Dear Me: A Letter to Myself

Sunday 9 June, 2013

Dear Me

Hope you’re doing well. Sorry it’s taken me an age to write. I’ve been meaning to put fingers to keyboard for months now, ever since my lovely Cognitive Behavioural Therapist suggested back in January I get in touch with you and tell you a few home truths you should and need to hear.

I could make excuses for why I haven’t done so before now. ‘The dog ate my laptop’ (alright, so I don’t have a dog). ‘I’ve been a bit busy’ (understatement of the decade, but I still could have made time, I know). I know, here’s a good one: ‘I just plain forgot’. Well that’s just a lie, isn’t it? I hadn’t forgotten I just didn’t want to do this. The timing wasn’t right and, if I’m honest, I didn’t think you deserved a missive from me.

But I’ve slowly come round to the idea that maybe you do. I’m still not totally convinced, but everyone deserves a second chance, don’t they? And for whatever reason, now feels like the right time to get in touch, so here it goes.

It’s not your fault.

I know you won’t believe me and I have my doubts sometimes, but when I allow myself to be rational I can see there’s nothing you could have done. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Why do people say that? Hindsight is cruel. It eats away at you with its, ‘wasn’t it obvious things were going to end up this way?’ sneer. But even with the dubious benefits of hindsight the signs didn’t point unambiguously to the location in which you ended up. Some people call it Holland. (I bet the Dutch tourist board is a tad miffed about that…)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes: lots of people get bleeding in pregnancy early on. Lots have much heavier and more prolonged bleeding than you did and their babies are just fine. It’s not your fault that for 14 weeks you couldn’t get your doctors to get the test results from the out of area hospital you ended up at that Christmas. Your doctors were awful. You fought practically daily to see a midwife more than the once you managed in the whole 29 weeks of your pregnancy, even though you’d been told you were at high risk of complications. When all those phone calls didn’t work, you did the right thing. You changed surgeries. It’s not your fault your baby arrived five days afterwards.

Lots of people get stressed in pregnancy without it ending in the wrong kind of tears. And why shouldn’t you have been worried when your first child nearly died at birth? When you’d been told by two surgeons and one gynae that you needed an elective c-section for any subsequent pregnancies? You had to battle for this c-section. 3 condescending VBAC talks and one very helpful discussion with the Patients Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) later you finally saw the mythical consultant who was supposed to have been supervising your troublesome pregnancy for the previous 28 weeks. You got that c-section date. It was supposed to be a year ago today. You fought the good fight for your son. It’s not your fault her arrived the week after that appointment.

And lots of people work in pregnancy and work hard too. Come on you know how this stuff works. You’re a feminist academic. You teach gender politics (among other things) you’ve written books and articles about the impossible cultural pressures placed on women in the past and how they’ve negotiated their way out of them. You’ve read and written about dozens of eighteenth-century pregnancy manuals and the misogyny they conceal beneath the spurious rhetoric of medical professionalism. You can see how little things have changed.

Don’t give into this crap. I am so bloody angry with you for giving into this crap! You’ve even made me swear on your blog, which I know you try hard not to do. If your students ever found out about this, about what a sell-out you are, they probably would be even more disappointed in you than you are. And that would be no mean feat!

So you were at work 65 miles from home trying to be smart and articulate when you went into labour. OK, you’d had bad Braxton Hicks contractions the night before. Lots of people get these. And you were going to tell the midwife about them when you finally got to see her that week for midwife appointment number two. It wasn’t your fault that Boo decided to make his appearance before then.

And most of all, it wasn’t your fault he got meningitis. Please read that sentence again. You need to hear me. How could it be your fault? It wasn’t anyone’s fault.

People often say to you ‘You must be so angry about how things have turned out.’ Presumably they mean angry that Boo survived prematurity only to be struck down with an illness that has left him brain damaged and living with epilepsy and probable cerebral palsy. Well you’re not overjoyed about it, I can see that, but I can also see that anger makes no sense to you. Who would you be angry with? The hospital? Life? Any or all gods? Your stupid womb?

Why you, people say? Well why not you, you say back. You aren’t angry. I know it. But you are so unkind to yourself. You blame yourself daily for what’s happened. You berate yourself constantly for letting him down, for not even being a good enough mother to either of your kids, let alone a great one. Maybe you should get angry. But not at the world. At you! What are you playing at?

You fought for this baby throughout your pregnancy and you regularly go into battle with the NHS, government bureaucracy, your daughter’s school, people’s prejudices and yourself to be your kids’ advocate. You often  bury yourself to do this alongside your job. You can’t criticise yourself for not trying.

If you’re still reading this, which I doubt, the eye-rolling has probably started already. The yeah-buts are probably whizzing around your head. The oh-she’s-just-trying-to-be-kind-and-doesn’t-mean-its are likely bedding in. So I’ll stop now with a plea. Read this again some time. You might not believe me this time or the next time you glance at this, but you might one day.

And if none of these rhetorical strategies has worked, here’s one last gambit. How could this be anyone’s fault? How could they be anything other than a source of incredible joy and pride?


Love Me xxx


43 thoughts on “Dear Me: A Letter to Myself

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Can I persuade you to do it for real? A few people have said something similar, so I’ve created a linky for people to hook up posts where they ‘Give up the Guilt’ that drags us all down. The link is here:

      Hope you’re all doing well.

      1. Momma P

        Thanks for the link. I will try too soon. The guilt has been there but really coming up more and more as we get near the end of June. I went on bed rest then and had a cerclage.

      2. Momma P

        I wrote one and linked it. Hopefully it worked .

        I may revisit it and write another when we get closer to certain anniversaries. This one just came to me tonight and I typed it on my phone

  1. Mumfirstdoctorsecond

    Beautifully written. You sound like an amazing mum who fought so well for her son despite receiving really substandard care. X

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      You are lovely. What a kind thing to say. Yes, it was substandard care. The people involved have admitted it now and I hope that means others might be less likely to experience something similar.

  2. Jax Mully

    It is not your fault! I’m sorry you had so much trouble with your doctors. You’ve inspired me to write my own letter like this – it might not sink in now, but later when it’s not so raw, I think I will be glad I did it.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      What a lovely comment. Inspired by your words, I’ve now set up a linky so those who want to post their own letters to themselves can do so. The timing may not feel right to you, but if it does, I’d be honoured if you might link a post to it here:

  3. amy

    That really made me well up. It’s all the things I need to say to myself too and about every other premmie/NICU mum and every special needs parent. Blame is futile but it hasn’t stopped many of us from getting a few winks (understatement) or wasting weeks/months/years assigning it to people, things or places that don’t truly warrant it. And as you said, yet I’m sure we STILL eye-roll because knowing it and believing it are stupidly different sometimes. Brilliant, brilliant post anyway x

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you. It means so much to hear that from you. And I think it’s only fair I make you well up after 12 months of your lovely blog doing the same to me. The blame game is so destructive, isn’t it? I’m not sure I can ever totally forgive myself. But I do believe in safety in numbers. So hopefully, if we all keep telling each other what we need to hear, we might actually start to believe it.

  4. Iona@Redpeffer's Blog

    Your Mr Boo’s mummy. You will always feel incredibly powerful emotions, it’s part of the job description. So is feeling guilty, worrying, wondering ‘what if’ but all of that will make you the best mummy you can be too. It’s all part of the incredibly difficult balance of life. Try to be kind to yourself, you had a really hard time and no one could have seen how it would pan out. Time won’t make the emotions any less powerful but it will give a sense of perspective eventually. Sending warm thoughts to you.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      That’s such a kind thing to say. And yes, perspective is everything isn’t it. I think that’s one of the many lovely things about the blogosphere. You do start to see your life from other perspectives.

  5. Kylie Hodges (@kykaree)

    Brilliant post.

    The one thing that helped me was a switch in my thinking. I blamed myself constantly (and some other people did too including my in laws)

    The only thing that stopped it for me was saying to myself “would I blame anyone else for the prem birth of their child?” and of course I wouldn’t. And that started me being kinder to myself.

    Great letter and make sure you read it often.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you. I wish I could take credit for the idea of the letter. The contents are all mine, of course, but the idea came from my CBT therapist long before I started the blog. She found the most effective way of getting me to think my way out of destructive thought patterns was to ask me what I would tell a friend who thought the same about themselves. She suggested I wrote the letter as homework one week, but I wasn’t ready and life was even more manic at the time. It’s a good strategy, isn’t it. And I’m so glad you pressed the switch back the right way,

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Wow. You made my day saying that! It’s our job, isn’t it. If we could just do the job without the guilt, our lives would be a whole lot easier, wouldn’t they?

  6. aint3113

    Goose bumps. Really great post. Thank you for writing this letter to all of us who need the reminder. “It’s NOT your fault”.

  7. sarahmo3w

    That is so moving. It is so clear it wasn’t your fault. You tried hard to do the best for you son. Who knows if things could have turned out differently with better medical support? I hope writing that has helped you in some small way. X

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment. It has helped. I’m not sure I believe it, though. But the what if game, I’m increasingly realising, is a mug’s game. I used to torment myself with ‘if this hadn’t happened’… ‘if this hadn’t happened’ … But I don’t any more. That’s a good thing! x

  8. mushywalnut

    Such a beautiful post, brought me to tears. The guilt…. does it ever go away? Even though we know (logically) it’s not our fault I still find times when I blame myself for what my daughter was born with.
    I hope writing this letter has helped you and your family x

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      It has, thank you. And I’m so glad that we’ve now connected! I don’t think it ever goes away. But I hope guilt is something that can be muted into something that keeps us honest rather than something that keeps us back in life. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being idealistic. But I am so heartened by people’s responses to this post and to the linky. I couldn’t persuade you to join it, could I…?

      Keep in touch. x

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  10. Jane

    Fantastic post, I’m sure you have guilt stamped on you as soon as you leave the hospital. Even now that I have given up work to be with my son full time the guilt is there, I let him watch curious George twice today therefore I will feel guilt ;0)

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      I know. My daughter is 5 and fit as a fiddle and before Boo was born and even more so now I am consumed with guilt. Too much telly, too many films, too much time spent at work, not enough time spent at work, the list is endless isn’t it. I just wish I knew how we could all go easier on ourselves. Guilt is so unhelpful. It doesn’t turn us into better parents, does it?

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love meeting new people on the blog!

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  13. Michelle Twin Mum

    Oh wow, what an amazing post this is. I want you to read it at least once a month, every month until you really hear and feel those words, It is not your fault. Your little one will find different ways to cope with his lasting health difficulties/ disabilities and he will still be your own very special shining star.

    Thank you for sharing, Mich x

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you so much. I think you’re right. I need to keep reading it. Somewhere I guess I must believe it to have written it, but mostly I’m not entirely convinced. And you are right about something else, too. He is a complete star!

  14. Tracy Jensen

    Hi, I found you on Ellen Stumbo’s page. Your post is poignant, beautiful and difficult all in one. Amazing post….I had a similar but different experience with my youngest son. He has Spina Bifida. I take epilepsy medication….that causes SB. When I was pregnant, I felt so guilty. So horrified. I knew this could happen. And yet….I still took the meds…and I still got pregnant. I slacked off. I mean hey, four of my children were just fine. When I think back I could have been way more cautionary. But guess what? Kumaka is amazing….truly. And I really can’t imagine my life without him just the way he is. I think you have prompted me to write about this tomorrow. Thank you for your honesty.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Oh goodness. What a horribly difficult situation. my don has epilepsy (under control with meds). you have to take your meds. This is not your fault! And Kumaka (what a gorgeous name) sounds wonderful, just as you do.

      I really do recommend writing the letter. It’s been a good experience for me. It has already prompted some others to do thr same, so i set up a linking where people coild share their posts if they wanted to. if you do write yours and want to share it, the link is here:

      Mostly though I hope you take the time to let go of the guilt if only for some of the time. It can be so crippling!

  15. Ellen Stumbo

    If only we all had the courage to voice the fears and lies we sometimes believe. We all need to do that, we all need to be free from them.
    No, it’s not your fault, and you are a great mom to your kids. you never gave up, you took on the battle.
    And I love your last paragraph, because it is shows what ultimately matters, “And if none of these rhetorical strategies has worked, here’s one last gambit. How could this be anyone’s fault? How could they be anything other than a source of incredible joy and pride?”
    I am so glad you linked this letter to the writing prompt link. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable part of your journey. You will challenge many people to deal with their guilt, what gift you are offering!

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  17. mevtheneds

    If your students saw this they would be proud. You are real! You are amazing and what you went through and wrote about are the reasons why “services” need to change!

    I never rolled my eyes once, I had tears in them but never rolled them.

    I wrote a letter to the midwives re my first experience with PND, I hated and still do hate them. It’s normal. We are right to have the feelings that we do. It’s a mourning period of sorts … Wordon was right about grief..

  18. Orli D

    Not your fault. Easier to say than to believe is it? I admire you for writing it, for trying to believe it, for giving up the guilt. I can’t seem to succeed in it. Irrational as it may be, it just doesn’t let go. Somehow I could have, should have prevented it, found out earlier, treated better… All of them wrong, all of them stay with me at every moment of every day. xx

  19. Actually Mummy...

    I’ll always remember my CBT doctor telling me that I needed to be kind to myself. I didn’t get it until he told me that if I had a best friend who told me the things I told myself, I’d fairly soon stop being friends with her and find someone better. Then it sunk in. We are our own worst enemies sometimes, and that has to stop. Writing a letter like this is a great idea. I hope it’s helped you.

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  23. Lucas James

    Hey hun, you know you’re doing an incredible job, but I know the way you can know something but still not feel it. Hopefully giving yourself a good talking to helps!
    Thank you for linking to #SquarePeg
    Take care
    Lucas x


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