We gathered in the hospital
conference room. Taking our seats around the large table in dutiful silence. Before us a heap of baby blankets presented a colorful array. To the side an
elegant buffet lunch beckoned.
I was both pleased and anxious to be there. I
wondered how much I would say.
What would others say?
A soft, fuzzy blanket captured my attention. It
had cars against a pale blue background.
was Parent Support Group. We were strangers connected by a deep thread of pain.
Beyond the doors of that large room, down the hallway and a little to the
right, lay our precious newborns under the watch of Intensive Care.
was a simple task, yet I marveled at the ease with which the other parents
carried it out: Introduce ourselves and explain why our baby was in Intensive
spoke so easily.
So uninhibited by heart-breaking emotion.
to say my name but was less successful when it came to declaring my baby’s
serious medical condition. The
admission of my newborn’s critical state triggered an unbearable pang of guilt. An
emotion which wrapped itself around my vocal chords in a choking grasp.
so overcome with emotion was embarrassing.
Why did I break down when everyone
else remained so calm and put together?
felt like my body had let my baby down.
I felt guilty.
It’d been my
responsibility to bring that baby safely into the world. I’d failed him in this
duty. As uncomfortable as that pregnancy was, I just wanted to put him back inside of me. Back in the place where he was healthy and strong. Safe and protected. Shielded from the onslaught of complications brought about by his traumatic birth.
In my logical mind I knew the medical emergency wasn’t my fault. I had had no control over
what happened and I
couldn’t blame myself or my body.
I knew this at a cognitive level. But at a
much deeper level, a place not bound by rational thought, I felt responsible.
Worst of all I didn’t know how to make this feeling go away.
was disappointed the intensity of my emotion kept me from sharing with the
group. So I sat there and listened and ate my lunch.
When it was time to go, I
walked out silently with a fuzzy, blue blanket tucked under my arm.
With the passing of time and lots of healing I have since resolved this irrational guilt. But it has only given way to other forms of guilt.
The guilt I feel as a mother has many
day brings new opportunities for feeling inadequate. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, there is always more I could have done. And something I should have done differently. I simply don't have enough time, energy or money to do it all the way I want. When David came home from the hospital I determined I was going to be the perfect mother for him. I was going to give my baby whatever he needed. Nothing would stand in my way. Nothing would be too much. Back then I couldn't have imagined just how daunting this task would be. How unprepared I was. How exasperated and inadequate I'd feel.
When studying Developmental Psychology I came across a concept that stuck with me. Donald Winnicott used
the term “good enough mother” to describe a standard of care favorable to a
baby’s development. According to his theory, in order for a baby to develop
appropriately, a “good enough mother” is required and not a perfect mother. I
like this concept because a mother isn’t held to a standard of perfection.
Rather, she is held to a standard of being good enough.
I try to remember this when I feel inadequate. I don't have to be perfect. Just good enough.