shake it out

Today’s blog is less about the big C. I was tired of cancer talk last week and seems to have trickled into this week. I’d like to talk about guilt. Guilt is an emotional frienemy – you hate it but have to make peace with it because it’s always lurking in the shadows, waiting to make you feel bad about yourself. Guilt is an asshole. Guilt is ingrained or taught to us from an early age. Guilt will make or not make you do certain things. Guilt is deep and complicated. Guilt is a jerk. Guilt is also an important emotion as way of stopping us from doing horrible things.

Guilt is an emotion felt by a mother from the moment she urinates on the stick and the positive line or plus sign pops up. Who’s with me on this one? I know you are because I’ve said that exact sentence to other moms who always shake their heads in agreement with me ‘yes, yes so true’ and ‘why do we do this to ourselves?’….Should I take more vitamins? Should I eat more greens? Oh no, I drank a diet coke! Oh no, I ate a deli sandwich! I forgot to take a prenatal pill! So and so’s gained less weight than me. Have I gained too much weight? So and so got the blah blah blah stroller. Is my stroller good enough? I hate being pregnant. Suzie down the street loves her pregnancies, and her birthing stories – she told me so… in great detail. Why don’t I love being pregnant? What if I can’t breastfeed? What if I don’t want to breastfeed? What if I resent the baby? What if I’m a bad mom? What if I can’t hack it?

I googled the word guilt and found this picture in the image tab. I didn’t even type in mothers guilt…

mother's guilt

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of guilt:

Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse.

I was 34 years old when I had my second child. When he was born I had complications and we were separated for over 24 hours until I recovered. All that to say, I needed help with getting him to breastfeed so my family doctor sent me to a ‘lactation consultant’. I knew going over to her house that I would block out all the extreme talk about breast milk vs formula. Formula and lactation consultants are like Jay Z and Solange in an elevator – they do not mix well together. Anyway, during our conversation she said and I quote ‘feeding your baby formula is like feeding your baby McDonalds’. What?!? Excuse me???? I don’t think you just said that lady. Those are fighting words! Is that something you should say to a hormonal mother who may or may NOT be able to breast feed? Don’t you know how fragile a women is especially those critical first few hours, days and weeks after giving birth? Dumb ass.

I told this story to a colleague because birthing, breast feeding and baby stories are like the weather chit chat for women, it’s universal. The only difference between the two topics are that the weather discussion lasts about 30 seconds, whereas birthing stories can last longer than the actual birth itself… just ask someone whose been stuck in a room full of yummy mommies sipping wine swapping vagina or C-section tales. Anyway I’m really sidetracking here… back to the new mom’s feeding formula (McDonalds) to their precious newborns. After I was finished the story, my colleague told me she knew a mom who was so against giving formula to her baby that the 5 month old starved to death and died because she refused to give her child a bottle, her thinking was – breast/breast milk only. I know this is an extreme case but to me it’s a great example of guilt, and the length she went to based on her beliefs, and what she perceived as potentially hurting her child. She was so against giving the child formula. I mean really no one wants to feed their precious newborn that devil food. It’s wild. It’s crazy. And it’s only the beginning of motherhood… as time moves on the guilt doesn’t dissipate it accumulates.

I’m here to tell you the guilt and regret is what I felt the day I felt the gumball (tumour) in my boob. WHY? What did I do? What could I have changed? Am I being punished by God or by the universe? Was it karma slapping me in the face? Did I steal someone’s lunch from the fridge at work (oh yes, this happens a lot – but it wasn’t me). Did I not say enough prayers? Was I mean to my parents or sister growing up? Have I not volunteered enough in my life? On and on a vicious emotional mental dance – back and forth, up and down, sideways….never ending beating myself up.

The guilt and why’s or what if’s are senseless and exhausting. I choose to let them go. I don’t know why I got cancer. My doctors don’t know why I got cancer. It doesn’t matter. It is what it is. Period. End of story.

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