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“Guilt” is My New Middle Name

Addicted to Photography, Ottawa, October 2013
Addicted to Photography, Ottawa, October 2013

My full name is “Juliette Éloïse Bossard-Giannesini” but you can just call me “guilt”—that’s my new middle name since becoming a mother.

Mark was born at 11:04 a.m. I felt the first pang of “mom guilt” at 11:05 a.m., when someone (a nurse?) announced that the baby was cold. “I’m sorry,” I said groggily.

I don’t even know why I apologized. I mean, I was busy getting stitched, it’s not like I was playing with the thermostat.

It all went downhill from there.

Later that day, a nurse chastised me for not picking up Mark fast enough: “When your baby is crying, you must figure out what he needs! So drop everything and attend to his needs.”

I bowed my head and accepted the scornful look. Never mind that 1) I was in the bathroom trying to, ahem, clean up a bit (without getting too graphic, remember that I had just given birth) 2) I hadn’t even realized Mark was crying because there were four newborns in the room and that I was still adjusting to the fact that I was no longer pregnant, that our son was here with us.

Oh, and in case you were wondering—yes, I felt guilty about not distinguishing my son’s cries.

I don’t think I ever stopped feeling guilty.

A few days after Mark was born, we took him to the doctor for a routine checkup. It was the first time we leaving the house together after coming back from the hospital. We were running late (of course, Mark had pooped right as we were about to leave), we were sleep-deprived and stressed out, like two new parents taking their kid on a “long” twenty-minute drive.

I put Mark in the carrier and walked to the car. Problem: we couldn’t figure out how to secure the carrier to the built-in base anchored to the back seat. Feng tried, I tried and it just wouldn’t lock properly.

Do you know what we did at the end? That’s right: we didn’t lock the car seat to the base. I sat at the back and held the carrier. Go ahead, call the police, call child protective services.

I was on the verge of crying. I felt like I had screwed up my first “responsible mother test” even though we made it to the doctor just fine and figured out how to secure the car seat properly for the return trip.

In the past year, I have felt that “mom guilt” feeling at least several times a day. Running late for Mark’s feeding? Guilty! Mark doesn’t eat? Guilty! Losing patience? Guilty! Losing control of the situation? Guilty! Mark is cranky? I must have done something wrong!

I don’t sweat the little things. When Mark falls, bumps his head or eat sand at the playground, I shrug it off—meh, he is a kid, right? I don’t mind if Mark eats some chocolate or some fries. I don’t mind saying “no”. What’s stressing me out is not being good enough as a mother. Not being patient enough. Not being caring enough. Ever heard of the “impostor syndrome” where people feel like a fraud even though they are perfectly competent? That’s how I feel as a mother.

Fuck. I’m feeling guilty right now for writing this instead of playing with him. Never mind that if I have to look at him throw shoes down the stairs (he is apparently at the “wow, gravity is fun!” stage) I am going to lose my mind.

That’s it. Now I am definitely feeling guilty for even writing this. I should love my son’s company and I should cherish and treasure every second I spend with him… shouldn’t I?

The funny thing is, I am usually a fairly balanced person. I don’t overreact much and I’m not exactly a drama-queen. I can even be described as “assertive” (or even “stubborn”, depending on whom you ask).

I used to have my shit together.

I’m not sure why I always feel that other mothers do a better job than me. I don’t know why I am making my life more complicated by constantly refusing help or trying to do everything alone.

“Do you ever feel guilty?” I asked Feng. “About what? Mark? Nope. Why should I? He looks fine, doesn’t he?”

Okay. So maybe it’s just me then.

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