn’t feeling right. I even had a nurse check my blood pressure 6 days before I had my emergency c-section and it was 153/90. Way to high, but she said put my feet up, and I’d be fine. So when I go back and think of all the stuff I could have done it drives me crazy! All you can think of now is taking care of YOURSELF and your beautiful girls! You have to make sure you are taken care of because those babies need a healthy mommy! The NICU nurses talked me into going out to dinner with my husband one night and not stay for their 700pm feeding. I cried leaving the hospital, cried on the way to dinner, but after dinner I felt refreshed. Do something for yourself! It’s easy for me to say it, because I”m not where you are right now, but I’ve been there and looking back I wish I would have spent a day catching up. My OB even said go one night and sleep for 4 hours and make up an extra pumping during the day. She said it’s important to get a 4 hour stretch of sleep. It felt amazing when I did that. I felt so refreshed, just from the extra hour. Having a traumatic birth exprience and NICU exprience will always be in the back of your mind, but just focus on you and your family! Just please take care of yourself!

  9. I had my girls at 28wks4d & my story mimics yours in so many ways. My girls were due April 18th…born January 28th. My oldest came out breathing on her own, my youngest struggled.
    My beautiful, amazing girls just turned 4 years old. What a rollercoaster but of course, worth every minute of the crazy ride. Email me or message me on Facebook (i will like your post there if you want. I still remember all the guilt & exhaustion & amazement of that time for me, that you are living now.

  10. Hi Jenny, My name in Nicole and my sister Jennifer was in Blaine’s class and we have known Blaine since we were kids and he played baseball under my uncle and dad. You all are in our prayers daily. Jennifer and I both don’t have children yet but we have suffered 3 miscarriages between the two of us. Your thoughts and feelings are perfectly ok and normal but just know its not your fault. I felt the same things during my miscarriages, what could I have done and i have days I still struggle with that, but you did everything you could! My cousin Hope (another friend of Blaines) and I started a group called Our Angels on facebook to help other mom’s like us. We will continue to pray that Bristol will make it through this. You two stay strong and tell Blaine we think of you all daily.

  11. jenny you still had your baby’s many of us were not so lucky and we carrey the guilt of how did we not know our baby was dieing inside us. he was dead in me for days and i worried every second why wasnt he moving i tried everything. my fiance poked my belly a few times saying hello in there we just so badely wanted him to move. and he was gone. please dont feel guilty your babys were born. i poor baby boy never even got to feel the air on his facce or the touch of his mommy and daddy. you did better then then you think.

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