Today is World Prematurity Awareness Day. That probably doesn't mean much to you, unless there's a premature child who plays (or played) an important role in your life. But in the spirit of spreading 'awareness' I thought I'd post again on the topic.
So here goes...
Wikipedia defines survivor's guilt as a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. (I thought I'd open this like a seventh grader's term paper).
Most days, I wake up feeling fortunate and entirely grateful to have been blessed with two healthy, feisty little boys teeming with with spitfire and sass, and endlessly adorable.
Other days, I wake up feeling nothing but guilt. See, those virtual support groups to which I belong are constantly filling my newsfeed with heartbreaking tales of loss and personal devastation. Early yesterday morning for example, I found myself watching a four minute UTube video one mother had posted of her cradling her stillborn son (photos set to a Sarah McLaughlin song). I watched it from start to finish, immersing myself in each beautiful and devastating photo. Moments later, I was asked to pray for a woman who lost her 24-week baby after delivering in an ambulance.
I'll give you a minute to pull yourself together.
So it's not really a wonder then that shortly after these encounters I spent the ten minute trip to meet my running buddy ugly-crying in my car, right?
I know. There's an easy fix to all this anguish. The tragedies aren't mine. My story has a really nice ending. There's no reason to spend every other day grieving for the terrible loss of some total stranger, right? I could easily leave those groups, or even just 'hide' the posts from my feed. I could even do it from my phone, right now, with two taps of my finger.
Sure, it wouldn't mean that babies would suddenly stop dying and that their parents would suddenly quit being torn apart with sorrow and despair. It would just mean that I wouldn't have to scroll past the tormented posts of their mourning parents in order to watch that video of the lip-dup proposal that my old classmate posted or laugh at the latest cartoon from The Oatmeal. I could instead go about my day living in blissful ignorance to the pain and suffering felt that same day by those parents of preemies who were too fragile or sick to survive. It's what we all do, really. We have to turn blinders on to all the tragedies that happen daily all across the globe so we can make it to work without melting down in despair somewhere during our commute.
But somehow, I just can't bring myself to hide those posts.
And no, I don't even think it's the same as that innate fascination we all have with 'watching a trainwreck.' Instead, I think it's a form of survivor's guilt. Why should I be so lucky to have gone into labor before the prescribed amount of time (twice!) and be fortunate to bring home a tiny but basically unscathed baby (both times) when other women are met with such unimaginable tragedy under similar circumstances? The whole thing leaves me feeling conflicted and guilt-stricken.
Who's to say that these women aren't more patient or kind or loving? Who's to say they're not more suited to be mothers than me? Certainly there are women who have ached to be mothers more than I ever did; ladies for whom motherhood is all they ever really wanted. It makes me self-conscious of all the moments I get to nuzzle a newborn or tickle a toddler while cribs sit cold and empty in homes of potentially more worthy parents.
At times of tragedy, people often talk about 'God's Plan.' Well, it leaves me wondering what sort of sick son of a bitch is running things up there.
Please don't get me wrong, I did not write this post to generate sympathy for myself and my misplaced culpability. Instead, I hope to honor the tiny souls that have moved on too soon and to honor the courage of their parents. I can't imagine the bravery required to somehow find a pathway through such devastating tragedy.
We are so lucky to be living In a time where modern science has taken a giant slice out of the infant mortality rate. On this day designated to promote awareness of prematurity all over the world, please take just one moment to reflect on the struggles of those impossibly small warriors (both fighting and fallen) and their enormously courageous parents. Then, if you want to do more, visit any of these sites to see how...