In the moment I learned that my daughters heart had stopped beating, my mind instantly began its search for answers. And in trying to list all of the ways that the unthinkable could have happened, the concept of blame quickly rose to the surface.

Who was to blame for my daughter’s death? Who should I blame for the fact that people would now refer to my baby as a stillborn and not a newborn?

As I sifted through the nine months of memories prior to our loss, I found blame at every turn. I blamed the GP who had looked me in the eyes when I had a small bleed at 12 weeks and told me if you’re going to lose this pregnancy, there’s nothing we can do at this stage. I blamed her for raising my stress levels early on. I blamed the consultant who informed me at my 30 week check that I was in fact not due to have a growth scan that day as I had believed. Come back in two weeks, she had said. Would they have noticed my baby’s life slipping away if they had taken the time to monitor her then?

I partly blamed them all. But there was one person I blamed more than anyone else.

Myself.

Because the truth is, there are things that I could have done differently. These thoughts come with hindsight. Reflection. But I held myself to blame for not listening to my inner concerns enough. Or perhaps, not finding my voice when I should have. I could have demanded that the consultant performed a growth scan that day. That I wasn’t leaving until she did. I could have acknowledged that in the the back of my mind, I was quietly worried rather than take her words as gospel. I always remember my mothers words as we left the hospital. You should have pressed harder for that scan, she’d said.

Most of the blame I put upon my shoulders lies in the day before my world ended. Because I noticed the change in her movements. I remember sitting at the kitchen table and questioning why her gentle prods to my stomach appeared lazy. Did they feel weaker? Or was it my imagination? I knew in my heart that she appeared quieter. But I reassured myself with the fact she and I had had these days before only for her to greet our evenings with a burst of activity. I also reassured myself with the words I had been told by professionals, which sadly I didn’t know at the time to be wrong. You may find your baby moves less towards the end of pregnancy as they have less room as they grow. Movements do change. . . . .

Only 24 hours later as I stared down at my daughters lifeless body in my arms, I could only think one thing.

This is all my fault. I should have kept you safe. I should have done more. I should have rung the hospital sooner.

As a mother, the worst question I have ever put to myself is the one I repeatedly asked myself in that moment.

Am I to blame for my child’s death?

A question like that will take you to the darkest places in your mind. Did I unknowingly end my baby’s life? Was her death due to my body’s inabilty to do the one thing it had been tasked to do or was it down to the decisions I did or didn’t make? Am I the reason my baby died? Myself alone. Or did she die due to paths and decisions that were out of my control?

Those were the questions that haunted my dreams at night. And as well as my baby’s death directly, I blamed myself for every ripple effect that occured because of it. I blamed myself for my husbands grief. I blamed myself for her grandparents grief. I blamed myself for the fact that her big brother was asking questions that I had no answer for. I felt that I had robbed so many people of having the chance to love her. I blamed myself for their heartache.

Although I couldn’t pinpoint my thought processes, I believed I was to blame entirely.  To feel the intense grief and pain for the rest of my life seemed a suitable punishment for me and yet at the same time, a punishment not strong enough. And all the while I asked myself, how does a person carry on living when the weight of blame is this heavy?

I quickly learned that you can’t. Because blame leads to guilt. Guilt leads to despair. And despair leads to emotional turmoil. It would be three more months of harbouring these feelings within myself until I was made to question them.

“Your baby’s death wasn’t your fault,” my consultant told me during the post mortem appointment months later. She sat back and watched the tears fall down my face.

Then why do I feel like I’m to blame? I cried.

She gave me a small yet friendly smile and told me that I had done everything in my power to keep my baby safe. She told me that even if I had arrived at the hospital earlier, we would never know if the outcome would have been different or the same. I had attended every appointment. I had tried my best to keep my body healthy.

“You loved your baby and you did everything you could for her,” my consultant spoke softly, “Loving your baby isn’t a crime and therefore, you should never feel guilty.”

Her words didn’t instantly erase the blame I felt. But they helped ease it. For the first time I truly started to question what I was feeling and whether, if I couldn’t let go of it entirely, could I learn to forgive myself?

I didn’t know it at the time, but these early thoughts would in turn put me on a road to self healing that I thought was impossible to tread.

It began with self reflection, through writing and through talking to others. Others who would listen without judgement. Some were loss parents themselves. Others were friends. I openly spoke about my guilt and found that other bereaved parents also felt the same. Surely we can’t all be guilty? I started to wonder if the blame I had held was the reality of the truth – it was my fault – or whether I had judged myself guilty and dealt myself the sentence to match. A lifetime of despair.

By reflecting on my own journey, I found that I was somehow able to rewrite the way in which I felt about each moment. When you are living these moments in real time, your reactions are instantly based on what is in front of you. But in taking myself back in my mind, I could press pause. I could stare that moment face on and analyse it.

I became my own detective.

Was I worthy of blame? Or forgiveness?

I pressed the pause button and watched in my minds eye the woman who sat at that kitchen table and questioned her next move. Why didn’t she pick up the phone when she was worried? But now I realise. Now I see it. Now I remember. The little kicks that followed that afternoon. The reassurance of false words. The fact that the next day I was scheduled in for an early midwife appointment. The fact that my own reassurances to myself outweighed my worries. The fact that you can’t change a moment. If I could go back in time, I would change everything. But the person I was then thought she was doing the right thing. Not for a single moment do you contemplate never bringing your baby home.

Letting go of the blame I felt for my baby’s death also meant changing the “what-if’s” to a different statement. Because those “what if’s” were unbearable and became scars that I would constantly open up over and over again. But opening up an old wound doesn’t bring answers. It just repeatedly shows you the pain. What if I did this instead? What if I chose differently? For myself, I knew letting go of the “what if’s” would play an important role in letting go of my self blame.

So, I changed the “what-if’s” to “that version of you did what you felt was right”. And in doing this and choosing a sentence that I reflected on and knew in my heart to be true, my guilt at my actions started to grow smaller.

What if you had argued to have that growth scan?

That version of you did what you felt was right.

What if I’d rung the hospital sooner?

That version of you did what you felt was right.

What if I’d listened to my worries more?

That version of you did what you felt was right.

It took a long time to let go of the “what if’s”, but in doing so, I started to hear and understand my consultants words once more. You loved your baby and you did everything you could for her. Loving your baby isn’t a crime and therefore, you should never feel guilty. 

Blame, I have come to learn, comes hand in hand with loss. Whether that is the blame we put upon ourselves directly in believing we are somehow responsible for the loss of a life we loved. Whether it is the blame we feel that turns to guilt when our loved ones pass and we can’t be there to hold their hand. The way we blame ourselves for the last words we spoke to them whilst wishing we had somehow uttered something more poignant.

I blamed myself for many years. But I also taught myself to forgive and in doing so, I have realised that there is only one thing I am truly guilty of. . . .

And that is the unconditional love for my baby.

 

3 thoughts on “Blame and Forgiveness

  1. im so sorry for your loss. I have 2 angel babies that were both 20 weeks when they passed and like you i have struggled so much with “the blame game” Its hard not to when its you that has carried the baby inside you. We are not to blame for these awful tragedies. The only thing we are guilty for is loving our babies! they will always be a part of us and Im so glad you have people around you who you can talk to.

    Rosie x

    Like

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