search discussions

glow in the woods

front page
the archives
what is this place?
the contributors
comment policy

Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > It's the guilt

Along with the terrible loss of my daughter it's the terrible guilt that gets to me. I am in my mid forties so had IVF involving embryo adoption. Immediately successful. Part from minor issues when I was pregnant all was well. I was induced at 40 weeks as recommended but our lovely daughter didn't make it. She had such severe trauma during the birth that my husband and I had to decide to turn off her life support a few hours later.
I feel guilt over that although she was so unwell by then I still feel it was actually the correct decision.
But my main guilt is that she was chosen from a test tube in a clinic for us. Only because we so wanted a child and couldn't do it ourselves. if someone else had been given her she would be alive - not with me but somewhere- that is better than what happened. I would so much rather her be alive with someone else than what happened. I don't know how to cope with that responsibility although rationally I realise that another woman's IVF pregnancy could have resulted in miscarriage or any other problem,
As she was born at term every effort was made to recusitate her and I am haunted by the fact that her only live time was of medical intervention.
I feel I am crying out in pain but need to say these things and don't know where else to express such dreadful things
I now also feel guilty for putting this onto any one else!
Thank you for reading this - writing it down makes it a little easier. Love and peace to all of you
March 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKE
One of the things I used to get through the times of intense grief was this thought - No dead babies grow up to be heroin addicts. My dead daughter is perfect. When I imagined holding her and feeding her, all was always well and perfect. My imagination never dealt with her cleft palate. My imagination never thought about the time and effort and expense of her club foot. The surgeries, the worries, the fears. In my imagination, she was perfect and I let her die.

Your daughter could have been born to someone else. She could have lived, perhaps, in that imagined scenario. She could have been loved and grown up in a home that was perfect. Or, she could have been horrible abused by a stepbrother. Been a star ballerina or helped engineer the ship to Mars. She could have brought about world peace. She could have been a heroin addict.

Your guilt, my guilt, is a made up emotion in response to an imagined outcome. None of it is real, KE. Reality is that your daughter was given life in your body because you loved her. She lived, was loved, she was born, she died. The only thing you controlled was that you choose to give her life. That is all that was in your hands, the decision to try IVF. All the rest was beyond your control. Could you ever have even imagined the amount of love you feel? Did you pick a rotten birth for her? Did you choose to have nothing help, medically? No, no, no.

Imagining our guilt, judging ourselves, can be helpful. The guilt is really there, like a knife twisting in the heart. We have to face it, deal with it, acknowledge our guilt. And our innocence. But while you are imagining all the ways you are guilty, keep tucked in your mind the thought, also, that reality is your daughter is loved and she died. That is reality.

Peace to you, KE. This is so hard.

P.S. I don't mean to be harsh or to judge you. I don't want you to think that. If what you need instead is simply hugs and a shoulder to cry on, I would give you that if I could.
March 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJill A.
KE- I have this guilt too. We chose to terminate for medical reasons since our baby had such a slim chance of survival. Trying to save him would have required a very long, very intense path of medical intervention. There are families who choose this though. They are often very religious, which we are not, and put a lot of faith in God to save their baby. I often wonder if our son would be here today if he were born to different parents. Maybe parents who had more faith than we did. I have to remind myself that he probably would have suffered the same ultimate fate, just after days or months of intervention.

Your daughter could have been chosen by someone else- there is a good chance statistically that the embryo would never have implanted. Or she may not have been chosen by another family, and never gotten that shot at life that you gave her. And ultimately, her experience being carried by you makes her who she was as well. Your DNA is only a piece of what makes you (just look at identical twins)- so if she were chosen by a different family, she would have been a different person entirely. I hope that makes sense...

I'm not sure if I am helping, but I want to say that you are not alone. I have the same/similar guilt.
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAbby
Dear KE,

That's quite a lot to carry on your shoulders. I'm so sorry that her birth ended so badly.

Most of us here deal with tremendous guilt from time to time, and at first it is overwhelming. It's part of the package unfortunately, no matter how unreasonable it might be to blame yourself. It makes me wonder whether pushing the guilt away is the right thing to do.

What helps me is to instead embrace the guilt. I imagine myself apologizing to my Nadia. I take myself back into that bereavement suite in my mind, I stroke her hair, touch her face, and I tell her how unbelievably sorry I am that I didn't save her. That I didn't believe she had it in her to survive, that I wasn't prepared to care for her if she would have been deeply disabled. That I abandoned her. I also apologize to myself for letting go of the self-image that I had, of someone who would do anything for their children. But mostly, I stroke Nadia's hair and keep saying I'm sorry. I miss having a community to deal with this, a public release of guilt and a ritualistic act of forgiveness. But doing it in my mind helps a lot as well, and makes me feel more connected to her.

You also say your daughter's only live time was of medical intervention. I would say that only a few hours of her life involved medical intervention. She did not miraculously become alive when you delivered her, and if you stick around, you'll see from other people's experience that if she had died a few hours before she was born, you would have been just as attached. This is exactly because she *had* lived, and you *did* know her. This is why you feel so protective of her, so connected to her. Because you are her mother, and you know she was real.

Please keep posting. We'll be here to listen.
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAna
Oh KE, I'm so sorry for your loss. I struggle with guilt too, although it's a different situation. I do sometimes think that if my son had a different mother, maybe she could have spotted when he was in distress and saved him. Maybe she would have done a better job than me. But I have to remind myself that it's not true, that there's no way I can actually know that, that I did the very best job for my son that I possibly could have. I have no doubt that you were a wonderful mother to your daughter. You carried her for 40 long weeks, gave her nothing but love and care. There's nothing you did wrong, and no one could have done a better job. Yes, as you said, another woman's IVF pregnancy could have resulted in any other type of problem. It helps to rationalize these thoughts when you have them, these guilty feelings. You couldn't have predicted that your daughter would have trauma during her couldn't have seen that coming. And you made the best decision you could, after she suffered trauma, and you made the most loving and caring decision as her mother. I find that a lot of times our guilty feelings just don't make sense, but we need to feel them because they're instinctual. Because we are the mothers of our babies, and we feel like we are responsible for protecting them from anything and everything, even when it's impossible to protect them.

I just want you to know you are not alone in this awful grief and guilt...I feel it too, and I have to talk to myself daily to pull myself out of the guilt loop. I have to speak logically to myself, to reassure myself that I truly did nothing wrong, that my son's death was unpredictable. Your daughter's trauma was completely unpredictable, too. After all, you held her for an entire full term pregnancy with little to no complications. Don't feel bad about your decision. It was out of love. It's always out of love. You truly loved your daughter, and you were a perfect mother, and you still love her and are still her mother. No matter what.

Wishing you peace xx
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNada
Jill A - thank you, you are quite right all these scenarios are only imagined. All too sadly we know what really happened. I think sometimes the guilty feelings do help, they seem more focused than just pure sadness. Also I suppose wallowing in guilt is also a form of self pity. Not that we don't deserve some self pity! But it doesn't solve anything.
Anyway I rather liked the thought that she might have been a ballerina - I always hated dance classes - so that made me laugh which must be good!
Abby - It feels good to know that I'm not alone although we all wish it hadn't happened to any of us! Just reading the posts on Glow is so helpful.
What you say about religion is something that I often think of too,, my husbands family are very religious, mine are not. My in laws will pray for miracles on a regular basis. That night I would have taken a miracle if it could have been given. You also did what you knew to be right for your child. We probably did the best we could.
Ana - I also apologise to my daughter all the time, I stand by her grave and say I'm sorry for not saving her, for not being strong enough to birth her safely. What you say about her life before she was born is true - it was the happiest time of my life and I do like to think she got some of that.
Nada - Thank you - it is so terribly hard to deal with all the emotions surrounding our losses. I do try and be rational most of the time but you're right as a mother we all feel that our first and primary duty is to keep our children safe and I couldn't do that. That is very hard but of course all sorts of circumstances can arise that are out of our control. Our only job now is to try and cope with the sadness, continue with healing and remember our babies.

Remembering all our lost ones tonight xx
March 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKE
I am also a mid forties mom. Grace was an only child, and a surprise, at that. She was originally a fraternal twin, but when I was 17 weeks pregnant, I got a food borne illness that caused the one twin to die and my water to break. Grace was born a micropreemie at 26 weeks and spent 7 and a half months in hospital. She overcame all preemie complications to become a normal happy child, with the exception of a bowel issue that wasn't supposed to be a huge complication, just something to monitor, which in December had been really scaled back. Then, December 28, after being admitted to hospital with what was supposed to be a mild infection, she died within 18 hours of admittance. She was three. I am at such a loss about how to proceed with life...she was our only child, and now, at 48, I am not really in a position to have another child. I had been off menial work from the time I landed in hospital at 17 weeks, and now re-entering the work force after 4 years just seems like such a useless mountain to climb.
March 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
Dear Paula,

How absolutely dreadful. What an immense amount of pain to carry around - I am so sorry for both of your losses.
I hope after all that you have as much support as possible from your loved ones.
Losing a baby and child at any age is so painful but being older it is such a surprise and treat to become pregnant in the first place. Then when suddenly it is all snatched away you feel like there is no time left. Having started to come to term with being childless in the first place and now being back in that position it is so much harder to come to terms with again.
I do intend to try again but as I had an emergency c-section have to wait at least 10 months before I can begin. It already feels like years have gone by.
I can see that considering where to go from here would be incredibly difficult - going back to work would I'm sure seem pointless to start with. Could you consider taking some time to find something completely different from your previous role or maybe there's something you used to want to do but never quite got round to?
I am sorry I have no useful words but I am thinking of you and sending my love.XXX
March 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKE