OPINION

Pleading "Not Guilty"

June 22, 2010
Cee Kay

I often joke that the only trips I take are the Guilt Trips that the states of being a mother, daughter, wife, and friend induce. I am way too familiar with the feeling of guilt. The pensiveness, the tension. The nagging feeling that you are responsible for someone else's unhappiness or misfortune. Oddly tough, the guilt I suffer the least is Mommy Guilt. I guess I have been through too much to have already realized that NOTHING is under your control as a parent.

I had no problem conceiving my first child. It seemed like we decided to have kids, started trying and Boom! I was pregnant. Well, not right away. It took us two tries because the first month we were so tired we fell asleep during the baby making process. Then, 3 years later, we decided to bring another child into this world and started trying. And kept trying. And trying. And trying. For four years. And then a bulb went "Ping!" in our brains! WE NEEDED HELP!! So then began the trips to Infertility specialists and clinics and various labs. And the Guilt Monster raised its ugly head - maybe I hadn't been taking good care of myself, maybe I was too fat, maybe I had waited too long and my biological clock was all ticked out. The nice specialists we met slowly, but surely debunked all my maybe's. Women heavier than me got pregnant all the time and the test results showed nothing was wrong with me or J. At 35, my biological clock was fine too. Ours was "Idiopathic Infertility". I define it as "A condition where idiots, who have already conceived once, fail to conceive". I have found that humor is great for dissipating guilt :D 4 IUIs and 2 IVFs later, M came along. Now I look at M and tell myself "There is NO WAY I am feeling guilty any more!"

Working-Mommy-Guilt has been the easiest to deal with. I grew up watching my mom juggle a job with family and housework and saw how she did it all. She actually made it look easy and fun AND fulfilling. So I always knew where I stood in this regard. In the "want to work outside of home" camp. Thankfully, with flexi-time and the good (albeit expensive) childcare options available to us here, it has been manageable AND fulfilling so far. What could be wrong in providing my kids with a secure financial future AND providing them with a happy and content mom? I see no reason to feel guilty there.

I have already written about how I realized that, as a parent, I can't really control everything my child does (or goes through). At the age of 5, S (my older daughter) developed Alopecia Areata. For days, even months and probably years, I tried to find reasons to blame myself. Maybe I didn't give her proper nutrition. Maybe I stressed her out with my discipline or over-scheduled her. Or, maybe, I gave her defective genes. Maybe my house was not clean enough or I was too anal about the cleanliness. ANYTHING that would give me a reason why my daughter was suffering from such an emotionally traumatic condition. Unfortunately, all the doctors we met slowly and methodically destructed all my reasons. Alopecia does not have a known cause, they told me. Then they proceeded to prove it with the umpteen tests they ordered - each test came back normal. Nothing was wrong with my child - except that she had lost 99% of her hair.

Those were tough days. J and I would sweep up bags full of S' hair from the carpet, and the vacuum would still clog up and whine in rage with the hair still left behind on the carpet. We painstakingly gathered all the hair that WAS left on S' scalp and tried to cover her head with it so the bald patches wouldn't show. We tried not to discuss how torn we were, in front of S. To her we presented an optimistic facade - that everything will be alright. That she will get all her hair back one day soon and this would be a nightmare left behind, never to be remembered again. She did get her hair back, but the nightmare hasn't been forgotten. She still gets bald patches here and there on her scalp but it isn't as bad either - we no longer fill bags after bags with her hair.

It used to break my heart to see her try to cover a bald spot or to have her request me to fill out her missing eyebrow with an eyeliner. It is becoming easier to see her figure out ways to hide those bald spots and still look stunning. No that is not my mommy-pride speaking. Her self-confidence makes her shine. I know she still struggles internally with the condition. Still curses it. Hates the way her newly grown hair sticks out from between the rest of the hair. It is a constant battle between her hair and the gel she applies to keep the stray strands down. But I also see a strong woman emerging from within her. A girl who has gone through, and is still struggling with, Alopecia Areata. A girl who, just last year, had an allergic reaction so bad it would have had a grown man howling and is still struggling with the newly developed allergies that she didn't have before now, is now turning into a confident, still kind and loving (despite all the struggle) woman who makes her parents proud each and every moment of their lives. A girl whose teachers write emails to her parents singing praises of how she is the most loving and polite student they have ever met. A girl whose teachers/ school administrators stop me in the school office to joke how they wish she would get at least one B grade because it just isn't possible for anyone to get all A's. (And I can't tell you how proud that makes me because she got those A's WHILE she was struggling with her severe allergic reactions and outbreaks). She has been the answer to my mommy-guilt. I see her and I see how she has turned out despite all the hardships she has faced, and I say to myself "There is NO WAY I am feeling guilty for THAT!"

I am an optimist. And an opportunist. Thats why I believe "When life gives you lemons - make lemonade. Then sell the lemonade and make air freshner from the peels. Sell that too!"
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