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Moving Beyond The Guilt Of My Son's Birth

I tell myself that I wasn’t a medical professional, and there was no reasonable way to know I was in labor until it was too late.

“Wow, you are so lucky!”

That’s usually the response I get when I talk about how fast my second child took to come out of my body. Thirty minutes. It took 30 minutes. Second labors are generally faster, but there’s fast and then there’s “wait did that just happen?” fast. My oldest son’s three-hour-entry now seems so slow in comparison.

So, other moms think I am lucky, because I never labored in the way most women do. I didn’t have the marathon of contractions and hours waiting for my baby to be born. The pain and discomfort childbirth I felt, while very real, was short-lived. I admit, it is hard to talk about the way I give birth, because I know it’s so much faster than everyone else.

But I don’t feel lucky. At least not about the birth itself. I feel extremely lucky to have my son, which I will say more about later. As for the birth, mostly I feel guilty. Not as guilty as I did the day he was born. Not as guilty as I felt when we got to take him home. Not as guilty as I felt on his first birthday. But I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because, although my second birth was nothing like my first, or what the pregnancy books tell you, I still wonder if there were things I could have done differently. Perhaps if I didn’t go for that long walk to eat spicy Mexican food the day before, maybe I wouldn’t have sent my uterus into overdrive and end up delivering a child in my bedroom with only my husband and a 911 operator to assist me. Maybe, if I knew how to check my cervix, I would have noticed it was very low, gone to the hospital and had my baby examined by my trained midwife and nurses, instead of two well-meaning but very inexperienced EMS workers. I wonder, if I had just noticed the early signs of labor, my son wouldn’t have ended up in a room with a team of doctors working tirelessly to save his life. And I wouldn’t have ended up in a different room praying they would succeed.

They did succeed. Perhaps, in another post, I will share my thoughts on angels and spiritual forces. Let’s just say I do believe there was something bigger than any of us can explain helping me and my child that day. And, yes, I feel guilty about that too. As a blogger, I read many stories of infant loss. I know those mothers weren’t any less deserving than I. I know those fathers loved their tiny newborns just as much as my husband loved his son. I can’t explain why things worked out the way they did. All I know is that I often feel both grateful and undeserving at the same time.

As my youngest moves further and further away from babyhood, I am becoming more and more accepting of what happened. I remind myself that, despite what the old wives will tell you, labor is going to happen when it’s going to happen whether you chow on spicy burritos or Saltines. I tell myself that I wasn’t a medical professional, and there was no reasonable way to know I was in labor until it was too late. My water didn’t even break until I pushed the baby out. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to stop those events from unfolding. And even if I could, I can’t go back in time. But why would I want to?

The way he was born will forever shape the way my son moves through the world. He may not remember, but I think he does have a unique appreciation of life. I, too, have that appreciation, but also a level of nervousness and protectiveness that comes with these situations. I am working toward being OK with not indulging his every whim and letting him move from babyhood to toddlerhood — a difficult task for any parent — but especially challenging for those who have faced the possibility of losing their child.

While observing Yom Kippur, or The Jewish Day of Atonement earlier this month, I, like many other Jews, spent this time thinking about what I have done wrong. We seek forgiveness, from our friends, our families and G-d. I wonder, though, do we seek forgiveness from ourselves? For me, that is the hardest thing to do.

I know my son’s birth was beyond my control, and I acted in the best way I could at the time. He is here, and he is healthy, and I am grateful.

This post originally appeared on Maybe I’ll Shower Today.