It’s guilt. Nothing less or nothing more.
The guilt I feel is not preventing me from functioning every day. It does not paralyse my mind. The Mummy guilt I feel lives silently in my heart and I do not feel the need to get over it.
As long as my heart is beating, my guilt will live with me. My guilt occasionally wakes up and knocks on the chambers of my heart to remind me that it is there. When this happens I get no warning as it cracks and crumbles my heart into a million pieces. It just takes over my body. I cry. I cry deep hard tears. Tears which feel like a knot which is determined to choke me, but releases me by eventually falling on my burning cheek.
I gulp and gasp because nothing makes me sadder than when my Mummy guilt starts to move around in my heart. My guilt is also on a journey. It too has changed persona along the way. I know someday my guilt will not be such a regular visitor. However, we will always be acquainted. I am Eoghan’s Mummy and that’s why I will always feel guilty.
In the evening as I sit in silence after a day filled with noise, I begin to think. I think of the noises which consume our home each day with the other two boys playing, arguing, chatting; noises which may never be created by Eoghan.
Then I feel guilty that his life will be so different and wonder was I the cause of this? I mentally list everything I wished I had not done as we shared and lived in my body together. I wish I had not drunk those cheeky coffees. I wish I had not painted the garden fence. I wish I had not planted garden pots. I wish I had not visited pet farms. I wish I had gone to the doctor when I got a tummy bug. I wished I always took folic acid and never delayed in starting. So many wishes, so many roots of my guilt. But none of this created his silent world.
Eoghan’s fate was sealed long before any of the previous convictions occurred. However, something occurred inside me and that is the true root of my guilt.
I remember lying on a bench during a physiotherapy session, staring at a poster displaying various stages of baby’s growth in utero. These type of images always fascinated me. However, on this particular day, I stared at them with a heavy heart. I studied each image and wondered with a prickly throat, at what point did it happen?
When was Eoghan’s fate written? After Eoghan received his Cochlear Implants, we were told that his inner ear structure probably stopped growing at about 8 or 9 weeks gestation. How much damage could I have done in that time? A time when you hardly know you are pregnant. When you think not much is happening but everything is. His world was silent practically from day one. My guilt shifted from “what did happen” to “what did not happen?” Why did my body fail to complete the job? When and where did my body fail my baby?
It is said that a baby recognises their mother's voice from the womb and knows who she by her voice once they are born.This is both amazing and beautiful. However, I think about this fact more deeply and I begin to feel guilty about how lifeless life inside me was if you can gain so much through sound in the womb. He never heard my heartbeat, or my bodily sounds delivering food to him. My voice, he never heard my voice.
He had no way of recognising me, the person who carried him for nine months. He had no way of linking the inside Mummy with the outside world Mummy. He never heard me talk to Shane or the boys. He never heard or got a sense of the family, home and world which was awaiting him on the outside. I feel guilty because my Mummy house was a dark and silent place. I feel guilty that his experience inside me was so different compared to the experience of his brothers. But like the outside world, Eoghan knew no different, so this sadness is mine, not his.
One of the first things which Shane said to me after we found out about the severity of Eoghan’s hearing loss was, ” Don’t blame yourself this is nothing that you did or didn’t do” He knew me too well and knew that I would be the first to blame myself.
He knew that my head and conscience would be focusing on me and would be going through everything with a fine tooth comb investigating what I did wrong. He knew I would be torn apart with guilt. I know that when he looks deep in my eyes he sees my Mummy guilt and it breaks his heart that I feel that way. I never doubt his belief and admiration for me as a Mother and he reminds every day. But he understands why I feel this way and although he does not agree with me he appreciates the way I feel and why I have to feel this guilt.
I am Eoghan’s Mummy, I was the captain of his ship for nine months when this journey began. Therefore I have to take the responsibility for what happened on that ship. A child climbs a tree and falls. The person who is taking care of that child feels enormous guilt that something happened on their watch. They provide every detail to those who need to know. Where it happened, how it happened and when it happened.
I know Eoghan’s Deafness started on my watch, but all I know is where it happened, not exactly when, why or how. Maybe if I had all these answers I would not feel so guilty. However, it still happened on my watch and no one else can share that responsibility. I’m his Mummy and that is why I will always feel guilty. Maybe my guilt will die when I see that Eoghan grows up to live a happy and fulfilling life and that he would wish for no other kind of world.
But Mummy guilt is not a bad thing. It is just one of the many reminders of how deep and strong Mummy love is. If you feel guilty it because you are a Mummy with a big heart and not a sign of Mummy failure.