Almost everyone I have met that has lost a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death just after birth has felt some sense of guilt over their loss. We relive every decision, we ask ourselves “what if I did things differently, I should have…I shouldn’t have…if only I had…” These thoughts are layered upon our devastating feelings of grief, anger, resentment, etc., etc.
During my pregnancy with my stillborn twin sons, I experienced cholestasis of pregnancy, for which I was monitored by my doctors (cholestasis is a build up of bile acids in the liver which spills over into the bloodstream, causing severe itching and other symptoms, and can cause stillbirth if not monitored closely). I often felt this could very well have caused my babies’ death. My guilt over that was intense for a long time. My twins also suffered from Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (a disease of the placenta that effects identical twin pregnancies). I felt extremely guilty about the fact that the amniocentesis taps I endured to remedy that situation perhaps ultimately harmed my babies rather than helped them (although logically I know that is the standard course of remedy and most likely did no harm). Couldn’t help myself from feeling that way, though.
Logically we know we can’t change the past. And for each one of us, nearly every decision we made under our horrific circumstances would most likely not have been different, nor would those decisions likely have changed the outcome even if we could change that past. How then, do we forgive ourselves, judge ourselves less harshly?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that, especially when our perspective is so obscured by the traumatic event of losing a baby. But we can acknowledge our guilty feelings, and honestly ask ourselves why we acted the way we did under those circumstances. Did we mean to do harm to our baby or ourselves when making decisions about our prenatal care or events leading up to our baby’s death? Of course, most likely the answer is a definite and resounding no.
So we must forgive ourselves for any perceived mistakes or errors in judgement, because we did the best we could under the circumstances. We must learn to cope with our guilt- coping means to not just getting passed it but to also understand it and learn about it and what makes you feel this way. Coping can help you to understand the guilt. And we must be kind to ourselves as we would be to anyone else under these same circumstances, knowing that guilt and resentment are so very natural and common for all of us who have lost a baby.
And if you find your guilt unbearable or overwhelming, please get help for yourself. Talking to a medical professional or therapist can help ease your feelings of intense guilt, provide you with techniques to help you to better cope with your guilt and help you to move forward in your grieving.