Trigger warning: loss and miscarriage
A little back story, I was diagnosed with 3 chronic illnesses (rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus) when I was 17 and then after a car accident, they were in back to back flares and fighting which day they would “one-up” each other.
I tried to run off my husband by scaring him away by describing in detail the “horrors” of being a caretaker to me would be. He stuck it through with me and we got married August 8, 2014. Soon after, he had asked me to talk to my doctors about the possibility of getting pregnant. After making multiple appointments and talking with every doctor and specialist, we got the green light to actually try to get pregnant.
The start of my guilt of being a parent kicked in and never left.
I struggled with accepting that I could get pregnant after being told no for so many years. I wanted to try though since my husband was so excited. On February 14, 2015, we had our first miscarriage. The start of it as a telltale sign that it was going to happen was that my lupus flared up and I just could tell something wasn’t right.
The guilt set in fast and hard that my child didn’t survive because of my body, because of my chronically ill body. I spiraled into a depression where everything made me cry. Cat crossing the street, tears, a child laughing on the tv show, tears, husband made dinner like he did every night, tears. My lupus flare ended when I had a second miscarriage on November 18, 2015; the day before my husband’s birthday and the day I was going to surprise him with the news. I didn’t want to keep trying after that since my emotions and guilt just kept getting worse.
The summer of 2016, I was looking at puppies as a prospective service dog to replace my service dog since she was getting old. I picked up the puppy in September, and a few short weeks later I found out I was pregnant again. I was so afraid to tell my husband, let alone get excited for any check up because of being afraid. Fast forward to June 20, 2017, I had our adorable daughter, I will call “R”, at 10:16 am. My husband was ecstatic and I was reserved and quiet. I struggled with holding her and bonding because I felt guilty.
I felt guilty for a lot of things
1. R survived, but my body failed me twice and I couldn’t stop thinking about the two I lost and what they would have been like.
2. I kept thinking about how R’s life will be different because I, her mom, is disabled.
3. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of a burden it was going to be on my husband because my chronic illnesses/disabilities are unpredictable.
4. Feeling like a failure as a mom already because I cannot be a normal parent.
It took about 6 weeks after R was born before I was willing to start trying to bond with her. I had the guilt from that because I knew that the early stages of bonding were beneficial. On top of that, I was returning to work towards the last week of August.
I struggled with every milestone she made, whether it was early or not, and then questioned whether it was because I was disabled that she would develop them early. I struggled when she started playing and growing up “too fast” in my mind because I knew that my chronic illnesses were causing me to miss some of what she was learning and growing.
A happy surprise!
I got pregnant with our second daughter around R’s first birthday, this one was a surprise to us, but we knew we would love her. During my pregnancy, I had the guilt of missing milestones for R because of me being extra tired and exhausted. It hurt to tell R over and over again that “mommy is struggling today and can’t hold you/play with you/read to you”. When I was getting closer to having our second daughter I cried over having to leave R with my dad while my husband, my mom, and I were in the hospital. I was taking away her playmate (my new service dog) and her regular babysitter (my mom).
My guilt was at an all-time high after I gave birth to our second daughter, February 14, 2019, I’ll call her “W”. I knew I was turning R’s world upside down and “forcing” her to have to learn what all was going on and have to share her precious mommy time with another one. Trying to split time evenly is hard, especially since my rheumatoid arthritis flared up right after I gave birth.
As I have been slowly recovering from giving birth, I have been slowly getting accustomed to two children, and having to learn to ask for help a lot more. This guilt will continue throughout my daughters growing up and I will have to cope with it.
I will need to breathe through their difficult questions as they grow up and realize just how different their mom is compared to their friend’s parents. I will also have to deal with the guilt that I am adding/putting more stress upon my husband with having to help raise our daughters and having to step into the caregiver role from time to time and more often as my chronic illnesses/disabilities progress.
I have realized that my guilt will come in waves and I will have to deal with them as they come. It is just like the stages of grieving that I have gone through and continue to go through as my chronic illnesses/disabilities progress. It is hard to reach out and talk to others about life, but I have learned to find someone to talk to that I can trust.
Now it’s time for me to spend a little time with W (only 12 days old) and pray that R (20 months old) doesn’t wake up calling me.
About the Author
Katie McCabe is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls. She has rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus, along with a few other disabilities. She works full time at a school district in the city where she lives and will be going back to school to get her Masters. She has a service dog that helps her with being independent and able to function day to day. Follow Katie on Instagram