A Post About Guilt

{ a photo entirely irrelevant to this post: my sweet pudgy Lucy in her first sink bath }

Here's what I've been thinking about lately:

I still have some guilt in the dusty corners of my heart. Guilt that's been there since Max and Maggie were born and that has lately been rearing its ugly head. Usually I only feel this guilt when I see pictures of babies in the NICU, their too-skinny baby bodies hooked up to monitors and wires and tubes. Even then I don't often recognize it for what it actually is; I only feel it as pain.

When our pediatrician suggested, at Max's 18-month well visit, that Max might need speech therapy, I felt that as pain at first also. I didn't understand why it hurt me; I have truthfully said several times since then {and I'll say it again!} that I'm not worried about Max. I'm not worried about his language skills or any kind of developmental delays. He's a happy, healthy, smart little boy and he makes me so proud and there is nothing about him that concerns me. {Okay, so I get a little concerned that he likes to walk around with his blankie over his head, but only because he always ends up running into something and hurting himself.} It was the phrase "this isn't uncommon for children who were born prematurely" that did it.

Because honestly, it boils down to the fact that I feel guilty that my twins were born seven weeks early. I feel guilty that they had to spend two weeks in the NICU. And oh, so much guilt that I couldn't be there with them every hour for their first two weeks of life. That I couldn't hold them close to me when they needed me so badly. That they were pricked with IVs in their hands and feet and foreheads, and I wasn't even there when it happened to experience the pain with them.

I feel guilty because I was 24 {and an immature 24} when I was pregnant with my twins. I didn't understand yet the responsibility that was being placed on me, and I didn't take seriously enough the care that I already owed my children. When my doctors started giving me physical restrictions to encourage a healthy pregnancy {no sex, no exercise, then bed rest, and eventually continued monitoring and hospitalization}, I stubbornly chafed against rules that I saw as unnecessary. I insisted that I was fine, and I figured my babes were fine. I thought they would be okay if they were born at 32 weeks, and I viewed early labor as being preferable to a four-week-long hospital stay.

I cringe when I remember those thoughts. How could I?

My attitude changed immediately when they were born. I saw them, my tiny four-pound babies, and suddenly my heart was in constant danger of breaking. I was overwhelmed by love, more love than I had ever felt in my life, but it was almost unbearable to see them struggling to survive and adapt. I was proud of my children for being so strong, but I was also so sorry; babies shouldn't have to be strong. I should have been strong for them.

If there's one thing I learned during the two weeks they stayed in the NICU, it's that my life wasn't about me anymore. It's a lesson that I've tried to remember for the past 21 months, those words that ran through my head again and again: it's not about you.

At this point, it's almost irrelevant whether Max's speech abilities are related to his premature birth. I can't blame all of the obstacles my twins will face in their lives on myself, and I can't go back and change what happened.

I'm not really sure how to end this post; I don't have a way to wrap everything up nicely or a message to take away. This post was more about working through my feelings than anything else. Thank you for reading, though, if you're still reading.


  1. You are a good mama, Mary. You love them so much it shines.

  2. You are a great mom and are doing your best.

  3. I feel for you Mary. I am convinced all moms carry around a hefty amount of guilt...myself included. I really enjoyed reading this post because I see myself in your words. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. I think Julie is right. There is a certain amount of guilt that just sits on a mother's shoulders. I hope there comes a day when we aren't so weighed down by it.

    You are a wonderful mama. Those three babes are so lucky to have you. Hugs.

  5. I'm starting to think not succumbing to guilt is one of the hardest parts of motherhood. Whenever I see happy mom's with newborns I feel so guilty for having postpostum and blocking those first weeks with zoey out of my memory.

    I also think no one can possibly understand what it means to be a mother until you're there. Age doesn't make the difference, and people can give you advice until they're blue in the face, it's not til your first baby comes out that you start to comprehend so much. And while it means we make mistakes from time to time... it has allowed me to understand and forgive my own mother for so many things.

  6. I'm not sure I really like your Doctor to be quite honest with you. I'm no mother, and never will be, but I witnessed many many babies coming into this world and watched them grow. If there is anything I've learned it's that everyone is so different. That's what makes us all so special. I see Maxwell and see a happy healthy baby. You can tell he is very loved AND he enjoys life. Now Maggie is a smarty, there is no doubt, but I have seen my friends young boy grow up. He is 2 and 1/2 and he hasn't started talking until the past 4 months. He may have said an audible "mama" or "ball" once in a while but until recently he just started putting things together. Almost in and instant he's making a bit more sense. I guess what I'm saying is that the guilt you feel may be natural but i feel it's unfounded on that sense. You weren't there for them in the beginning and bet that was hard and frustrating, but guess what, they are strong kids because they come from good stock. Yes their first challenge was soon and intense but they fought and won.those twins are the Vunderkinds. Mary you are awesome in the true sense. Hearing this post by the way has made me understand my own mother that much more. BtDubbs, I heard Sex during pregnancy was healthy...like encouraged by some proffesionals, I dont know look it up...

  7. I feel guilty too with things I might have done or not done with my kids but you know what... life is life. You will get through it and take life one small step at time.

    We have had Jackie and Jared evaluated for speech/ot/ptherapys @ 18 months. They both have been in or alternated in one or two therapys at a time for the past 3 years. I have seen milestones of improvements in not just their lives but mine. I am more sane b/c I am finally understanding my children and I do not get as easily frustrated. Our twins were born @ 37 weeks. I keep thinking they were perfectly healthy, why am I having more small medical problems in the past 3 years? It must be my challenge in life and Heavenly Father is testing us. We signed up for it and we will take deep breaths to get through it.

    Good luck... we are still in thick of things just like you. It is really nice to have others to talk to in similar situations that are right behind you or ahead of you (I talk to Ana Ehrisman quite a bit). :)

  8. mary, this was a beautiful post. guilt is something i so struggle with as a mom, particularly since parker came along. it's sick, sometimes. like in a "if something happened to him would i have any regrets?" and i want to MAKE SURE that i wouldn't. who can live life like that? i cannot imagine how hard the nicu time was, how you equated it to your own failures to rest more before they were born, etc. that is sooo hard. parker was under the bilirubin lights for 24 hours and it was TORTURE. two weeks, you deserve a medal. they are here and they are happy though. and an 18 month old boy hardly talking!? well, i'm not a speech therapist, but it seems pretty normal (i'm in a playgroup of kids this age, and SO many of them have really limited speech.).

    what i want to say is you seem like a good mom, a thoughtful mom, a self-evaluating mom. you love them and that is more than enough. (i need to take my own advice too.)

  9. Ah, Dear Mary, you thinketh too much!! Throw the guilt out the window. I am thinking you have three healthy, happy children. Be thankful!
    It is not unusual for children to need speech therapy and it is truly not a big deal. Put aside the doctor comment about premature babies. Phooey! Talk to any speech therapist and they can clear up this issue for you quickly. If you can get a chance read a little on speech development differences in boys and girls as well as milestones it might help. Let me know if you would like a little dialog on this.......

  10. Mary,

    We all carry guilt as mothers. I too, have been struggling with how to handle it. How to forgive myself for the mistakes that I unknowingly made. How to not think about it.

    The funny thing is, its pretty darn normal for a boy not to talk at 18 months. John didn't say a word until he was 2. He's brilliant. Period.

    Max will be fine :) You can see that he's a bright, intelligent, sweet little boy just by watching him interact.

    Doctors have to say something at 18 months if a kid isn't talking. Its really pretty silly.

    You're amazing BTW.

  11. I have twins too! Twin girls. And they were born on their 35th week, stayed in the NICU for 1 week. And I feel you! I wished I ate healthier foods, took care of my body more. My brother sneaked in some kebab, u know, the persian street food, that day I was in the hospital for crying out loud. Shortly after eating kebab, my contractions went ballistic and there was no way for the babies to go but out. I keep wishing I didn't eat those frikkin kebabs! I felt horrible. But in spite of all the guilt we sometimes have, I know you've done your best to be the best mom you can be to your kids, and no one can judge you for that.

    "it's that my life wasn't about me anymore. " --> having learned this, I know you're doing just fine. I know it. :)