Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Letting go of guilt

We are sitting in the conference room at work – and we are discussing a case study of a unsuccessful launch

We are doing a "post mortem" on why things did not work out and going through all the decisions that were made on the case.

Then we are looking at the choices made and then thinking about all the reasons why those decisions were the wrong one.

As we go over each decision – it occurs to me that all the decisions were the best choices at the time.

I say to my coworkers

"All these decisions seem like wrong ones just because we know the answer.. Things did not work out the way we expected. But if they had worked out the way we expected. We would be patting ourselves on the back and talking about all the reasons why these decisions were the right ones"

One of my colleagues nods his head and says "Sometimes things just don't work out the way they are meant to"

And there is a truth if I ever heard one

In the path to the day of finding out that your child has Autism and the years that follow after that, how deeply we examine all the choices we made on the road to Autism and the things we did post diagnosis to help our child.

Every new study that comes out resurfaces that guilt.

In the ASD mom community you will hear often things like. ( It's the same statements you hear over and over again)

"I really should have had them split out the MMR vaccine… what was I thinking? "

"What is the point of the Hep B at birth if the mother does not have Hep B?How I wish I had researched more"

"I really should have moved to a city with better services… I feel sick to my stomach whenever I hear about how much Early Intervention she would have got, had we lived in California"

"Its those darned ear infections .. why did I put him in daycare? .. after all the nanny horror stories , I never wanted to get a nanny , but see what happened instead "

"OMG I had no idea I was giving my kid mercury through my breast milk"

" I really need to do more with my child.. Look at what Catherine Maurice did"

"Should have started speech therapy earlier.. I feel nauseous now when I see how bad his Apraxia really is"

"Its those darned Baby Einstein DVD's… I am so ashamed now when I think of how I would press the replay button"

"I really should have done more( or less ) DAN/ABA/Floortime/RDI/ABA … maybe my son would be so much further along had he benefitted( not been harmed by) these"

This week I also read on Hopeful parents –a quote from Vicki Forman ( fabulous mom and fabulous writer )

"[A mother] believes that if she simply pays attention long and hard enough, she can prevent anything from happening."

And there it is

A fundamental belief that moms have

That is fundamentally wrong.

The reason why we feel so guilty

The truth is we are imperfect people (like everybody else) and we made the best decisions we could make at the time we made them.

These decisions feel like wrong decisions because the outcome was different than what was expected.

We don't know that the outcome would be any different if we could go back in time and make a different choice

A second truth is that we never give ourselves credit for all the right choices (and if we look back honestly there are plenty of those) we made.

It's as though the only thing worth focusing on are the things that we did that some research study says caused/did not prevent Autism ( and then another research study quickly repudiates )

And the final truth is that we have no reason to feel guilty

It's a lesson that I learn and relearn all the time




Territory Mom said...

Wow, thank you. I don't know what else to say, but thank you.

Niksmom said...

Oh my. I don't think I even realized how much I needed this today. Thank you. Nothing to do with Nik's autism...but everything to do with his prematurity, developmental delays, etc. Thanks.

Christine said...

Somehow I escaped a lot of the guilt over causing Oliver's autism. maybe that's because I don't think I did. Well, except for the genes I contributed. But I do feel guilty for how much I struggle with the day to day stuff. I feel guilty for not being supermom, I guess.

Anonymous said...

This is great. I have to say that I don't feel much guilt for Daniel's Autism. I don't think there's anything we could have done differently...but that line about the Baby Einstin Dvds? Ouch! I've struggled with that one and had no idea I was letting him zone out and stim so much. But, maybe it's a blessing in disguise because Daniel loves music, is pretending with puppets, did learn a lot from them and some stims are worse, right? Sigh.

robin said...

Aah...I definitely have guilt as well for the way my daughter turned out. I have reviewed little decisions as I wonder what could have been... I never considered that the outcome would have been the same if I had made certain changes. Seems like such an eye-opener. Thanks!

Lyndsey said...

Well said. I can absolutely relate, and as you said, it's something you have to learn and constantly relearn.

Anonymous said...

That's the truth and you have a lovely way of saying it. <3.

Lowcountry Mom said...

I love Vicki Forman! I'm reading a book of hers right now, and I'm pretty sure that quote came from it. ("This Lovely Life")

I love you too, K! You always find such a profound way to say things that we all can relate to and nod our heads saying "we understand, yep". The what-ifs get me all the time.....if I hadn't had preeclampsia, if I had lost more weight before the pg, etc etc etc etc then they wouldn't have been preemies, then the developmental issues wouldn't have get the idea. ((((((((hugs))))))))) to us all!

danette said...

That's so insightful, and as usual I love the way you put things into perspective. I have to admit I don't really feel guilt about the autism but I have felt a lot of guilt over the prematurity and inability to bf, some of which I was finally able to let go of after Bitty was born.

As for the Baby Einstein videos, that caught my attention b/c we did that w/ our twins - they LOVED those videos. But I don't feel guilty abt it, it was the only thing that would help them relax and calm down so it was part of our bedtime routine.

Mostly I feel guilt abt the everyday stuff, but like you said we just do the best we can. Thanks for writing this.

Rachel said...

Good Lord... that comment about mothers hit me like a ton of bricks. How if we pay attention long enough and hard enough we can prevent things from happening.

WOW, just WOW.

I somehow felt the same guilt when the ultrasound showed that Itty Bit's kidneys were severely damaged. While he was growing in me. Did I eat one bowl of ice cream too many? Five forkfuls less of salad? Somehow I took on that blame.

And my mother... Heaven help her step out from under the guilt of not knowing why I suddenly lost my hearing on my 4th birthday.

We absorb all of those - feeling like we can somehow be the superhero that CREATES perfect health and balance for our children.

Absolutely timely post - thank you so much K. You are a treasure.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post for mothers everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, K.

(By 'launch' you mean - an adult child leaving his parents' home?)


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