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I Blamed Myself for My Daughter's Health Issues

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Mom Guilt.

For me, this takes on an entirely different connotation.

For years, I blamed myself for Callie’s health issues. One hundred percent blamed myself for every single health issue she had.

We spent three months in the NICU after her open-heart surgery. Ninety days. Ninety days where I sat by her incubator and reviewed every single day of my pregnancy looking for the sign of where I messed up. Was it the few times I drank a Diet Coke? Was it the fact that I kept working while I was pregnant? Was it the fact that I didn’t rest enough? Was it the fact that I carried in the groceries when I went to the store? Was it the fact that I had one drink the week before I knew I was pregnant? Or even worse, was it my diabetes? Could it be that?

The worst fear I’d had growing up? That the disease I never had a choice about could do this to the person I loved more than anything. How could I be so selfish to want a baby and risk this happening?

In my mind, I was her mother. I carried her in my body, therefore I was responsible. I was the one who should have protected her from all of those things. I should have done more, tried harder, taken better care of myself, and tried to prevent those things.

Callie got better and we were able to go home, but the guilt didn’t subside. In fact, it got even worse. Callie would have to lose part of her, and I wondered if it was because of something I had done. A mistake I had made. What of because of me my baby girl had to have her leg amputated? Would she have a “normal” life? Her life would be forever changed and what if it was because of me. What if I did that.

Every surgery. Every time she cried. Every time we had to change a bandage, dressing, or doctor a wound. Every time they had to put her under anesthesia. Every test, medical form, and insurance document. Every time we got a medical bill. Every time she looked at other kids running. Every time we had to go to the hospital. Every scar she accumulated. Every time James cried. Every time she woke up in pain in the middle of the night. Every doctor appointment. Every time she fell walking on her leg. Every time she said she wanted a “normal leg.” Every time she asked, “Why me mama?” Every time in my head I thought, “Because of me. Because of me. Because of me.”

The truth is, we don’t know why Callie has the health issues she does. We probably won’t ever know why. But the guilt is an anchor I have to learn to let go of — otherwise I’ll drown.

I have to learn that God has a plan for us. He had a plan for us when He brought Callie to us. There’s something we were meant to do and all of these experiences are putting us on that path. This is what I believe.

They are making us stronger. They are making us fighters. They are making us kinder and more empathetic. They are making us warriors. They are making our family close in a way that others won’t understand until they have walked the path we have. They are putting amazing people and opportunities in our lives that not many people will experience.  They are showing us who our tribe is and how much they love us. They are showing us the joy in simple, ordinary, everyday moments. They are showing us that when we get knocked down, you get right back up. They are letting us motivate and inspire others.  They are letting us be the light in the darkness, the wildflowers in the rose garden, and the unicorns in the field of horses. They are letting us show others it’s OK to be different. They are showing us grace and acceptance.

They are letting us change the face of beauty.

They are letting us change the world, one step at a time.

Originally published: May 5, 2019
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