Guilty as Self-Charged

The self-talk that comes along with pregnancy after loss takes me down many dark avenues. Wait, who am I kidding? The self-talk that comes along with life after loss has messed with me immensely. Within the confines of my own mind, I’m the doubter, the fighter, the accused, the dreamer, the fraud, the pleader, the failure, and the cheerleader to name a few. I had talked previously about the external guilt I feel along with this pregnancy, but on some levels, that has nothing on the internal guilt.

This internal guilt has lived within me from my first loss in May 2008. It’s the “I know I don’t have control over what’s happening, but could I have done something differently or better to save my babies?” thoughts that replay in my mind. Thoughts that got louder with each loss. That same guilt plays into the sense that while I realize that I did nothing wrong, my body still “failed” me. As a woman, I’m supposed to be able to do this. But I know “supposed to’s” aren’t reality.

There’s another level of guilt that has been building within me, especially lately. Or maybe it is more regret: not taking pictures with Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin, and not yet looking at the pictures that were taken of Sarah and Benjamin in the hospital. It’s hard to believe that after everything we’ve gone through, I didn’t know about organizations like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. That I didn’t think to ask that we capture the moment, as painful as it had been, to have a physical reminder of us as a family, and their sweet faces, rather than desperately hoping to be able to hang onto the mental photos. Maybe the nurses asked us. But then again, I think it comes down to your mindset at the time.

First of all, there’s the shock. Then add to that pain and anger, and sheer disbelief. I remember needing to spend time with each of them, holding them, apologizing, kissing them, telling each how much we loved, and will always love them, and apologizing some more. I remember not knowing how long we should spend, and feeling like I should hand them off sooner than later. I remember my biggest fear at the time, that they were just going to be placed, no dumped, in a casket without care. And I regret not asking to bathe them—a ritual of honor within the Jewish faith, and a final act of physical love I could’ve done as a parent. But then again, it comes down to your mindset at the time, right?

I feel guilt for not going to the cemetery. Or for not yet having a headstone for Sarah and Benjamin. And at the same time, I realize that I carry each of them with me each day. That for Double A and me, we don’t need to go someplace to remember, or honor their memory. Yet that guilt still resides in my mind, and weighs heavy in my heart.

My guilt is fluid. Becoming pregnant again after so many losses has brought it to a whole other level. It’s the guilt of seemingly being able to carry this baby when I wasn’t able to hang onto the others. I once again feel like I’ve let them down. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m completely grateful, it is hard not to think why now? Before, the thought was that my body just was not able to do so, but now…who knows. I’ve spent so many years looking for an answer, and now I’m afraid to ask the question.

I find that with each passing day, and each feeling of this Little Guy move, I wonder what it would have felt like and been like with the others. People ask me if I feel different this time around. And the truth is yes, because I never got to feel any of this previously. It’s exciting and amazing, and heartbreakingly sad. It is a bittersweet feeling where I try to embrace each movement, and focus on my gratitude for getting this experience. I guess on some levels I’m trying to make up for all of the experiences I previously missed out on, both for me and our babies. It’s like I want them to know that I would have embraced this experience with them as well.

Just like I’ve learned to live day-by-day with the grief of losing children, I’ve learned—and am continuing to learn—to live with the varying degrees of guilt. I know there is no making up for the losses. And that I can’t go back and change things. That said, I’m trying hard to refocus that guilt into gratitude to make the most of our life, and our family, where it is right now.

Do you still carry guilt and/or regrets? How have you dealt with that?


Am I a Fraud?

As I walk around now, especially when I’m with Baby Boy, I am hypersensitive to people looking at me. They often look at my belly, then to the stroller, back to my belly, and then to my face. Some smile politely. Some give me a “whoa, you’re really going to have your hands full,” look. And others give me “that” look. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel like I’m being judged. And most of all, it makes me feel like I’m a fraud.

“I’m one of you!” I want to shout. “Do you know what I’ve been through?!? I deserve this.” It’s like I want, and need, to defend myself…to total strangers.

The thing is, I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been the one watching the “lucky” woman walk by with her gaggle of children, the all-American family, or the woman with the perfectly protruding belly. I’ve judged them for having the perfect life with perfect kids, even though I know that nobody’s life—or kids—are perfect. But in the throws of loss and grief, it sure feels like it, doesn’t it?

Our therapist used to say to us all of the time, you never know. You never know what their story is. You never know what their struggle is, or was. And it’s true. I thought I realized that before, but I’m finding out that I’m really only understanding it now.

Yes, we’ve been through hell and back, several times. Yes, we deserve this. But so do a lot of other women and couples out there. So while I’m so incredibly grateful for being where we are, I also find myself wondering, Why us? Why now? For lack of better words, I’ve found there’s a certain amount of guilt in being pregnant after loss. For me, there’s internal and external self-guilt. I’ll focus on the external now, but am working on a post about the internal too.

I have some guilt about being pregnant within this community, and it made me nervous to “come out” here. That seems weird, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s one of our hopes, isn’t it? At the same time, because I know what it means to be part of this incredible community of shared experiences and support, I know it is hard to hear that someone is pregnant—even one of our own. On some levels, I feel like I need to justify it to the outside world. Maybe it’s because of the reactions I’ve received in real life from people who can’t quite fathom that I’m pregnant for the sixth time. Or perhaps it’s me. Maybe what I’m really feeling is that I have to justify it to myself.

After going through everything we have, there came a point where I didn’t think I’d ever have a positive experience with pregnancy. And when we lost Sarah and Benjamin, I thought that was it. I was left with an immense sadness that my only experiences with pregnancy, labor and delivery were ones of extreme fear, pain, loss and grief. I won’t say that I accepted it; rather it was just what came to be as we carried on in our changed lives. When we brought home Baby Boy, I didn’t look at adoption as missing out, because I never felt like less than a Mother for not having carried him. Would I have loved to have had the experience? Of course. But he is my son. End of story. I just never thought I’d see another side, and now that I’m here, I’m not sure how to handle it.

I will always identify as a baby loss Mom. And I am also an adoptive Mom. But in my heart, I really just consider myself a Mom, with an evolving role. In the coming weeks, I need to figure out how to get out of my head, let go of the guilt, and embrace this next evolution. Any suggestions?

Did you feel like a fraud? What did you do to let go?