Do you have mother's guilt?

Written by: Mindy May 17 2011 Nobody dreams of having a sick baby — or an ugly one, for that matter. Indeed, when we picture ourselves bringing home a new daughter or son, most of […]

Written by: Mindy

Nobody dreams of having a sick baby — or an ugly one, for that matter. Indeed, when we picture ourselves bringing home a new daughter or son, most of us envision a roly-poly little dimpled thing that smiles and coos.

The reality of bringing home a newborn can be quite different. A lot of newborns are red and wrinkly with funny-shaped heads and scowls on their little faces, simply because they haven’t learned yet how to un-scrunch their muscles.

Now, I’m definitely the proud mama in the sense that I think Chloe is gorgeous and was from the day of birth. It helps that she was “fully cooked”—you know, a full 40-weeks and darn chunky at that. I’ve seen newborns who either came early or were just tiny to begin with, and they pretty much leave you thinking, “You’ll only get better from here, kid.”

I’ll also confess to being biased when it comes to Chloe’s health. The fact that she had to spend a few days in the NICU was unsettling partly because nobody wants to see their child attached to tubes, and partly because I didn’t really believe she had a big enough problem to warrant a hospital stay.

(Incidentally, I still don’t believe it, and wouldn’t you know it — our pediatrician called this week to say the initial diagnosis of newborn alloimmune thrombocytopenia may not have been the problem at all. It may have been much simpler. We’ll find out next week for sure when we hear from a hematologist, but all I can say is Ha! How’s that for mother’s intuition?!)

In either case (the ugly baby or the sick baby), I can’t help but wonder how many women are stricken by “mother’s guilt”?

I say that because at one point while Chloe was in the hospital, I was a little tense. And tearful. And grumpy. My mother, who had treated my husband and me to dinner and was trying to be supportive, told me, “Don’t worry honey. Every mother blames herself for everything that ever happens to her child.”

I told her, somewhat cockily “No, I don’t blame myself for this. It’s something that was completely beyond my control. It’s just that it really sucks.”

At the time, I meant it. The doctors had already informed us that nothing I could have done during the pregnancy or before could have altered Chloe’s low platelet count (at least, that was the case before they potentially changed our diagnosis!).

I certainly worried about it during those first few days when I thought it could have been my fault, but I had to let that go. It wasn’t doing anybody any good and pretty much just sent me to tears. Letting that go was a smart choice; it empowered me to get through each new day while hoping for the best instead of regretting the worst.

Maybe this is part of what leads so many women into postpartum depression. I know most of it has to do with the changes in hormone levels, but blaming yourself for anything negative connected to a new little life that you brought into the world can’t have a good effect on you.

I read recently that postpartum depression affects one out of three new moms. Though I tend to assume things like that “won’t ever happen to me!” I know it’s still possible. So far though, so good. But it helps that I’ve been really focused on all the good things that have happened since Chloe was born—such as feeling insanely empowered after birthing her naturally and so quickly. Of course, there’s the best thing that’s happened overall—the fact that Chloe has now joined our family and we love her immensely!

I have two other approaches to combat potential depression or even a milder case of the baby blues. I’ll tell you about them next week, but here’s a hint: one is downright funny, and the other is … well … animalistic, so read only if you have a strong stomach.

See you next week!

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