Saturday, March 04, 2006

Birthing Guilt

I will be the first to admit that I'm no stranger to the mommy guilt. As both a mother and a daughter, I've been on both ends of the spectrum. But never before have I felt any kind of guilt associated with birth.

In the week since the Mouse's birth, I've felt some very conflicting emotions. Her birth was fairly traumatic, for both of us. For her, the trauma was more physical. For me, it was more of an emotional trauma. I feel like that's the wrong word to use here. It was an emotional shock. Maybe that's better. We'll have to see. I'm still thinking about it and trying to process how I feel about it. More on that later.

Some basic details about her birth - it was hard and fast, and she was big (for being two weeks early). According to my midwife and the nurse, she came down *very* quickly and fairly forcefully. She had the cord wrapped around her neck and looped over her shoulder. As a result of the hard and fast labor and her quick descent, her face was very bruised at birth. She looked like a tiny Rocky. Her eyes were (still are, a bit) bloodshot. If you've ever had the stomach flu and puked so hard you burst a blood vessel in your eye, you know what she looked like. Basically, the whites of her eyes were mostly red. Her face was blue and purple and red. That part has almost entirely gone away now, and the swelling is entirely gone, I think. Her head, though, has a pretty big hematoma on the top/side. Looks like a big old goose egg. The doctor says it's just pooled blood and fluid from the squeezing and pressure, and that it will go down. Problem is, the blood that's just sitting there is keeping her levels elevated and preventing her jaundice from disappearing as quickly as we would like it to. The jaundice, in turn, is keeping her very lethargic most of the time. And then, at her first checkup, the doctor noticed a big lump on her collarbone - the same side that the cord was looped over when she came out. His theory (and ours) is that she fractured it a bit on the way out - her shoulders did get briefly stuck, I remember the midwife telling me. She categorized them as "difficult" shoulders. We did some tests - results will be in soon - just to be on the cautious side. These things heal on their own in infants, and there's nothing we could do about it, but it's good to know for future reference.

So, to recap -

*horrid bruising and bloody eyes
*lumpy hematoma on the head
*lingering jaundice
*broken collarbone?

All my fault? Is there something I could have done differently that could have prevented any of this? I feel indescribably awful that *my* body, the one that was supposed to protect her and keep her safe, did this to her. If I had had a c-section instead, would she have fared better? Could we have seen this coming? Could we have prevented it? Could we be doing anything right now to speed up her recovery?

Most importantly, why do I feel so guilty for having *done* this to her?


Julie said...

I think your reaction is normal. At least I hope so, because if I were in your place I'd probably feel the same guilt and have the same questions.

Feeling guilty and being guilty are two different things, though. In the story you've given so far, I don't see anything that suggests that you ARE guilty of putting your daughter in danger.

I know that probably doesn't do much to change the way you feel. I wish I had some better words.

Ninotchka said...

omg I just want to give you a big ol' hug. That was a tough entrance for both of you. But there's nothing you could have done to prevent all of that! I know you must know that and yet you're still struggling with the guilt. UGH. Ain't motherhood grand? I'm one giant ball of guilt about 90% of the time. Frankly, it's exhausting.

Hope you get to feeling better!

Jane said...

Thanks, ladies. I know in my head that none of this is my fault, but in my hormone-drenched state right now, I'm having a hard time convincing myself of that fact.