I have been part of the premature birth community for nearly five years now since giving birth to my 26-weeker. I’ve talked with so many women who’ve experienced premature birth for a myriad of reasons, as well as women who are pregnant and hoping baby stays in just a couple weeks, days, hours longer. And one thing I’ve heard time and time again from pregnant moms who are at risk of premature birth is:
“I am going to do everything I can to keep this baby inside!”
I feel like this is going to be a tough topic for some people to hear. But I think recognizing this issue and changing our thinking on premature birth prevention can go a long way in terms of mental health for parents, especially moms, of premature babies. Hear me out.
It is not fair for us moms (or anybody else) to have the mentality that keeping baby inside is something we have any real control over.
I find statements like the following quite funny:
“Keep that baby in as long as you can!” Okay, do you have a secret recipe?
“You should be doing _____ or you might blame yourself later if you don’t.” Wonderful, thanks!
“Well, I did _____ and I made it to 40 weeks!” Great! No two pregnancies are the same though.
These sentiments may give the mom the impression that she has some type of control over when and how her baby is going to enter into the world. That if she doesn’t do “everything” and she doesn’t make it to 40 weeks, she will – or should – blame herself, as if she actually has control over every possible pregnancy scenario. And that is not the right message.
Because if that mom does give birth prematurely? It’s my fault because I didn’t do SOMETHING right. I didn’t do this enough, or I did that too much. I could have prevented this.
Of course we should be making healthy choices during our pregnancy and trust our doctors to do their job. We should research and adhere to proven preventative measures. But beyond that, if we had any actual control over our pregnancies, we’d all give birth healthily at full term, right?
We need to give moms a break.
I recognize that most moms will feel guilty for their baby’s premature birth no matter what. I was devastated that my body simply couldn’t keep baby inside till anywhere near term. I felt like my body betrayed me for betraying my baby. But I was fortunate in that I never felt like I personally committed an offense, or that I could have knowingly prevented such a devastating thing to happen.
Webster’s definition of the word guilt is “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.” Can you relate to that definition when thinking about your role in premature birth? I knew I couldn’t. Having this mentality – that it wasn’t my fault – really helped me to heal from my premature birth quicker than I would have otherwise.
If moms had real control over their pregnancies, there would be no losses or premature births. This is why we have to change our thinking and stop blaming, or implying blame to moms. Instead of worrying if you’re doing too much, or not doing enough, remember that you cannot account for every single pregnancy or birth scenario, nor should you take on feelings of guilt for something that you would never choose. You’re a good mom. Sometimes life happens, and it’s not your fault.