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?

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8 thoughts on “Guilty as Self-Charged

  1. I think grief and guilt go hand in hand. The idea that we were suppose to do something to prevent these tragedies and traumas, especially when they happen repeatedly. It’s hard to uncouple.

    Though my losses were early, I still struggle with these feelings of guilt. Especially with the Beats’s first birthday just around the corner. As I get further out from the whole TTC experience, though, and find myself holding fast to the promises I made their siblings, I’m finding the guilt is less acute. Maybe I’m learning to forgive myself a little? Or maybe it’s something else. I can’t tell.

    Hang in there. All you’re going through is so hard and I wish you didn’t have to experience any of it.

  2. I know how you feel. But I can tell you that at least for me, a lot of the guilt went away in time. Do you know the phrase “Havaya Metakenet” in Hebrew? I blogged about it a couple of times… Anyway, there was something for me about giving birth to Bunny that muted a lot of the guilt I was feeling. Are there moments? Of course. But they’re less painful and less frequent. I think the state of being pregnant brings with it an inevitable familiarity, which makes these feelings rise to the surface. Once you get past this stage, into parent, I think eventually things will fall into place more.
    Where in the past I felt guilty about Nadav, and sometimes still do, I mostly feel grateful to him, because he made me a better parent for Bunny, and that’s the dominant feeling.
    On your end, I’m not trying to minimize Baby Boy’s role in your feelings as a parent, but I think it’s the giving birth part of the equation that made things fall into place differently for me, and not necessarily the parenting. Finally having the experience the way it’s “supposed” to happen put things in a completely different light.
    I hope the same happens for you.

  3. Here from Creme de la Creme 2014–this post is so beautiful, and haunting. I understand the guilt that comes with loss and more frequently for me, failure. Could I have done something better? Was it something I did? Even though the answer is NO, it is way to hard to stop that self-talk before it starts. I am so sorry for your losses. I am sorry for the guilt that you carry, but I understand it to some extent. It is hard to let go of, hard not to let it color your present experiences. I wish you peace.

  4. I did not experience this type of loss, but with your words I am able to feel the feelings that you experienced. I likely would have felt intense guilt and grief, as well. The part about wanting to have bathed your babies — I think that’s something I would have wanted, too, and I wonder if I would have had the presence of mind to make that happen.

  5. I totally relate to your words. No matter how much logical, medical information I was told about my losses, it was hard to not feel that since they happened “on my watch” it must have had something to do with me. I also felt that nothing was enough as far as time spent with the baby I delivered since she wouldn’t be coming home with me. I like the focus on both respecting your feelings and working to embrace your current life.

  6. I suffered early losses, but also felt real guilt. I remember it well, even 12 and 13 years after my losses.Two things struck me in your post. The first is that we put so much pressure on ourselves as women, about what we are “supposed” to be able to do, when actually baby loss (early or late) is a very real part of being a woman, our grief and guilt a uniquely female emotion. We are no less women because we experienced loss. If anything, our loss and grief has accentuated our femaleness.

    The second was that I think you do honour all your babies with your focus on gratitude and on life. You know that you don’t need to go to the cemetery to remember them and love them, but you just don’t 100% believe that yet. I remember feeling guilty about times when I didn’t feel guilty. When I let myself feel joy, the guilt chased it away at first, rushing back into the void. But when I came to believe (more than just “knowing”) that it wasn’t my fault (as it isn’t yours), the guilt faded. When I realised that I was honouring my lost babies by letting go of the guilt, the guilt gradually went, and there was room for joy.

  7. I don’t have any regrets as I feel that I have done whatever I could in my situation. But guilt… of course. Forever guilty of failing my baby. Even when I try not to.

  8. Wow, this is so beautiful. And sad. Part of me feels very sad because our experiences with loss seem to rob us of the joy we all deserve so very much to experience. But infertility will do that to a person won’t it? Hugs.

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