Saturday, April 28, 2007

Letting go of the blame

Many many sad things have happened to me in my life, and many many good things have happened to me as well. In previous posts I've spoken about guilt and fault and who should take responsibility for what's gone on. I'm working on shedding some of that guilt right now. It's pretty hard, in fact, it's almost impossible to shed those embedded truths I carry with me.

I'm wavering right now. That breakthrough I had this last week is still there, but shaking a lot. I noticed it just after I drove past the intersection where I had a car accident in 2003. I was 8 weeks pregnant, and it was a small fender-bender, but forever and ever I've wondered if that car accident caused my miscarriage 4 weeks later. I had an ultrasound afterwards, showing the baby perfectly fine, heart beating away, no bleeding, and every week afterward, the ultrasounds were perfect for growth, and movement. Until they weren't at 12 weeks.

I spent months afterwards trying to get chromosomal testing, and pathology reports done, partially to relieve my miscarriage guilt, and partially to find an answer so it wouldn't happen again. I found the answer, and logically I know that accident was irrelevant. But still---the guilt lingers. "Maybe I should've gotten the tires changed", "Maybe I shouldn't have been driving in the rain", "Maybe I should have been paying more attention". Except, that the accident was irrelevant, my clotting disorder was the problem, my endo was the problem, so why the hell am I feeling guilty about a car accident? (Let's even look at that word - "accident" - do accidents deserve guilt?)

So I'm going wayyyy back here, and thinking about what kind of control I really have over how my life turned out. And in the end, so many things I've blamed myself for, I had zero control over.

I had no control over the circumstances of my birth. I had no control over being born to an unwed mother, or over being adopted. I had no control over who my adoptive family was picked to be. Zero, zip.

That responsibility lies with my birth mother and father who made the choice to have unprotected sex and get pregnant, and then give me up to be adopted. They may have been pressured by society, or not, it doesn't really matter. Because in the end, it was not my fault that I was born in these circumstances, and I refuse to feel guilt about it.

Same with my childhood and my life growing up. I look at my kids now, and they have zero control over their lives, at such a young age it's really all about the adults who care for them. CAS picked lousy parents for me, and it was their responsibility to pick better ones, and safeguard me as time went on. But they didn' I'm not blaming myself.

I have ADD, which is almost always caused by genetics, undiagnosed & untreated throughout my childhood. I had no ability to take myself to the Dr. or get myself medication, heck even when I was older and could've gone to the Dr. by myself, I still had no way of diagnosing myself with something. So, who could've?

Well, maybe my adoptive mother, who knew all about special education and learning disabilities, but refused to see it in her own home. After all, "what would the neighbours think?" Or how about my elementary & high schools, or my teachers, or my University profs, or the counselling centre I went to for help with study problems and my disorganized life. Or how about the therapists I saw, the Dr.s who all ignored the signs & symptoms I had no way of knowing about?

Or maybe society & the media could take some responsibility for endlessly perpetuating the bullshit myth that ADD doesn't exist, and the medication for it is a bad thing. Or that it is caused by some mysterious issue with character or poor morals, *eyeroll*. Frankly, for me, medication has been a freakin' miracle. It doesn't work as well if my hormonal levels are messed up, like my thyroid or my estrogen, but when they are well-controlled, it works wonderfully. Now, that I know I have it, I can take responsibility for ensuring I control it with medication and lifestyle changes, but prior to diagnosis?

Fuck no, I'm tossing that guilt.

The guilt I carry about my infertility and my miscarriages is a little more complex...women are told nothing about our bodies beyond the basic mechanics or sex, even as adults. For many of us, it isn't until we stumble across that fateful book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, that we finally discover how our bodies REALLY work. Even then, the fertility industry really tries to pull that one apart, pushing us to spend spend spend with them, but hesitating to diagnose us properly right from the beginning.

My Dr.s should've taken better care of me, diagnosed me properly from the start, pushed for evidence based medical studies that would help us all, instead of leaving me gasping in the dark, blaming myself and my body, leaving me riddled with shame, terrified to speak it out loud. Infertility and pregnancy loss are not shameful, they are just another medical condition, like cancer or heart disease, but they are treated by society as unmentionable subjects. Things to whisper about in the dark. Behind closed doors.

As an adult I've been able to research all of this over the years and I've used it to keep myself alive, and get pregnant. But why the hell should I have to do this alone? Where are the Drs. stepping up to the plate and diagnosing the causes of IF and miscarriage? I think it's much easier to blame women. "Yes, Mrs. Smith is habitual aborter. Unexplained. She should just give up." (aka We can't diagnose or treat this patient because she will hurt our clinic's success rates.)

Can you imagine anyone saying that about cancer? "Yes, Mr. Smith is a habitual tumourer. Unexplained. He should just give up." (No, instead we biopsy, we do pathology, we give drugs, we do surgery, we never ever give up, and we sure as fuck don't call the patient a name that attributes personal blame. And if you saw the "success rates" for cancer clinics? Ha! No one even defines those, much less uses them to deny treatment.)

(Oh and for those of you who think that infertility isn't fatal like cancer, my clotting disorder if left untreated, can cause sudden cardiac death, and my daughters certainly died during my miscarriages. Many infertile women are left disabled, in pain, and bereft of organs they view as precious as kidneys and livers and lungs.)

I did nothing wrong during my pregnancies. I did the best I could with the little information I had. I didn't fail.

Others failed me.

They failed you too. Don't let them get away with it. I'm not.


  1. Sorry to hear about all those self guilt-ridden years you had Aurelia. Guilt over nothing you had control over is self-destructive. That leaves you with preventing others from going through what you did - at least giving them the benefit of your experiences and letting them decide. You had no information or opportunity to make any kind of decision.

    Many failed you. Let's hope others will be successful where they failed by listening and acting on the experiences of others like yourself.

  2. This is the kind of positive thinking I need, and that I feel can actually do something in the world, for myself as well as others.

    Maybe you should write a best-seller.

  3. I am hoping to read you say that over and over again, "I did nothing wrong..." You deserve to hear that a lot. Medicine has failed so many, and you have received a ridiculous share of their failures. I am so sorry, and I am thinking of you.

  4. I really get what you are talking about here. I, too, feel like medicine failed me. I know, logically, that I did nothing wrong, but it doesn't help me stop blaming myself. I don't see myself ever being able to purge all of those feelings. And the same goes for the shame. Wish someone could magically remove that from every woman's consciousness.

    But, you know, hearing you say it does help, and perhaps that's as far as I can go with it, for now.

    And, yes, I agree with the book idea...or perhaps a documentary?

  5. Whoa, guilt is a huge one. There's a 'logical' part of me that knows I couldn't have changed what happen to cause my 4 losses, but then there's another part that knows my first two losses WERE preventable- I struggle with that

  6. There are so many feelings and situations in this post that hit pretty close to home.

    Let go of the guilt. It isn't your fault. The healing can only begin once you realize this and it sounds like you have.

  7. Wow. We have such an ability to internalize things we have no control over. And it is so hard to undo that once we have done it. Sounds like you have a lot of crap to work through and I am very glad you are working through it. Life is unfair, but you are right, you had no control in all of that.

  8. Thank you for writing this, reading it helps me shed some of my own guilt and confusion.


  9. Excellent post. Thanks for writing it!!


  10. Right on the fucking money!
    You go, girl!

  11. I learned a lot about you here -- wow, what a life you've led. Thanks for sharing. (And, as someone raised Catholic, I can relate to the guilt factor in a big, big way.)

  12. This was such a powerful post, it deserves response...except I don't know what to say to do it justice.

    I take blame for our IF and MC because it means I'm doing something. Pretty dumb, no?

  13. Wow. I think this post will really resonate for many women.

    It often somehow seems easier to blame ourselves, even when that unwarranted guilt has all sorts of corrosive effects on every part of our lives.

  14. They did fail me. Outrage. A more on-the-ball gyn would have picked up that I was 34-35-36-37-38-49-40 and still not pregnant. I didn't realize there was a problem 'til I hit 41 and woke up.

  15. I ditto what Nicole said!!!

  16. You are so right. My OB kept telling me that "everything was fine". Then why did I end up in the ER, bleeding from severe endo? Ironically, that was the day after I made an appointment with the endo specialist at the hospital... and I keep asking myself why I did not notice it earlier, listen to my body. But actually, it was not my fault. Thank you for writing this.