I believe all loss parents experience guilt, in some form or another, regardless of how their loss occurred. As a parent, you are responsible for bringing your children into the world, raising them, protecting them. So when you lose a child, regardless of the circumstances, you feel guilty. You feel that somehow their death is all your fault, that if you had only done things differently, your child would still be alive – even when your child’s death was completely unavoidable, unforeseeable, uncontrollable.
I think my guilt is so strong now because I sometimes feel that Omie’s death WAS was totally avoidable. You see, my son died because MY BODY failed him. Maybe if I had scheduled that anatomy scan a week earlier, they could’ve caught my cervical shortening and fixed it. Or maybe if I had done more research, I would’ve known that my bicornuate uterus put me at a higher risk of cervical insufficiency. Maybe if I didn’t drink that coffee or eat that Chickfila or run that 10K, maybe he’d still be alive.
If the MFM on call at the hospital had put in the cervical stitch right after I was admitted, maybe I’d still be pregnant. If I didn’t let the doctors discharge me from the hospital, maybe I wouldn’t have had any bleeding or gotten an infection, and Omie would still be safe inside me. Maybe if I hadn’t been in such a rush to conceive Omie, we could’ve gotten the final MRI to diagnose my uterine abnormality for sure, and perhaps that would’ve given us a heads up that my cervix was shitty. Maybe, what if, perhaps.
This guilt is my least favorite part of grief and mourning, friends. I know that all of these feelings are misplaced and illogical. Asking the “what ifs” doesn’t make me feel better, it doesn’t bring Omie back, and at the end of the day, none of the things that we could have done differently would have made any real difference. Even if my appointment was a week or two earlier, it may have still been too late to fix my cervix and save Omie – or, just as likely, it would’ve been too early for them to detect any cervical change. Had the doctor placed the cervical stitch as soon as I got to the hospital, there was no guarantee that it would work. Indeed, there was a huge chance that the procedure would’ve ruptured the amniotic sac or introduced infection, which would’ve brought Omie into the world even sooner.
If the doctors had known that I had an incompetent cervix earlier in the pregnancy, they may have been able to place a preventative cerclage, but that procedure carries a very real risk of miscarriage. Even if we didn’t lose Omie at that point, I would’ve been put on bed rest, with only a 70% chance of making it to viability and a much smaller chance of making it to a safe gestational point, where Omie would be born without complications or disabilities that would require a long stay in the NICU. Don’t get me wrong, I would give anything and everything to have my son here alive, regardless of what it took or what health challenges he would face, but of course I’d rather give my children the best chance at a healthy life, with as little pain as possible.
I know all of these things and yet I still feel guilty, at least sometimes, and that’s okay. Maybe the guilt will never completely go away, but all I can do is use the guilt to drive personal change and do my best to forgive myself. I know nobody else blames me, and I know Omie doesn’t blame me either. I know that I was not in control of anything that happened. There was nothing I could do then, and certainly nothing I can do now, to change the outcome. I never gave up on Omie, and I can’t give up on myself, or my future children, either.
So I’m using this guilt as a way to ensure that I never lose another baby due to my incompetent cervix. After thinking through every “what if” situation, I decided to educate myself on all the different treatment options for my IC, the various approaches and medications and procedures that are available, the monitoring that should be done throughout pregnancy. I’ve learned how to advocate for my fertility and my family, and how to ensure that I get the best care possible – even if some doctors see our preferred treatment plan as too “aggressive.”
Because of my guilt, because of Omie, I’m headed to Baltimore to consult with one of the best MFM/gynecological surgery teams in the nation. Tomorrow, I’ll meet with those doctors and get my transabdominal cerclage (TAC) surgery scheduled. This procedure will give me the best chance of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby. There is so much in life and pregnancy and parenthood that we can’t control, and I give all that to God. But He has empowered me to make smart decisions for my health and my fertility, and He has guided me to this procedure. This doesn’t eliminate the guilt completely, but it helps to know that we’re taking the first steps to cure my IC and keep my future children safe.