We will have a new columnist taking over Special Needs Sunday very soon! Please check out the post below – written by Dr. Pamela Dieter-Sands – a clinical psychologist in Connecticut. Dr. Dieter-Sands is also a mom with 5 kids and some of her children (and other family members) have special needs, or disabilities.
I have noticed that moms with special-needs kids feel alot of guilt — even more than moms of typical kids, and that is saying something. So I started checking with special moms, asking “What do you feel guilty about? “ Turns out there is so much guilt, this blog entry can only get us through breastfeeding! Here are some results of my informal poll:
Genetics: “I know my child got this from me. I feel guilty for passing on my genes;” “I know my child got this from her father. I feel guilty for choosing him;” “Take two people like us and mix them? We should have thought this through more carefully.”
Pre-pregnancy: “I should never have smoked dope when I was younger. What if I damaged my eggs?” “I should have prepared more for pregnancy, taking vitamins, working out, avoiding chemicals, eating organic. “ “I waited too long to have kids. I should have started younger.” “I was too young to handle it all. I should have waited longer.”
Pregnancy: “Why did I ‘drink diet soda’ when I was pregnant? Even if it was only once or twice, I will always wonder if I did this to my child with my selfish acts.” Now substitute these popular answers for ‘drink diet soda’ above, to see some more things we feel guilty about: ‘drink a glass of wine’; ‘take cold medication’; ‘work long hours’; ‘exercise too much’; ‘quit exercising’; ‘gain too much weight’; ‘gain too little weight’; ‘skip vitamins due to constipation’; ‘get so stressed out’; ‘change jobs’; ‘move’; ‘travel’; ‘have ultrasounds.’
Delivery: “I messed up. I should have ‘refused pain medications’ to help my baby.” Now substitute these popular answers for ‘refused pain medications’: ‘Used pain medications’; ‘hired a midwife or a doula’; ‘given birth underwater, under hypnosis, or at home’; ‘relied more on traditional medicine; chosen a different doctor or hospital’; ‘had a c-section’; ‘avoided a c-section’; ‘had a c-section sooner’; ‘delayed c-section longer.’
Breastfeeding: “I breast-fed my baby too long (should have known he could not latch on, and spared him days of hunger and dehydration).” “I did not breastfeed my baby long enough (should have kept trying).” “I pumped every 4 hours for 10 months and fed him my milk with a bottle. But I know it’s not the same.” “I used formula from the beginning.”
Okay, we see how this goes, right? We feel guilty for everything we do, and everything we don’t do. For every mom who feels she did one thing wrong, another mom feels just as guilty for doing the opposite.
I believe the lesson is: You can feel guilty about anything as a special parent. Because you can never fully solve the problems your child is facing, you feel you are not getting it right. And seeing children suffer always makes moms feel guilty. And we see our children suffer alot.
For me, the most amazing part is this: Every mom I talked to about guilt is a model mom. A mom I wish I could be. Clever, kind, resourceful, dedicated, protective and strong for her children. These moms should feel proud of themselves; proud of all they do for their kids; fierce in their knowledge about hardship; powerful because they fight for their children; evolved because they are patient and understanding; worthy of praise and gratitude. But no. They mostly feel guilty.
If you are a special mom, what are you feeling guilty about? Is it possible to challenge that guilt, even to banish it? Even to laugh at it? It may be natural for us to feel guilty, but it is sure not necessary. Ask yourself today, What am I PROUD of? Then ask tomorrow, and the next day. Tell a friend what you are proud of, or say it here, in the Comments section. I would love to know!
Oh, and thanks for trying so hard to make it work.