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When I Realized How to Forgive Myself After My Son’s Premature Birth

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For a year after my son was born, I walked around in “unforgiveness.”

For those who have been on the journey into motherhood with me, this may come as a surprise. I am a generally happy person, and I openly celebrated the many blessings that came with the birth of my son 16 weeks early.

However, to be honest, it was the most traumatic experience of my life, and it has had many lasting repercussions. My family and friends lived on prayers during most of his NICU stay. My beautiful little innocent baby boy had to undergo too much, too soon. And it was my fault.

As all mothers do, I wanted the first 18 years of his life to be easy as pie. I was devastated when this was not the reality. As the person in charge of carrying him for the agreed upon 40 weeks, I could not help but feel like I owed him an apology.

So as I simultaneously thanked God for bringing him through the hospital stay, vision issues, surgeries, illnesses and challenges, I blamed myself for their existence. I enjoyed watching God work but felt bad. He had to spend so much time on my child. It was really, really hard living in uncertainty. The professionals call this post-traumatic stress disorder. I call it feeling inadequate, burdened and helpless. It’s a feeling many parents of challenged children can live with daily.

Until they get to forgiveness.

When we first left the hospital, I was high on the miracle, so high I refused to accept that his prematurity would result in delays. And then, as the delays began to show themselves, so did the more intense feelings of guilt. The “unforgiveness” grew. If I had only carried him long enough, made better decisions, rested more — the therapies, doctor appointments and evaluations would not be needed. These were my everyday thoughts. Watching him struggle to sit up, when most babies do it so effortlessly, broke my heart on many occasions.

I had been warned that this would come, and it was all a part of being a preemie mom. I also knew he was improving tremendously with therapy. The reasoning, however, did little to calm the blame on myself. I began to feel discouraged and struggled to find a place for these feelings. So I kept searching, finding new approaches, counting triumphs. Each milestone he hit developmentally removed a stone from the mountain of guilt I had created. But soon after, I would replace it with a new one. And this — this constant building and tearing down — was my emotional life.

Kaleena Berryman.2-001

And then a few weeks ago, my son gave me the gift of a lifetime. We were sitting in the living room, and he was on the floor playing. He was laughing, reaching for his toys and exploring his world. He was happy. Growing. Thriving. Perfect. No, he wasn’t doing what 13-month-old babies typically do, but he didn’t seem to know or even remotely care.

Yes, he was learning more and more each day, and we had somehow ended up in this place where he was like a regular child. He was moving forward, and I was the only one stuck in the challenge of his prematurity. My boy was moving on with his life. And in the innocence of his playtime, he spoke to me so clearly. His spirit said to mine, “Mommy, I am fine.” Get over it. And finally, I allowed my heart to hear it. In that moment, more gratefulness came over me than I had ever experienced at one time. My guilt began to feel unreasonable. I had finally arrived at a place of forgiveness, and my son had escorted me there. It was as if my son was born to me again, but this time with only joy and happiness. No regret.

Through this I have learned that when things don’t go as planned, the vulnerability of disappointment can easily grow into negative feelings. But we must keep moving and leave them behind. They are distractions to our blessings. My son had already learned to do this. If we are to enjoy the rainbow that comes after the storm, we must first forgive ourselves for not carrying an umbrella. The journey is filled with too many miracles to get stuck at the mirages. For it is true — through challenges, I believe we become closer to God and more aware of our power to pray and be heard. Forgiving ourselves is the only way to make room for it all.

I have vowed from this day forward to only enjoy my son. To never let anything dim the light he has placed over my life. To allow him to discover his abilities as he pleases. He and I will completely live in the now. This is important for him but also for me. I deserve to be happy.

And he deserves a mother who has forgiven herself.


Follow this journey on Praying4MyPreemie.

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Originally published: December 11, 2015
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