I really hate upsetting people. I feel awful if I had done or said the wrong thing and upset somebody. I feel the most enormous guilt and I am normally grovelling for their forgiveness soon after. This trait of my personality was definitely not ready for the guilt you can feel when you become a mother. You can make yourself feel guilty so easily….struggling to breastfeed…guilt….not going to playgroup…guilt….letting the baby cry just a moment longer so you can finish your cup of tea…guilt
Guilt has been something that has surrounded me since I became a mother. I have felt guilty because I had accepted that my son’s condition must be in some way my fault. I think this is a really important emotion to talk about in mental health. The key issue guilt gave me is that it then prevented me from getting better and seeking help sooner. I believed I did not deserve to get better. I think this could be something lots of people can relate to….you don’t deserve the nice partner…you don’t deserve the good job…you don’t deserve love…so you can easily stop trying.
The doctors and cardiologists have told me that this was not my fault. My husband has told me that this was not my fault, in his words it was ‘a genetic roll of the dice’. A phrase he unfortunately has to say a lot as we end up having the same conversation every couple of weeks. During my pregnancy I think I did everything right. I took all my vitamins, I ate well, I tried not to get stressed, I didn’t drink alcohol or take drugs (unless half a glass of champagne on Christmas day counts?). This is the rational part of my brain; the not so rational part of my brain firmly believes that this was my fault. This belief has then affected every aspect of my life. This belief has turned into the prism through which I see everything around me. Through this prism I believed that everybody in my life viewed Joseph’s condition as my fault.
I became very defensive and unable to accept any kind of advice, feedback or criticism. I was permanently defending myself to show that I was good mother and worthy of Joseph. As a consequence of this I felt like I was unable to ask for help. If I did ask for help I and others around me would see this as a failure. I was on a one woman crusade to show everyone that I was a good mother. For me this manifested itself in always being out of the house (no matter how tired I was), going to every baby class possible (when we were not in hospital) and fundamentally giving myself 100% to Joseph at the risk of losing my identity.
I can thankfully now see that this was an extreme reaction and not necessary. I did not need to convince the people around me. (It doesn’t really matter what they think). The only person I needed to convince was me! This was easier said than done. Forgiveness and choosing to forgive yourself is a hard task. It has taken me months to recognise that this was an issue and address it. For a while I could not say the words ‘I am a good mother’ instead I would state all the things I had done wrong. I have spent hours with my psychologist practising and trying to show myself that I did a lot / do a lot of good stuff. It was extremely difficult and most ‘good things’ were said half heartedly and through gritted teeth but it did become easier. When you are depressed or anxious it can become very easy to get tunnel vision and only see the world through your negative mindset. If you are able to I would recommend spending a few moments and practising only saying & thinking positive things about yourself. Try to stop yourself when you move to the negative. To start with I could only do this for a few seconds, but before you know it that turns into a minute… and then 2 minutes ….setting yourself small achievable goals might help. Meditation and yoga have really helped me, both practices focus on letting go, not thinking of anything and focusing on your breath, this has given my brain and body much needed time to relax and calm down.
I have also spent lots of time thinking about ‘intention’. In the words of my psychologist, ‘can you feel guilty for something if you did not intend for it to happen’. I did not intend for this to happen. When I see other mums and dads in hospital I never assume that their child’s illness is their fault that would be cruel, callous and most probably untrue. My intentions for Joseph are the complete opposite of heart disease. I have spent some time thinking about my true intentions for my baby boy and wanted to share some with you.
I hope you can always be true to yourself and live the life that you want to live.
I hope you fall madly & deeply in love.
I wish you find true and wonderful friends who you can share your life journey with.
I hope you get the see the world, bask in its beauty and view it as a fun place, full of possibilities and adventure just waiting to be seized.
I hope you respect and care for others and most importantly respect yourself.
As I write this Joseph is fast asleep and cuddled into me. He is feeling under the weather and has tonsillitis. He is a bit grumpy and in pain but he turns to me for comfort and warmth. My son trusts that I will help him get better. If he can trust me then maybe I can trust me too. I have chosen to now focus on my true intentions for Joseph
I feel a lot lighter and I don’t think I need to feel guilty anymore.