An Introduction to Mom Guilt in the NICU
Being a mom is hard work. You hear that sentence everywhere from everyone, and it’s true. Being a NICU mom, and a twin mom, has added levels of difficulty, but just being literally ANY kind of mom is tough.
Some days you feel like a rockstar. You feel like you’ve got it under control and that you’re the best mom in the world.
The twins are fed, bathed, clean outfits, we did tummy time adequately, we worked on eye tracking, did their physio exercises, worked on feeding, they didn’t puke, read books to them, talked to them, stretched their muscles as per physio to help with CP, walked them around to see new things and learn, etc… Doing all those things in one day makes you feel AMAZING.
If I miss one of those? I feel like an instant failure.
As moms, we want the best for our children (obviously). I feel like if I don’t do ALL THE THINGS I’m supposed to, they won’t develop properly (due to their brain damage issues) and that it would all be my fault.
But more than just the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” is the feeling of just not being good at being a mom. I’m sure everyone experiences this at some point. It’ll be a day when either twin, or both, just won’t take a bottle from me, or we struggle through their feed, with one of the twins crying the whole time.
I try everything, but nothing works. I get frustrated. Then I feel bad for being frustrated. Then I remember the doctors telling me the twins can sense how we’re feeling, like they’re little mind-reading aliens. And negativity will harm their development so I need to be positive all the time.
Then I get frustrated because I can’t muster up the positivity. Then I feel bad and guilty all over again… and REPEAT.
It’s an endless cycle of feeling like shit when something, ANYTHING, goes wrong or when I don’t do as good a job at something as I feel like I should have. Worst of all, I especially feel it when someone else can do it better.
My husband is amazing at feeding the boys. When I can’t get them to take a bottle, he can. Which is great obviously because they need to eat, but makes me feel like an EVEN WORSE failure. Don’t get me wrong, fathers can do the same things moms can (ok except the boob part), but there is still that feeling and expectation that mothers should be good at caring for their babies.
It’s okay if fathers stumble or fumble tasks. They’re trying their best. But when a mother fumbles? She must not know what she’s doing. She must be incompetent. Those poor children, they think.
Jaxon was having a crying fit today. I picked him up, patted his bum, bounced him, rocked him, talked to him, etc. All the things he normally loves and that could potentially calm him down. A nurse saw that I was not having any success calming him down and offered to try, so I let her, hoping to learn a new way to soothe a baby. She took him from me, did some more bounces and talking, and he shut right up and went to sleep in her arms.
What a gut punch that was. And it’s happened several times. On one hand, I’m glad he calmed down and was happy. On the other, nothing else could make me feel like more of a piece of shit than that.
I don’t share this for sympathy or comments like, “It’s okay!” I don’t want any comments or reaction to that effect. I share it because I’m sure others have felt this way too (probably with the same situation if you’re a NICU mom) and while I have no meaningless, trite, comforting words for you, I can without a doubt say you’re not alone.
I keep trying to do the best I can, even if it’s not good enough sometimes.