I’ll never forget Family Day 2018. I sat in my bathroom with a pregnancy test in hand watching those two lines form quickly. While I suspected I was pregnant prior to taking a test, there is still something about the finality of a confirmed positive pregnancy test.
That next weekend was my birthday. I spent the majority of the weekend crying and holding my 5 and 1/2 month old. I felt alone, overwhelmed and most of all-I felt incredibly guilty.
Sparing the details of how I became pregnant so quickly (because frankly no-one should ever be asking that question) after the birth of my first, you can gander a wild guess-it wasn’t expected. Unplanned? No. All babies are part of a beautiful plan. But unexpected? Yes.
We all have it. It varies in it’s forms. Mom guilt is as complex and as diverse as we are.
The heavy guilt that I carried for many months into my second pregnancy and that even now, I still struggle with is an unwanted companion. Initially, I was consumed by the guilt of not feeling excited about my unexpected pregnancy. While many struggle to conceive, here I am pregnant again. 5 and 1/2 months postpartum. I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being sick again for months on end. I was just starting to sleep more at night, now that my son was sleep trained. I wasn’t overjoyed at the thought of my body changing all over again.
Another complex part of my guilt was that I was still struggling with extreme postpartum anxiety from the birth of my first child. Hadn’t my son been robbed of enough? He’d already experienced enough difficult days with my overwhelming emotions. Our bond was not immediate upon his arrival. While I loved my first son from the moment I saw him, our bond was not an immediate thing. As I faced the toll that pregnancy would take on my body and mind again, he too would inevitably be affected by my struggles. In many ways, I felt as if I had lost the chance to deepen my bond with my first child because our time together was cut short.
As I imagined, being pregnant while raising a still very young infant, was harder than anything I’d ever done. Medication helped control my sickness but nothing helped the overwhelming fatigue. Nothing changed that my son would go through developmental milestones I was too tired to appreciate. Nothing changed the sheer physical load I had to bear as I carried a very large child within my body AND on the outside of my body. It didn’t matter that I was heavily pregnant and still getting up with my son in the night when he had sleep disturbances.
The night before my oldest son’s first birthday, I snuck into his room long after he fell asleep, took him from his crib and held him, while I silently cried. I stroked his soft blonde hair and lightly kissed his chubby, full cheeks. I marvelled at his size. I couldn’t believe he was a year old, already. The guilt consumed me that night. I had gritted my teeth through the latter half of his infancy. Not because I resented him or the baby I was carrying. It was because I often resented myself for my lack of perspective.
As my second pregnancy neared the end, I never doubted that I was ready to meet who I thought was going to be our daughter. It was a mistaken guess by the ultrasound technician but we had another boy. Truth be told? I was relieved. If anything, I already knew what to expect in many ways with another boy.
My bond with Jack was immediate and surprising to me. While Hudson is strong, independent, emotionally assertive and rarely affectionate, his brother Jack is incredibly affectionate, easygoing and steady. I initially felt guilty that Jack was (and is) an easier child than his older brother. But I’ve come to reconcile that their differences do not make them better than the other. They are wholly different yet the same because they came from me and my husband. I celebrate how different they are.
The transition to having 2 babies who were fourteen months apart was life changing. Because of my postpartum anxiety, everything felt difficult. Going places by myself with the boys felt like an impossible task. The sheer thought of being alone in the evenings while my husband often worked late, was enough to cause a panic attack. The weeks following Jack’s birth were very busy. I tried diligently to hide from others that I was moments from a massive breakdown and only my husband saw the depth of that. I often felt like I was barely treading water. Our little family went through some of the most difficult months of our lives.
As you can imagine the guilt came back with overwhelming force. I would watch my oldest, now transitioning from baby to toddler. I felt guilt as I watched him become, just become-so much quicker. I knew I was missing moments as I felt overwhelmed with the care of another baby. When did he learn to say that? When did he start doing that? I would watch other families that have only one child, around the age of my oldest son. I would feel envy as they experienced every singular milestone in it’s joy.
I have also felt judgement.
I am the hurried mom. I am the distracted mom at the park as I try to manage an infant and toddler. I’m the frustrated and flustered mom. I’m the get to the point mom. I am the- I don’t have time to shoot the breeze while both my kids scream for their naps, mom. I’m the mom who turns on the TV all day sometimes. I’m the mom who sometimes yells. I am the swear like a sailor when I’m stressed out, mom. I’m the exhausted mom who forgets her loads of laundry for days in the dryer because why? Because I’m caring for two other little people whose needs often feel formidable.
But amidst all this guilt, I’ve asked myself a question. What is most important? I think about the wonderful things that my oldest son is already learning, so early in life. He is learning patience, compassion and consideration. He will never not know a time in his life when he was my only baby. And while that thought may bring me sadness at times- is it more important that my oldest son have the childhood that I think he deserves? What would that even look like?
I have this to say.
The companions of motherhood do not have to be guilt and comparison.
What do these terrible companions do but rob us of precious moments with our children? It’s inevitable that we will all feel some guilt in regards to our children at some point during their existence. But to be wholly consumed is another monster altogether. Heed my caution. Do not let it overtake you. It isn’t worth it.
While my observations are nothing miraculous or new, my journey is mine. I am learning to live in the now and embrace the mother that I am, imperfections and all. I do not relish the guilt. I do not desire the comparison. I am learning to surrender these things I carry to a very faithful, kind, merciful and patient God.
When I look at my sons, it heals another part of me. I often marvel at how God gave me the gifts of my sons and I gave my sons the gift of one another. I can’t imagine life without the both of them, here together. That truth can effectively silence the voice of all guilt.
What is your story? I’d love to hear from you.