The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. This post by Miranda Hodge explores how being a mama with acute illness impacted her and her family, and what she did to move forward.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
It took an acute illness to help me really learn how to stop feeling guilty as a Mama.
It was my daughter’s first birthday, and I had been running around all day with a party, made the cake, and was occasionally having dizzy moments. But that was just due to the fact I was running on empty!
I distinctly remember the gorgeous cake I made. It was two big autumn leaves, as my daughter’s middle name is Autumn. I loved it!
We had family staying and all the things, so when our girl woke up early the next morning — as usual — I quickly raced in to grab her so we could keep her as quiet as possible!
I picked her up and then fell against the cot, thinking ‘Phew! THAT was weird.’
I managed to stumble back to our room with her, basically threw her at my husband and then staggered into our bathroom and started throwing up. The room was spinning around like a whirlpool and wouldn’t stop!
I ended up being diagnosed with vestibular neuronitis.
Vestibular neuritis is an inner ear infection, with no pain just complete balance loss. The doctor said it can take up to 18 months to get over. It took at least 12 for it to go properly. In the meantime my parents split up AND I had a miscarriage, which made it the worst year for us so far.
Vertigo was like constantly being on a boat! These are some of my major memories of parenting my (thankfully only one) child during that time:
- While changing nappies (diapers), feeling seasick as the changing table seemed to move against the wall.
- Sitting myself and my daughter in the sandpit in the backyard as it kept my daughter contained a little (she could walk but not climb over the edge)
- Going on holiday to a mountainous region and getting vertigo back in a big way, and having to cancel and go home.
The absolute guilt and embarrassment I went through in this time was awful.
My husband was supportive and so understanding, but he was just angry at life.
He hated that we had to go through this situation, that it wrecked the first holiday we’d had as a family, and most of all the fact that he couldn’t change a thing about it.
All this compounded into my extreme guilt and shame over being at home and not ‘pulling my weight’.
I love looking after my family and being a mama and wife. It’s an important job and I feel very thankful and blessed to fill it.
And the fact that I couldn’t, that I missed a friend’s wedding, that I kept doing ‘too much’ and having relapses, was just SO frustrating.
So how did I deal with this horrible guilt?
I decided to get really into what this guilt thing was all about, and I came up with this:
Guilt is a friend of Fear. I don’t feel that it’s really an ‘emotion’ at all!
What do I actually have to feel guilty about? I didn’t cause any of this to happen. I was an innocent bystander.
I decided I wasn’t going to let little old Guilt play around in my head any longer.
He was NOT welcome. And, he was affecting every part of my relationships — with my child, friends and husband. (Anyone else know the feeling?)
So, although it was HARD at first, every time I found myself thinking a thought like ‘You’re such a failure’ or ‘That’s meant to be YOUR job’….
I did these three things to stop feeling guilty as a Mama with acute illness during that time:
- I mentally reconditioned the thought with ‘No, it’s not your fault.’ I also sometimes added the ‘Your husband loves you; he’s just dealing with the fact he can’t fix this.’
- I then found something practical I COULD do and did it (dishes, anyone?)
- I made space just to appreciate the one on one time I had with my little girl — and taught her everything I could at that time (continuing my experience in education, teaching independence, language and emotional intelligence in very small people).
When I couldn’t do much, I made myself a list of the have-to’s for every day.
And do you know what it was?
1: Look after Evie.
2: Do the dishes.
3: Do the washing.
So if you’re going through a time which is hard for you, which results in you feeling that guilty feeling, remember this:
1: You ARE good enough.
You are. Believe it.
2: Everything is actually not your responsibility.
Help others find theirs. Yes, it’s hard when you just want to help. I know.
3: Find something small and practical that you CAN do for your family.
If it helps, make yourself responsible for making a list or keeping an inventory of the pantry, or paying the bills online. Everything you can do is something someone else doesn’t have to!
Be thankful for what IS going on. This doesn’t mean you can’t have down days, or tears. Hard things are hard.
But try and keep your sights on things that are good, healthy, light-filled and happy. You are alive! Someone loves you! You might have lots to be thankful for, if you think about it in the right way.
Feeling guilty seems to be a constant problem for many mamas. If you are feeling guilty, know you are not alone. Talk to someone or journal to help yourself move through it and think logically about the guilt.
Try these questions to start:
-Am I really to blame for this? (If yes, then get apologizing and start doing what you can. Guilt is not helping much after that!)
–How is this guilt serving me? (Do I ‘like’ feeling guilty for any reason?)
–What is stopping me from getting rid of this guilt?
Then formulate a practical plan for what you will do when you feel unnecessarily guilty.
I want to say a big “Thank you!” to Miranda for this guest post on being a mama with acute illness. Thank you for opening up about your struggle and how it affected you as a person and as a mama. And thank you for your words of advice about exploring our relationship with guilt.
You can read more of Miranda’s great parenting posts on her blog Smart Mama Smart Kids! Miranda also loves to see parents feel more confident in their parenting, so she provides strategies, programs, and coaching for parents who feel overwhelmed or just want some support in their parenting journey. Please reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org/. Follow along with Miranda on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!
See the rest of the posts in the Baggage & Motherhood series here!