Feeling Guilty About Feeling Guilty
Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.
I suppose it makes sense considering I’m growing another human inside me. As I like to tell my husband, Jason, he’d be tired too if he was working sixty hours a week while also making an eyeball.
With an actual human baby on the way and so much to prepare for, I’m finding it harder and harder to focus.
For instance, I’ve spent the last two hours trying to write this column but keep taking breaks to google cribs, bottles, and about fifty “is it normal” questions. (Is it normal to crave Twizzlers? Is it normal to be itchy? Is it normal to obsess about the size of your baby’s chin based on an ultrasound photo?)
My mind feels fractured as I struggle to become a prepared mother while also making sure nothing else in my life suffers. Jason tries to gently remind me that I don’t have to do it all but I like to say things like, “Then who will?!” in very dramatic tones.
Last week, I realized one place that had been suffering from lack of attention was exercise. So I threw on my swimsuit and drove to the lap pool in our neighborhood. I figured it was exactly the kind of low-resistance cardio I needed.
I used to be a lifeguard, how hard could it be?
I discovered the answer to that question was, VERY HARD. After swimming only three laps, “I used to be a lifeguard” quickly became I need a lifeguard.
As I floundered in the middle, a seventy-year-old woman wearing ankle weights glided by and gave me a supportive, “You can do it!”
I managed to get to the end of the pool and pulled myself up on the edge. I could hear my heart beating in my ears as I took gasping breaths and tried to look like I was just casually adjusting my goggles. Prenatal yoga and the occasional kegel had not prepared me for this.
I left the pool after only four more laps, frustrated and disappointed. I felt like I wasn’t only failing myself, I was failing our baby. Here again, was another area where I wasn’t measuring up.
On the drive home, I couldn’t crush the feeling that I just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t working out enough. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t focusing on my pregnancy enough, I wasn’t enough of a writer, of a wife, of a daughter, of a friend.
The enormity of what we’re about to do came over me in a wave followed by a massive, seaweed clump of guilt – guilt that wrapped around my legs and tried to drag me under.
If I work, I feel guilty – I should be taking care of baby stuff!
If I take care of baby stuff I feel guilty – I should be working!
I even feel guilty about feeling guilty because this baby is all we’ve wanted for years and I should just be happy and enjoy it!
We can be so hard on ourselves. So militant about what we think we “should” be able to do, rather than admitting what we can do. Thinking we are inadequate feels like a popular American pastime, right up there with baseball. It’s so easy to get convinced by that evil little voice in your head, telling you you’re failing.
But what if we were gentle with ourselves? What if we gave ourselves the slack we give our friends? Admittedly, I’m not sure I can – holding myself to an impossible standard is what I majored in in college.
But if I can’t owe it to myself, maybe I can think about owing it to my baby.
The next weekend, I went back to the pool. I stood on the edge and made the decision that whatever I was able to do this time would be good enough.
I pulled down my goggles and felt our baby kick inside me. He was more than enough for me, simply by existing.
Maybe I was enough for him too.