I realize (when I’m not ridiculously sleep deprived) that guilt is a pointless emotion, especially when you’re not doing anything “wrong.”
The problem is that a new mom’s sense of what’s “right” and “wrong” is fairly screwed up to begin with, and only gets more strict and unfair towards herself the more sleep deprived she is. Multiply it by about 10 billion if that sleep she’s getting is at a hospital by the side of her sick two week old.
Last night I didn’t sleep at the hospital. I slept at the hotel where my husband had rented us a room because (a) the parent rooms by the ICU aren’t an option once she’s is moved to the regular floor (which could have been today and will most likely be tomorrow) and only one of us will fit in the pedi room with her bed wise, (b) the cots at the hospital are killing both our backs (especially considering I have a bad back to begin with) and (c) the lack of privacy/hot water/water pressure/hospital atmosphere was killing our souls a little more each day.
I did not want to go.
No, that’s not true. Deep down I wanted to go to the hotel SO BADLY. Long hot shower. Soft bed. Soft bed where I could lay next to my husband and actually be HELD. Sleep. Oh my god…SLEEEEEEEP. Craved the sleep. NEEDED sleep. I had nothing…no energy and no reserves.
The nurses all told me I should go. That it would be good to go. Because seriously? Are there better baby sitters out there than the monitors checking her heart and respitory rate AND the trained nurse with over 20 years experience? Could I ever find such a sitter on the outside, and even if I could, could we ever afford a sitter with those qualifications.
But the Mommy Guilt. Oh my hell (to borrow a quote from Amalah) the Mommy Guilt.
I started crying when it was time to leave. Because she was awake and she needed me (she didn’t..she was getting ready to sleep). Because if I sat in the room it made me a better mom. Because leaving her made me a bad mother, no matter how much *I* needed to rest for a few hours.
I wondered if the nurses were just saying that I should, like some twisted test I used to give boys to see if they liked me enough. Did I just EPIC FAIL at the secret motherhood test? They just wrote me off as a BAD MOTHER didn’t they?
I called myself a bad mother as I tearily walked to the car. I called myself a bad mother as we drove the 3/4ths of a mile to the hotel. I beat on myself as I stood in a blisteringly hot shower for the first time in 11 days (not that I didn’t shower at the hospital…but that it was a thin barely warm trickle of water) and let some tension release from my back. I felt terrible as I pumped and stored milk in the fridge as I ate. And then we climbed into bed and I had to watch video of Elanor three times before I could consider sleeping…and called the PICU just to check on her as well.
She was fine.
I still feel guilty.
Because I needed the sleep.
Even after seeing my OB today for my post partum depression check in, and being ordered by her to sleep at the hotel at LEAST every other night if I wouldn’t consider every night…and then she made a point of saying my milk supply would suffer if I didn’t. Which my husband is using viciously against me.
We’re now at least going to get on a schedule where we can trade off. It isn’t so much that *I* am not there as neither of us was…but Ravi was just as far gone as I was. But after a night of sleep I went back at 8 (although there was a nightmare with trying to get a freaking cab) and he slept and came in at 1pm so I could leave for a dr’s appointment, after which I came back and slept. He’s still there and I’m here…I’m going to take one more nap and then go back to the hospital for the night shift so Ravi can come back and sleep and take the day shift.
I am distant enough from my sleep deprived mommy persona that I realize I was being a bit melodramatic.
But there’s still part of me that feels guilty for not being strong enough to keep going.
Mommy guilt in the PICU…I know it doesn’t just live in Elanor’s room…I see it in the faces of the other moms especially. We wonder why we didn’t see the illness that silently felled our precious child. We worry about the care our kids are getting–did we ask enough questions? is it really the right course? We worry about how they’re eating, sleeping, surviving in a different atmosphere than home. We live and die with each beep of the monitor.
And we so rarely look up to acknowledge each other.
There was one mom I connected with, but her baby left the PICU and so did she. (which is a GOOD THING…I KNOW)
And now I’m back to recognizing the other moms, and silently nodding at them.
I want to reach out…to share our pain on the bad days and our triumphs of the good days. But the problem is that you never know who’s ready to be reached out to and who isn’t. If anyone had tried to reach out to me in the those first few hellish days I would have reacted badly…I didn’t want to talk to anyone besides my husband and our medical team. I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s kid…who cared about some other kid…MY KID was sick. And that is totally understandable and reasonable. Until you know your kid is going to live and be okay, you don’t really want to hear about someone else’s kid and if they’re going to live or die because you just don’t have the emotional capacity to listen or to care about anyone else (even yourself…I got so mad when I realized I needed a fresh pad…how dare my 10 day at the time post partum body let me down by BLEEDING…didn’t it know ELANOR WAS SICK???!!!!).
Mommy guilt in the PICU…the most present emotion of all…after the fear, the worry, the exhaustion, and the baited breaths we’re too scared to let out.