The other night, my 18-month old daughter woke up with an upset stomach and diaper rash. We changed her, comforted her, and she fell back asleep. I lay awake and wondered what had caused her discomfort. Then it hit me. I had given her oranges and strawberries that day. The guilt creeped in. What kind of mother gives their toddler oranges and strawberries on the same day?
Mommy guilt. It is one of those things that no one really warns you about, but we all struggle with on our motherhood journey. When you are the mommy of a preemie, that guilt is magnified.
When your baby comes into this world too soon, you are flooded with guilt. You failed your first test at being a mom. I mean how hard can it be to grow a healthy baby for 40 weeks? There were so many days I sat by my daughter’s isolette and fought those little voices. Those voices that told me I did this to my daughter, that every time she was poked and prodded was because I couldn’t do my part as her mom.
I thought the guilt would stay behind when we finally were able to take her home, but it didn’t. I felt guilty when the doctor said she wasn’t gaining enough weight. I felt guilty when other babies her age started smiling and we were still waiting on that milestone. I felt guilty when something I ate upset her fragile little tummy.
And then something happened. My daughter smiled! She also packed on the cutest baby chub thanks to my milk! Did new struggles pop up? You bet they did. But I started to realize my daughter loved me anyways. She didn’t care if I was the perfect mom. She just needed me to be her mom. All I can do is my very best and to love her with every ounce of my being. Does that mean I won’t make mistakes? Of course I will, but I want my daughter to grow up knowing that mistakes are ok – in fact, they are necessary.
I wish I could tell you that I don’t have mommy guilt anymore, but that wouldn’t be true. I still struggle with mommy guilt some days. Every time a stranger makes a comment on how tiny my daughter is, I cringe a little inside. When someone asks about a milestone she hasn’t reached yet, I feel like I need to come to her defense. As my daughter gets older, I worry how these comments might negatively affect her. But, I’m excited to have that opportunity to share with her all she has already overcome in her life.
The next morning, after our fruit debacle, my daughter woke up and gave me the biggest kiss. If she was clearly over my mistake, why was I still hanging on to it? Being a mom is hard enough without the added pressure of achieving perfection. Today I think you should give yourself the best present of all and try your best to let go of your mommy guilt. You are a great mom. Happy (belated) Mother’s Day!