You Have My Permission… (A Letter to Myself)

This post is inspired by a recent blog from another preemie mom at She is smart and honest; she tells it like it is. I connect with her posts. Earlier this week, she posted something that went right to the depths of my heart. She wrote a letter to herself giving permission to let go of the guilt she carried since her son was born prematurely. And then she challenged the rest of us to do the same.

It’s pretty heavy. Maybe it’s not the best weekend post, but I felt like I wanted to get this out there and let the universe absorb it. (And maybe later, I’ll post a fun and cute picture of Jax to lighten the load?) And I didn’t edit. I figured if I edited I would maybe get wrapped up in wordsmithing and lose the real message. So, here goes…

Dear You,

I’m just going to come right out and say it: It was not your fault.

Your pregnancy was healthy and normal – the doctors saw no cause of concern. At your last doctor’s appointment you asked for information about the signs of pre-term labor. Your doctor said “It’s too early for that. We’ll talk about it next month.” You trusted him.

So when you started feeling some cramps on vacation, you thought it was just what happened to pregnant women about to enter their third trimester. I know you feel guilty because you did not recognize the signs. (Wait – were there even signs to recognize?) Your doctor said all was well. None of the other women you were with thought there were red flags, either. And they had all had children before! Your books said that some cramping was common and was no cause for alarm.

You didn’t know.

You didn’t even feel the contraction that was registering on the monitor in the ER.

I know you feel guilty because you didn’t rush to the ER faster so you could have gotten both steroid shots for the baby’s lungs. I know you feel guilty for letting the helicopter EMTs stop the magnesium drip because it made you feel like you were burning up from the inside out and you couldn’t catch your breath. I know you tried with all of your might to keep that baby inside by twisting around the bed rail – if you kept your body curled in a ball, then there was no way the baby could come out, right? I know you feel guilty for thinking “I don’t want to meet this baby yet because I don’t want to watch him die.”

There was absolutely nothing that you did to cause Jaxson’s early birth. I repeat: you did not do anything wrong. You ate well, you exercised, you had regular prenatal check-ups. You rested when you were tired. You took your vitamins and folic acid every day. You were healthy, you made good choices. You did nothing wrong!

You didn’t know.

You need to let go of the what-ifs. It’s not logical thinking about what would have happened if you would have been able to keep Jax in longer. It does no good thinking about what would have happened if you would have been able to recognize that you were in labor or that something was wrong.

Jax was born 4 months early. And it was not your fault!

It happened the way it happened and no amount of worrying or thinking or stressing will change that.

I know how grateful you are that Jax is a happy little boy who is growing and learning like it’s going out of style. But, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed with managing Jax’s care. It’s ok to be overwhelmed by 6 doctors appointments in one week. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed with the mountains of paperwork that goes with having 12 doctors that regularly see Jax. It’s ok to be scared when your baby can’t catch his breath. It’s ok to feel sad when you have to give his daily nebulizer treatments. It’s ok to be aware that there may be long term effects from his prematurity.

Waiting for answers is hard. His doctors are on the ball – they are smart and capable.

You do a good job of not worrying about things until a doctor tells you it’s time to worry. I’m proud that you don’t go overboard by Googling every possible outcome. I’m glad that you can roll with the punches and stay strong for Jax. I’m happy that you have time to spend with Jax each day.

I’m glad that you and your little boy have such a great time singing, laughing, playing, and learning together. But, you have my permission to let go of the guilt that comes with having a child who was born 17 weeks early. It’s not your fault.