Grief is a tidy little word on the face of it -- it seems to suggest that we're just humming along, mourning our lost children.
But we all know too well that grief is a non-native, invasive species, wrapping itself around other parts of our life and suffocating them. It's a balloon that inflates, until it encompasses so much more than death itself. I often feel like I grieve multiple things: my old body, my old self, optimism, little-f faith, confidence in medical testing, unbridled joy, the unpleasant pruning of family and friends in this debacle, the family of four I envisioned. Oh, and my daughter. What I really want, I suppose, is the freedom to just miss my daughter.
Then there's the extraneous stuff that complicates grief. Multiplies and magnifies it. Doubt. Confusion. Uncertainty. Could be religion or parenting, could be infertility or relationships.
Could be guilt.
The first thing -- the absolute first thing -- I said to my husband after The Conversation with The Specialists where they told us Maddy was dying, and how did we want this to happen, and left the room so we could have a moment together was: I'm Sorry.
I'm not exactly sure what I was apologizing for -- marrying me? meeting me? falling in love with me? -- because when you get down to it, I had nothing to do with Maddy's death. Regardless of who's right in this mess and whether Maddy died of some never-before-seen genetic disorder or an infection circa 25w gone madly awry and then correcting itself, I float above rather free of blame. I had an extremely monitored pregnancy, and the umpteen ultrasounds through 32 weeks which never detected a problem. I never had a worrisome symptom. I never had contractions or leaking that needed medical attention. I had amnio because I was maternally geriatric and it was normal. I didn't miss signs, I didn't skimp on care. There was no date where I could have stepped in and said, "Something is wrong," and something could be done where everything would've turned out alright.
There is only the beginning. For me, what residual guilt I have over Maddy -- her awful little life and her death -- lies at the very onset of her conception when I said, "Let's try for a second." That's the only point I could've stopped the train from going off the rails, by not letting the train leave the station at all. But like someone who was broadsided by a car that missed a stop-sign, that's rather like saying, "I'm sorry I went to buy groceries." "I'm sorry I decided to go to work today like I always do." "I'm sorry I went to pick up our kid at school."
And so for the most part, I've let it go, and I swim this complicated sea of grief rather guilt free. I realize in that respect I'm sort of an anomaly in these parts, and that many of you feel guilt surrounding your baby's (babies') death(s) like a shoe on your throat. Missed signs. Care that at the time seemed plenty attentive but in hindsight seems sketchy. That 20-20 vision where you now know exactly when things started going poorly, and maybe if you had known, and could've gone somewhere, and convinced someone, and done something . . . .The feeling that if, if only, what if.
And I often read these posts and want desperately to step in and turn guilt off like a faucet. It's moot! I scream at my screen. It's happened. And it's only complicating things. Let it go. It's not your fault.
But there's nothing I can say, because I know it's not for me to say it. It's for you to unravel and marvel and wonder as you stare at the pieces in your hands, wondering how you could've missed how they all fit together. It's for me to abide with you, and listen, and comfort, and take pain in your constant turning back of the clock. If there's anything I could do for a fellow parent grieving, it would be first and foremost, to erase the guilt. To separate it from your problems, set it on fire, and watch the smoke drift away. To eliminate that one feeling that makes grieving so, so much worse.
Do you feel guilt regarding your baby(-ies) death(s)? How do you deal with it? What if anything makes you feel better about it, and can you envision a time in your future where you let it go?