Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello guilt

In the past few days I've found myself circling back to guilt. I thought I was done with guilt, but I guess it still wants to hang with me for a while. Like the tide, the feelings of guilt ebb and flow; sometimes I walk and do not notice them, but other days they inch closer and closer until eventually they lap at my knees and try to pull my feet out from under me.

What brought this on? Lots of small incidents, but mainly the neighbor who put her foot in her mouth but good. I know it's hard to come up with something to say when someone tells you their baby died. However, asking where the baby is in July, when you know she was due in May, is not the best place to start.

Last night Isabel shot out the door, tore across the driveway and headed straight for this neighbor. I trailed after her and Jonathan went to fetch the leash from the car so we could go for a walk. Isabel came back to me and the neighbor called, "How's the baby?" My initial response, the one I had to bite back, was "Hopefully fine. We left her sleeping in the house so we could take the dog for a walk." I passed the dog over to Jonathan and walked over to her driveway. I couldn't very well stand in my driveway and shout over that the baby was dead. So I walked over and told her and it was unpleasant.

I am thankful she asked since no one else on the block has. Plus she is a bit of a gossip hound so word will spread and we won't have to tell anyone else. She said she was sorry, which is where she should've stopped, followed by two comments that left me reeling.

Comment One: "Well, at least you are over the worst of it now."

If you have not birthed a child and then felt her go limp in your arms, please don't tell me what the worst is and that I am over it. I have learned that things can always get worse, so please recant that platitude.

Comment Two: At least Isabel won't have any competition.

This one left me speechless, which is pretty hard to do.

If you have not lost a child, here is a bit of advice: Say I'm sorry, then shut your mouth. We who have lost our babies are not rational people and if you say something to us that we find offensive we will mock you (it's either that or cry) and possibly punch you in the face.

So I've been feeling guilty lately and then the neighbor dropped those condolences on me and it was horrible and awful and led to more guilt. Jonathan and I walked around the block, both a little shocked, ranting and raving about the neighbor. And of course I feel guilty about that now (the Bible does admonish us to 'love thy neighbor' after all).

I need someone to sit me down, look me in the eye, and say, "You could've birthed your baby into an incubator in the best NICU in the best hospital in the United States and she still would've died."

I think if someone looked at her records, discovered that to be the truth, and spoke those words to me I could shed most of the guilt I am carrying around. I can go from "I had an empowering birth and having her out of the hospital didn't make any difference," to "I made selfish choices and I killed my daughter" in two seconds flat. The arguing in my head is quite loud and I'm not sure how to manage the two sides that are battling because I don't even know who is arguing in there. All I know is there are two distinct voices and they are about to send me round the bend.

Well, that makes me sound schizophrenic. I assure you I am not.

Then I stumbled across a report that most babies who die out of hospital die from respiratory complications. (I need to stay away from Google; it is not a safe place). Yes, please, stack a little more guilt on the pile. I don't have too much to carry already.

What it boils down to is that I have nothing. I have no birth certificate, no death certificate, no autopsy report. I have a few sheets of paper from Life Flight, the ambulance company, and the hospital. And I know her lungs did not inflate. But why not? Was she lacking surfactant? If she was, I'm pretty sure there is a machine in the NICU that helps babies breathe until they can do so on their own.

When I was driving to the bookstore today I wanted to pull over at the hospital where she died, tires screeching of course, and start shouting at the nearest person. I wanted to yell at someone which would force them to explain why my baby died, even though no one seems to know. But I'm almost positive the shouting and the demands to have it out would lead to my arrest so I kept driving.

All the ranting and raving above can be distilled to one sentence: I want someone to tell me why my baby died.

It's been ten weeks. Where is the autopsy report, the death certificate? How many times will I have to tell people, "We don't know why she died. Her lungs would not inflate, but there is no cause for it in her case." Is that all I will ever get? If so, I need to figure out how to live with it.


  1. The guilt is the worst. There's no getting around it--we were our daughter's mothers, we were supposed to keep them safe. Logically I know I could not have prevented Stevie's death, but my heart has a hard time grasping that concept sometimes. Dr. Google can be evil. He had me convinced I had caused the blood clots by taking my asthma medication while pregnant for awhile there. Ha.

    Your People really do just need to shut up sometimes.

  2. Oh, sweet doll.
    I'm sure that most babies who die in hospital also die from respiratory complications. As an OB nurse who has worked over dying babies, this is certainly my experience.
    And, as a mom who held her dead twins and then heard "amazing" things (that's the only word I let myself use for the insensitive words of those who don't understand but yet feel the need to say something) I can only say, "I'm sorry." Will they end? Probably not. Even now, "well at least you had two more children." As if I replaced them?
    Like I said, "amazing."
    I love you, Angela. And, again, I'm sorry.

  3. your post hurts my heart. i can relate to all of this. i'm sorry your neighbor was so insensitive. people baffle me. it seems that all the horrible insensitive comments we all get seem so OBVIOUSLY wrong to all of us. would it still be obvious if we hadn't been through it? it makes me worry what inane, hurtful thing i have said to someone in the past. i also wrote a post on my own blog a while back about a neighbor who said some hurtful (but well-meaning!) things.

    i also wish i understood why kenny died. my water broke suddenly and inexplicably at 25 weeks after a completely normal pregnancy. almost immediately his cord prolapsed, and yet, it's not considered incompetent cervix. HOW could the cord prolapse if i wasn't at least a little bit dilated? not having answers just sucks.

  4. I am so sorry you had to experience such dreadful insensitivity from your neighbor...what she said was so incredibly awful. I honestly think I would not be able to hold it together as well as you did & walk away without telling her awful those comments were...unbelievable really.
    Guilt is definitely something I think all of us BLM's experience no matter what the cause or reason is behind us losing our children...there is really no answer that would make it ok, it's horrible & there is nothing any of us could have done to stop what happened to our beautiful & terribly loved children. You were the best mother you could be & that is nothing to feel guilty about. Sending you love & thoughts!

  5. Your neighbor sucks...I know it was all "well-meaning", but right now, my first impression of your neighbor is "this person sucks".

    Guilt is horrible...It's an awful feeling, and I agree with others who said that all of BLMs have felt it at some point in time or another. Grief is overwhelming for me most of the time, because although I did nothing wrong, I know my body gave out and wouldn't carry my baby any longer. She was healthy, but my body felt it was time to "evict" her.

    Thinking of you and wishing you some peace.

  6. thinking of you today. i have come to hate those well-meaning comments and have to just turn away lest I hurt the person spewing what they think are things that will make me feel better..

    the guilt can be overwhelming at times, i hope it gets better soon


  7. I wish people would just say that they are sorry for our loss and leave it at that. I always thought that wasn't enough to say to someone who had just lost a loved one, but now I know that it is.

    I know the guilt is terrible. I doubt that having her in a hospital would have made any difference. Can you call the hospital and ask the status of the autopsy report? My doctor keeps telling me that they have to do the urgent reports first, like cancer biopsies, but said that she usually hears back by 8 weeks. It has been 8 weeks for me now so I'm going to call her as she suggested and she will follow up with the hospital.

    I have some preliminary reports and they have helped me. Maybe some prelimary reports exist somewhere on Charlotte.....I wonder if the hospital records department has any.

  8. oh those neighborhood 'landmines''s tough to avoid them altogether. sorry to hear you've come across one in your neighborhood. my husband had the same encounter and was relieved i wasn't with him. it was hard enough for him to keep his composure at those 'well meaning' questions and comments.
    as for the guilt, it just keeps rearing its ugly head especially when we have no clear explanation of why our babies died. i feel the same way as you, i want answers but it looks like no one has them.

  9. oh those neighborhood 'landmines''s tough to avoid them altogether. sorry to hear you've come across one in your neighborhood. my husband had the same encounter and was relieved i wasn't with him. it was hard enough for him to keep his composure at those 'well meaning' questions and comments.
    as for the guilt, it just keeps rearing its ugly head especially when we have no clear explanation of why our babies died. i feel the same way as you, i want answers but it looks like no one has them.


thank you!


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