Playing The Blame Game

I have become an old pro at playing the blame game in the last eight months since my baby girl was stillborn.

I’ve blamed almost everyone at one point or another.

I have blamed the {well-meaning and compassionate} women in my various natural birthing groups. Why did they encourage me to go past 40 weeks of pregnancy? Why did they have to be so supportive that I felt like I would be a failure if I gave in and had a c-section without a real reason?

Why did they tell me about all the women who went to 42/43/44 weeks and still delivered their healthy babies at home, into the arms of their mamas and daddies and siblings? Why did I believe it was okay to make life and death choices based on other people’s anecdotes?

Why did I assume that just because it happened that way for them, that it would happen that way for me? Why couldn’t it have worked that way for me, when it worked that way for everyone else?

I have blamed the doctor who insisted that I must have a scheduled c-section at 36 weeks, and who asked me to find another doctor when I declined to appear for that scheduled c-section. I have blamed the doctor who mangled my uterus in 2002, leaving me with horizontal, vertical and diagonal incisions, which lead to years of secondary infertility.

I have blamed no one more than myself. I made the decision to decline that scheduled c-section. I still believe a preemptive c-section at 36 weeks is ridiculous, but if I’d followed doctor’s orders, my daughter would most likely be here today. I made the decision to stay pregnant past 40 weeks, past 41 weeks, past 42 weeks. I had a six week window in which my child could have been born and been fine, and I threw myself from that window.

I used to believe that I was strong. In all honesty, if Clara had been born healthy and vaginally after 42 weeks 3 days gestation, I would probably have been obnoxiously crowing with delight and pride in my supreme womanhood. I might be one of those natural birth mamas who tells all the newcomers to the group that I went to 42 and a half weeks, implying that if I can do it, so can you. I might scoff sweetly at women who have been enduring prodromal labor for a month, telling them that I went through extended labor for six weeks. Even if I had delivered a healthy baby via c-section, I might still shake my head at women who complain that they are 40 weeks and ready to have a baby now, darn it… thinking to myself that I’m superior to them because I held out for so much longer before I succumbed to a surgical birth.

I can tell you right now that I am not superior to anyone. I allowed fear and pride and other people’s opinions to color my judgement, and it is the single biggest regret of my life. I have tried to make up for it, by giving an alternate viewpoint to the “you can do it if you just believe in yourself” stance on natural birth and postdates pregnancy, and I like to think that maybe it will make a difference in someone else’s birth choices, but it doesn’t make up for what my family has lost.

Friends, family, fellow loss mamas, the doctor who stepped in and showed compassion after Dr. 36 Weeks walked away, my best friend, my dear husband… they’ve all told me that it’s not my fault, that I made the best decisions I could with the information I had, that I couldn’t have known, that it is not my fault my daughter died.

I don’t believe it, not for a second. I wish I did, but no matter which way I replay the whole scenario in my head, I come back to knowing that if I had made better decisions, I’d have my third daughter here today.

I am nearly eight months in, and I am endlessly playing the blame game, always coming up the loser.

Playing the Blame Game

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I'm Heather, a married mama of two teen girls, a stillborn baby girl (7/1/12), and a sweet and wild preschool girl (4/2/14). I've been blogging at The Destiny Manifest since 2001. I like to write about appreciating all of the beautiful little things that surround us, particularly in the face of grief, infant loss and mental health issues. Every day is an adventure!

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  • Nat

    Awwwww I don’t know what to say other than don’t blame yourself! you did what you felt was right in the moment and that is all we can do as mothers and humans! You had no idea that you would have the outcome that you did! Many hugs xx

  • Powerfully written and honest, as usual, but man you did all you could, your an amazing mother, and have a great spirit. It’s just a horrid thing that happened. Your loved ones will always be there for you.

    • Thank you Isaac for reading and for your words.

  • Oh Heather, you know I am thinking of you and still can’t even imagine. I think mothers do this in the best of situations with the blame game and you are not alone on that, but like I said I still can’t even imagine. Just know that you have a friend in me and thinking of you today.

    • Thank you for being my friend, Janine. I appreciate every comment that you make. It means a lot to me.

  • Ugh. I feel your pain in this post. What a terrible feeling to continue to play the “what if” game with yourself. I know it’s impossible not to in this situation, but you are terrorizing yourself. I know that you feel things could have been different had you made other choices, but this is true for so many tragic situations. “If only I hadn’t driven on Route 66, my child wouldn’t have died in the car accident.” “If only I didn’t let my son go hiking and then fall off that cliff and become paralyzed.” These situations give us an amplified sense of control. Because they are freakishly rare accidents, we start to see ourselves more in a god-like position…as if our decisions truly affected the outcome. My mother-in-law did this when she found out her 25 year old son committed suicide. He’d called her the night before and left a message and she didn’t answer it because she was too tired. She was plagued with guilt for months because she couldn’t stop from thinking, “Would things be different if she’d answered that call and talked him down?” I have no answers for you, only compassion. This sort of mental wrangling can and will eat you up alive. Our choices and plans and decisions are not quite as powerful as we feel they are in the moment. We can’t truly know what would have been different. We think we can, but there are too many unknowns to factor in – like a very bad math problem gone wrong. You did the best you could. You took the information you had and made a decision. You never for one minute would have elevated your needs over Clara’s if you knew she was truly in danger. Never. How would you treat someone else who came to you and said, “If only I had….?” Would you beat her up with self-criticism and judgment? No, of course not. And yet, you treat yourself that way, because why? Because you think that somehow you should be punished for your choices? That if you choose to forgive yourself, Clara’s death was in vain or somehow not honored properly? This.was.not.your.fault. It wasn’t. Just like it wasn’t my mother-in-law’s fault that she didn’t have the energy to answer the phone and six hours later her son was dead. She didn’t have that foreknowledge otherwise she would have been at his house. You didn’t have the knowledge that Clara wouldn’t be able to survive a pregnancy past 40 weeks. That knowledge was the missing piece of the math problem, not your poor judgment. I hope I don’t sound harsh. Sometimes words can sound crueler without the body language. What I want to do is grab you by the shoulders and lift off this horribly terrorizing mind game that won’t go away until you come to a place of peace and forgiveness within yourself. I wish I could give it to you in a bottle that you could pour over yourself. Clara loves you Heather. You were and are a good Mom to her. You are honoring her life. She doesn’t blame you. Nor does God or anyone else. Forgiving yourself won’t diminish the light she brought into this world for such a short time. xoxo

    • Thank you for your words, Julie. You don’t sound harsh at all, and you don’t know how badly I want to flip the switch that makes me believe every word you’ve written. I don’t, but I hope that one day I will.

    • This is a wonderful comment and exactly how I feel reading about this tragedy. Heather, I’m so sorry for yourself and I hope that you will see the truth in Julie’s words. There was really nothing that you could have done that you did not do!

    • karenrae

      I read this blog and was wondering if there was anything I could say. Julie says it so wonderfully–and right, I had a stillborn daughter. She was my only daughter. I had two sons before her and two sons after. I also did the blame game, so I understand. I does take a long time to get past that. But I do think by posting things like this that you are hopefully helping yourself to heal and that it may also help others in similar situations. I say this because the other thing I was thinking as I read your words was that I may have to keep this blog in mind in case I ever know someone else in a like situation, See, I had my second son after a 43 week one day pregnancy. Fortunately, it did work out for me. However, you are correct about the attitudes out there. I think it is good for moms to hear the success stories, but they should also hear about stories like yours, so they can make a more informed decision. Knowledge is power, and you are helping to provide more knowledge to others. It may not bring your daughter back, but it may help others to avoid experiencing your loss. One thing that eventually helped me was I came to believe that my daughter existed to save a another life–maybe more than one., I know she saved one life. A boy named Israel would not be here today if it were not for her,. His mama had an abortion scheduled, and she cancelled it because of my daughter, Rebekah. She saw how devastated we were and more fully accepted that Israel was a baby, not just a lump of cells, and decided to let him live. Coming to this belief has helped me to accept Rebekah’s loss. Of course, I still wish I had her, but at least I know her life had meaning for someone other than just me. I wish you peace as you work through your loss,

      • Thank you for sharing your story and insights, Karen. I am so sorry for your loss. {{{hugs}}}

  • Cyndi

    *sigh* I know no words will really help. Your journey is a poignant, powerful one. I am sending you white light and love. You could never have known and you made a decision. We all do our best to get through this life and we get scarred and scathed. But all that we are is our decisions and our experiences and what you’re doing with this blog is cathartic: you’re courageously sharing your story and with that you’re making a difference to other people. And Clara will always be remembered. 🙂

    • That means a lot to me, Cyndi, it really does. Thank you.

  • Betty Taylor

    We always do the things we feel in our heart is best! You are only human! I pray for you to come to terms with your loss. I know it will never go away. Clara was a part of you.

    Linking with my Ladies

    • I appreciate that, Betty. It’s times like this that I wish I wasn’t “only human”, so I could have known… but that’s taking on too much, I know, like @jddeneen:disqus said below.

  • Nicky Hudelson

    I have 4 children. I lost 2. I still feel their loss. It never goes away, but it does get a little easier to live with. I talk to my other children about their missing siblings and my missing children are as real to me as the children I have raised. My angels weren’t meant to suffer on this earth, they were too blessed for that. And I will see and hold them again one day. That is a belief I cling to. I found you through the blog hop and I am now following you. Check me out @ http://www.feelingtheemptynest.blogspot.com when you have time. Be blessed and comforted. Much love.

    • Thank you Nicky. I am sorry for your losses as well.

  • I’m not sure I can add much to all these wonderful comments below, but I wanted you to know you weren’t alone in the “blame game.” I too blamed myself for my son’s developmental disability. At first, I thought it was the dr.’s fault because she insisted I be induced 7 days past my due date…she let me labor for 20+ hours and then I developed a fever and had to have a c-section. I think back to that and think that my body simply wasn’t ready to deliver a child yet and if the dr. had let me wait, maybe i wouldn’t have labored that long, developed a fever, etc. Once we discovered my son’s challenges at around age 18 months, I looked back and blamed the babysitter who neglected him and let him cry in his crib for hours (long story how I know this) and I became paranoid thinking she drugged him to sleep while I was at work. Crazy stuff, I know. And then of course I blamed myself for letting this incompetent woman take care of my baby and I blamed myself and thought maybe I wasn’t the best mother to him and should have been more nurturing and not gone back to work, etc. The 2nd guessing went on and on and bottom line is it got me nowhere but more upset. I think your healing will come when you are ready. You deserve to mourn and process what happened to Clara in your own way. I eventually got to a point where I stopped looking back, but it’s hard and it takes a while. You’ll get there. And keep writing, I know that helps. Sending you a big hug.

    • I’m so sorry that you know what I mean, Emily, that you have blamed yourself for your son’s disability. I do that too, blame myself for my oldest daughter’s mental health disabilities,.. it’s such a self-destructive cycle, but so hard to break out of. Thank you for sharing your experience, Emily.

  • Stacy Harris

    It is so easy to blame yourself when something out of your hands controls you. I can’t even begin to understand what you are going through, but I believe they are right – you made the best decision you could with the information you were given. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

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  • I am just now finding your blog and catching up on your story and I just wanted to say that I am SO very sorry for your loss and that your baby is not here with you now, no matter the circumstances. xo