Guilt is a feeling I have come to know all too well throughout my experience as a bereaved mother. Once the reality of Riley’s death settled in, I found that I blamed myself a lot for his heart stopping. Because we do not know the cause of Riley’s passing yet, I feel like I will blame myself until we find out the actual cause, but I also know that I will probably blame myself for the rest of my life no matter the result.
I suppose when something a horribly heart breaking as this happens, you question everything you have ever done. You question if the universe has done this to you as a result of your own bad choices. You question if karma has done this to you on purpose.
I have found that there have been many levels of guilt associated with Riley. Level 1, when we first found out, I started off thinking about everything I had eaten in the last 24 hours that may have caused Riley to get sick and die. I then started to think about everything I had done in the last 24 hours that might have made my body feel exhausted.
Level 2, the last week of being pregnant, what had I done? I’d changed toothpastes maybe that was it? I drank coffee twice that week, was that it? I ate some left overs one day, did it contain listeria? Was that what took my baby away?
Level 3, I started to think about my whole pregnancy and what I ‘should have’ done. Why had I not done any exercise? I should’ve walked, I should’ve stayed fit, and I shouldn’t have let myself go. I should’ve eaten healthier throughout my whole pregnancy and then I wouldn’t have given myself gestational diabetes. I should’ve remained calm and not let little things bother me. I should’ve enjoyed my pregnancy more and not worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford to have a baby. I should’ve embraced my changing body, not cringed every time I saw myself. Why didn’t I take more pictures of my bump and love myself for the gift I was going to give us?
Level 4, the start of my pregnancy, all those drinks and cigarettes I had when I didn’t even know I was pregnant. Why didn’t I know? Why didn’t my ‘mother’s intuition’ kick in? How could I not know I was pregnant?
(I stopped drinking and smoking as soon as I found out I was pregnant by the way)
Level 5, it was karma this happened to me. I wasn’t the nicest I could’ve been to the checkout girl because I was feeling sick. Maybe I had a horrible thought about someone’s appearance and I shouldn’t have judged him or her. Karma for not embracing love for my body because I was covered in stretch marks and my feet, hands and face were swollen like a balloon. Karma because I was mean to someone in high school, karma for being a horrible teenager to my mum and karma because I have let anger get the better of me sometimes.
We found out Riley’s heart stopped a few hours after my baby shower. I felt immense guilt for the fact that I had a baby shower that so many people came to and people had spent so much money on gifts for our baby who was no longer with us. I felt guilty for making such a big deal about my baby -for having a gender reveal party and for having a baby shower.
Now that I look back and recognise my guilt of all the things that I did and didn’t do, I try to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. I try to tell myself every time I have these guilty thoughts that I am not to blame. There is a reason Riley died, however, I wont know until June 1st – that’s if we even get a result. Babies are born addicted to drugs and babies are born when their mother’s didn’t even know they were pregnant. Babies are born to cruel people and they still manage to survive. I am not the world’s worst person, so why didn’t I get to parent a living child?
I try to start every day with the idea to fall in love with myself again. I try every day to carry on and be the best person I can be so that I can (one day) be rewarded with a living baby. I believe I can do this with Riley by my side. My little guardian angel is walking beside me every day to remind me to be the kindest, most loving person I can be to myself. Some times I can’t bring myself to believe it but other times I listen and carry on with my life.