Mea Maxima Mama Culpa

I need your help, my wonderful, international blog friends.

I keep Googling every little thing I can think of about hearing loss. Sometimes it’s useful: today I found a document that lists several things that happened to SillyBilly when he was born that often lead to hearing loss, which gives me a clue as to what might have caused it.

But then, that immediately brings up half-buried guilt over his birth: My decisions during pregnancy and labor caused this to happen! I permanently damaged his hearing! He’s got no jugular vein because of me! He has allergies and asthma thanks to me! I almost killed him!

I know my dear friend Karen once pointed out in her comment on another post that it’s pure hubris to feel this way. I can understand and agree with that quite rationally.

Now, how do I stop feeling that way?



Filed under Family, Health, life, Parenting

20 responses to “Mea Maxima Mama Culpa

  1. That’s a rough one, Mama. First, a few thoughts: not having a jugular vein will keep him safe from vampires. Or half-safe, or something. Also, it will be a cool story to tell–he is a boy, after all, and we’re all into that sort of stuff.

    About the feelings…I don’t know if anything anyone else says can stop your feelings, but FWIW…you made the best decisions you could at the time. You loved SillyBilly then as you love him now, and you did your very best then, as you do now, to do what’s right for him.

    Look, I’m a hydration freak, so I’m always carrying a bottle of water around. During pregnancy, Mama was concerned about hydration and picked up the habit as well. Did all of those sips from plastic flagons lead to 3B’s undescended testicle? Maybe. Was there something else we could have done? Well, now that we know that plastic bottles are dangerous, sure, there are other things we can do–but we didn’t know then what we know now.

    For the same reason that laws don’t apply retroactively, guilt shouldn’t either, because we learn as we live, and it’s not fair to hold our former selves accountable for information they couldn’t have had when they were taking action.

    Also, you don’t know what you don’t know now. By that I mean that you still don’t know if your actions caused his hearing loss, just as I don’t know if all those sips from Nalgenes and bike water bottles caused 3B’s orchiopexy. So, while it is understandable to reconsider past decisions–trust me, I’ve done it–perhaps a way to distract yourself is to focus yourself on what SillyBilly needs now. And tomorrow. And next week. Understanding causes can help us predicts future outcomes, but we can’t plan for the future if we get stuck on the past. And what I hear from you is worry about what’s to come for SillyBilly…perhaps focusing on that end of the timeline will be distracting enough.

    And also, don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up. It’s OK to have regrets, and it’s OK to let regrets go.

    And seriously, that no-jugular vein thing will be big for him in junior high and high school.

  2. I don’t know your story, but I feel for you. My daughter was born with a cyst in her chest that became life-threatening as she grew older. I have looked back at every little detail of my pregnancy–perhaps it was those sips of wine. Maybe it was living next to a town garage with contaminated water. I don’t know. What I do know is that re-living every mistake doesn’t change things. Focusing on the future and providing him with what he needs now is all you can do. I know it doesn’t really help to hear it, because everyone has told me the same thing…but it is true and I hope it becomes easier for you as it has for me. Do you know Melissa Whiley’s blog? She has a hearing-impaired child.

  3. PapaB: I think it’s something in my psyche from way back. Probably some inadequacy neurosis or something. I remember as a kid reading about people with psychic abilities — moving objects, starting fires, etc. with their minds (too much early Stephen King!) — and feeling that I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

    Dude, you should see the gnarly scar on his neck! It’s awesome! He’s seriously going to impress with that thing in middle school.

    Sarah: I’ve read something by Steiner that says essentially that: focus on improving for the future instead of dwelling in an unhealthy way on the past. I’ll have to dig that lecture up. I’ll also go check out Melissa Whiley’s blog!

  4. Hopewaits

    Sometimes what we “feel” is just that , an emotion, and it’s really not any where close to truth!!!!!!

  5. E’s nursery teacher told me that she had once read an article about children who had gone through traumatic events in infancy and how they incarnated more fully, more quickly (at least that’s what I kind of remember her saying). Anyway, E is SO much MORE down to earth and *present* compared to her sister and has been since she was young. Have you come across any writing about this? Maybe I should look at an Anthroposophical medical site to see if there is anything about it. Then again, she is going through 9-year change right on schedule…

  6. Maybe we can all gather together and give you a big cyber motherly hug… I can totally understand why you feel this way. You have repercussions spelled out for you in black and white — and they may OR MAY NOT be on the money… who really knows for sure if you had anything in the world to do with this. And every Mother in the world carries something like this about every child…. skin cancer runs in my family, and I’m not that faithful about putting on sunscreen every morning, even in cloudy winter weather.
    When I am faithful about sunscreen, I worry about cancer-causing chemicals.
    To my surprise, I don’t carry guilt about my first’ son’s emergency c-section (after the Bradley method course) I simply choose not to let that get to me — this is typically not like me — and it’s not an attitude that runs through the rest of my life! However, I was just proud we both survived it. I look at that one strong attitude I have cultivated and wish, and try to carry it through to other parts of my life. — But I fail… I still feel guilty about things I shouldn’t.
    And these are just the physical problems. How many of us have went to bed with guilt on our hearts for not being as patient as we should have been, or missed opportunities to show them compassion?
    I do know two things… the attitude I have about my c-section is one of strength. It’s good for my son to when I hold this attitude in my heart… there was no other way… it was what it was. I wish I felt so strong about everything else that is in all my children’s lives.
    This is the second thing. You are so full of love for your child… this is so critical to his development, security and future happiness. We can’t take this lightly — some children don’t have even that.
    So, give yourself, and your son a big hug. He’s farther ahead than we can imagine.

  7. Hopewaits: That’s just how I’m perceiving this, as an emotion that I wish I could work with differently.

    Sarah: That is my experience with my son as well. He is much more “awake” than my daughter. That could be attributed to being the eldest child, but I think his birth definitely contributed. I’ll ponder whether I’ve read anything about that and let you know.

    SusieJ: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, and for your hug! I definitely need to focus on what I am doing for him right now — like being competent in organizing all the paperwork and appointments that are already starting to pile up around this, and giving that love he needs.

  8. A great big hug from far, far away.

    While this may sound tactless and shallow, I will chime in with, “things ALWAYS have a reason.” Right now, SillyBilly’s hearing loss is upsetting you and making you feel guilty; however, you cannot possibly foresee the REAL reason he has this challenge. It’s not about the past, it’s about the future. For instance, this disability could lead him to be the one person in the world to find a “cure”; or it may lead him to his soulmate; or it could make him an amazing father one day; or (drum roll for the irony) it may help him develop his hidden psychic abilities!
    I always remind myself that we can no more accept guilt for every one of our children’s challenges, than we can accept credit for each of their triumphs.
    Now, go turn off GOOGLE!

  9. Bex

    You know what?
    You are the reason he is alive!
    You are what nourishes him & keeps him happy.
    What a lucky little thing to have a Mumma that loves him so very much. Xxx

  10. Goodwitch: What a wonderful comment–I can’t take credit for his triumphs either! I never thought of it that way before. And saying that things always have a reason is not tactless; it’s something I firmly believe.

    Bex: Thank you for your kind words. I was just watching my kids walk ahead of me to the car this morning and marveled that they came out of my body. What an odd and miraculous thing that is.

  11. I don’t know if things always have a reason. But there’s the next thing in front of us and then the next thing.We can’t foresee the consequences of the thing we do now – we just try to do it with the best intentions and (in your case, I’m confident) the wish for things to be for the best. Here’s you, here’s the incredible love you have for all your children – it’s not possible for there to be something else you could have done or could do. Sorry I can’t be more coherent about this.

  12. He’s alive, and thank God for that. What is more, if you or anyone else around you had the slightest inkling of what was going to happen, you would have done *everything* within your power to prevent it. Of course you would have done! Sometimes bad stuff happens and nobody is to blame – FACT. That was one of the hardest truths I had to come to terms with after Kiko’s birth, but ultimately the one that kept me sane. People still sometimes say to me accusingly: “WHY didn’t you have a Caesarean?” as if I personally had caused the birth trauma. (By the way, a Caesarean wasn’t offered to me and I was not in a fit state to request one). Words like that still upset me so much but then I try to pull back and say: “No. No blame.”

    Another point is, everybody has *something* “wrong” with them. No one’s perfect, no matter how much society has conditioned us into believing this is attainable and desirable.

    I know it’s hard. Every time I notice something different about Kiko or if he’s ill or his asthma and allergies flare up, I go through the trauma of his birth again, and the guilt, and wonder: “Did I damage him?” I think the best thing to do is, every time a guilt thought comes into your mind, try to push it out with happy feelings about what a lovely boy SillyBilly is.

  13. I’ve just gone back and read Sarah’s comments, and have to add my twopenn’orth. Kiko daily astonishes me with his determination and independence. He’s just so… tough! I am certain this is a result of him surviving the trauma, or maybe it was what contributed towards his survival. Whatever the case, I’m so proud of him. In some ways, what he went through is part of him now.

  14. URD: I think you were pretty coherent! It’s true, there is really only this moment and what we do with it. I think there is something to be said for looking back and learning from the past, but dwelling on it isn’t so productive.

    Helen: I would have a very, very hard time being civil to someone who outright questioned my decisions or blamed me like that! I’m sure SillyBilly and Kiko both relied on their innate strengths to get through their tough times, and grew in strength because of it. We’re still not sure what helped SillyBilly survive, other than that strength and lots of prayers.

  15. Nana

    oy, if you only knew how many joyous moments we miss while feeling guilty.

    why are we always the last to forgive ourselves, long after others have already forgiven us? this is a very human trait, indeed.

    you trusted people you thought were worthy of that trust and that was your only mistake with my brilliant grandson’s birth. please read this again. you trusted people you thought were worthy of your trust and that was your only mistake with my brilliant grandson’s birth. you did not smoke. you did not consume alcoholic beverages. you did not take drugs. you did all of the right things that were within your control.

    now, please try to put your guilt into a mental container, label it unintentional errors in judgement, AND LEAVE IT THERE.

    God’s will is done.

    consider this: you were very, very young when you got your first pair of glasses. your visual impairment was in your genes and beyond my control.

    Silly Billy is getting hearing aids and is very very young. his hearing impairment is in his genes and beyond your control.

    consider this: God gave Silly Billy an enormous amount of strength in order to overcome the circumstances surrounding his birth. my brilliant grandson is happy, loving, curious, loving, friendly, loving, well adjusted, loving, sympathetic and has a great arm for pitching baseballs. lots of kids who went through routine births have a lot less going for them.

  16. Nana: Not only that, but I didn’t trust my own instincts as well. Doh!

  17. I’m with Nana. Brilliant Billy is successful already. Afterall he has clearly achieved every little boy’s first calling…to have his Nana wrapped around his little finger. On a more serious note…success is hardly defined by what you are born with. it is more likely defined by the challenges we face and how we overcome them. Your little man is just who he needs to be and he will grow up with a special portion of grace and compassion beyond his years that will enable him to make the world a better place for others who are suffering.

    He will never be as tough on you as you are being on yourself. He will learn to see your strength and courage as you nurture him and your relationship with him will build as you both triumph together. It would hurt him more to know that you blame yourself for something the neither he nor you had any control over. It would be awful for him to think that your pain is his fault.

  18. Flavia: Thank you and welcome! I recently edited a book about how one’s mother’s parenting and emotional state affects one’s own relationships and emotions. Certainly it is quite common for children to think that their parents’ suffering is their fault. And I certainly don’t want my children to think that. Another good thing for me to ponder.

  19. I’ll just add my two cents worth here. Everyone had such wonderful things to say, giving you such wise suggestions.

    I add my cyberhug.

    Then I have to ask you what makes you think that what you did or did not do caused Silly Billy’s problems? As Nana said above, you did not smoke, drink or take drugs. I’m sure you ate wisely as well. Sometimes development happens because of the way the chromosome divided in the early part of gestation. Something as infinitely small as a gamma ray can affect that process. Are you seriously proposing to yourself that you could predict and avoid gamma rays and neutrons being flung at us from our personal star, the Sun? You don’t know what caused the hearing damage, you have just been spending too much time on the internet reading.

    When I found out that few of my eggs were viable due to damage from something or other in my infancy, and apparently none of them could produce a viable offspring, I had to come to grips with the fact that I would never have a child of my flesh. Instead, I have a child of my soul, and children of my creativity. But I still have envy of people who have their own children, no matter what difficulties those children are going through.

    Blessed be, and peace be with you.

  20. HMH: Who knows, it could be something genetic, or it could be damage from his birth experience. You’re right, I just need to get off the internet! And I need to remember to be thankful for what I do have: beautiful, healthy, wonderful children. I have known many people who were unable to have children, and for a while there I thought I might be one of them (many years sans birth control before SillyBilly came…now I just realize we weren’t ready until then!) so I need to remember to be grateful. Thank you.

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