I have always been very hard on myself, striving for some kind of mysterious and usually impossible sense of perfection. It has been something I have always worked on and that over the years, has gotten a lot better. But, since my hospitalization while pregnant with Colette, that overwhelming guilt and pressure have never gone away.
When I was hospitalized, I felt like it was all my fault and I thought of all the things I could have done differently, done better. But, because I had to protect Colette, I quickly refocused on reducing stress and being the best patient and mom possible. When Colette was born, I vividly remember thinking in the delivery room that everything was going to be okay, that she was stronger than anyone could imagine and that maybe I had not failed her completely, I had given her an inner strength and spirit that would overcome all the statistics. But, then, I saw her after I recovered from surgery and saw just how small she was and felt a crushing feeling of failure. My body did not allow her to grow properly, it was my body that had the preeclampsia that led to all of these complications. That feeling of failure, of guilt was so overwhelming and honestly, even some twenty months later, it has never gone away.
I cannot stop thinking of every little thing I could have, should have done differently during my pregnancy and Colette’s short life to make things better.
I hate my body for failing me and for failing Colette. Late at night, when my grief wakes me up, the guilt is what actually keeps me awake—the running through every time during the pregnancy that I had caffeine, got stressed over something that now seems stupid, every time I ate something unhealthy because my morning, or rather my all-day sickness, restricted what I could handle eating. I think about when she was in the NICU and how if I had been there more, talked to her, bonded better with her, that she would have hung on longer. I think about how if I had been a better mom, then she would still be here.
Now, as we await our second child, our second rainbow, I still feel like a failure, possibly even more than before. In my two pregnancies, both times I always measured behind, my body would not seem to allow the pregnancy to grow the way it is supposed to. Our surrogate continues to measure right on schedule every time and while that is so reassuring and exciting, it also highlights just how much of a failure I feel.
How is it that my body cannot grow a pregnancy correctly? How is it that someone else can take our embryo and grow it on time and also have no real pregnancy issues when I was a mess during my two pregnancies while growing babies that were too small?
The funny thing is that logically, I realize that this is not actually my fault, but emotionally, I cannot stop blaming myself. I feel like everything I do and everything that happens with our surrogate is a reminder that I was not good enough, that I was and am a failure. Every woman has struggled with body image issues, but when you hate your body not because of how it looks, but because of what it has done to you and your children, how do you recover from that?
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I am one of the first people to tell friends that it is not your fault, to marvel at their strength to go through losses, difficulties, and still get back on the proverbial horse. But that outer voice never seems to lean inward, to honestly and consistently tell me that it is not my fault, and that I did not fail. It is so difficult to not overthink everything and to feel like I could have done something differently. It is also so difficult to not compare myself to G and think that I am a failure comparatively because her body can do what mine cannot seem to do. And so, I have to keep reminding myself that it was not my fault and that this pathway is the best way to protect our child and to reach our goal of bringing our first living child home.