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Everyone has an internal monologue of feelings you can’t prevent. A vicious voice of doubt. A voice asking ‘what if’ and filling your head with words like ‘should’ve and ‘could’ve’. Guilt can plague you in many situations but none more so than when you have produced your own small human for whom you are responsible.
I’ve always felt guilty about things. A history of anxiety and depression means I have many unwelcome thoughts in my brain. Guilt that I didn’t think more carefully about my career, that I hadn’t spent more time with my grandfather even though I was there weekly, that my little sister had inherited bad traits from me. I could go on. I won’t.
I knew that being a mum means you worry about your child’s wellbeing/health/happiness/everything. I expected it. I didn’t expect this magnitude. Why couldn’t I have done this? How can I not do that? What if? Should I? Could I have done that?
My story comes with an extra helping of mum guilt. Ladies and gents, I give you, Prematurity Guilt. My son was born at 28 weeks and six days via c-section after pre-eclampsia developed and it became dangerous. Jack spent three months in the NICU learning how to function and still came home with an oxygen cylinder and tubes on his face.
What did I do wrong? Why did my body betray him so badly? This was followed eventually by ‘why won’t my body produce enough milk for him?’ It’s my fault he’s struggling. It’s my fault he needs a hernia operation because it developed as a result of being born early.
It took time to conquer these initial feelings. But other mum guilt remains. Why don’t we have more money to buy a bigger house? Why did I lie him down for his nap? I should relish every cuddle because other parents aren’t as lucky. Some NICU parents don’t get to keep their babies. I should hold him endlessly.
This isn’t realistic. Mum guilt meant that once Jack was discharged home, I spent my whole day within a metre of my baby, not doing any housework, not doing anything except cuddle him because I was so lucky to be able to. But gradually that fog clears. I realised that in order to be the best parent possible for him, I maybe need take care of self. Everyone feels fresher when you get some jobs done. It’s ok to put him down for half an hour for that.
Your tiny baby won’t remember whether you cuddled him for 3 hours or 20 minutes each naptime. Love is more than that. Don’t let mum guilt stop you from living and enjoying now and don’t let it become an excuse for everything.
There are things that we as mothers will feel forever but you don’t need to let it take over your happiness. Kids happy and well? You’re doing fine xxx
Laura was selected as a BISS guest blogger after entering our November linky. For your chance to write for GoodtoKnow, check out our Because I Said So platform.