Survivor’s Guilt?

Despite what some may think, being a new mom is not all a bed of roses. You cannot really understand the emotions that go with crossing over until you’ve been there yourself. You may think you have you know what it feels like, all the emotions involved, but to be honest, you probably don’t. I know I thought I could imagine what it would be like and crossing over has been nothing like what I imagined it would be.

Am I happy? Hell yes.

Am I completely in love with my daughter? Absolutely.

But there are a lot of other conflicting emotions that go along with it, infertility has been a part of my life for just short of a decade and as fast as it all started, it ended just as quickly, leaving me with a myrid mix of emotions to work through. I also have survivors guilt. When I see the joy my IF sisters have for my good fortune, I feel guilty for having made it to the other side, to the side so many long to be on and yet just can’t get there. I’m not sure if my guilt is fuelled by the joys others have expressed for me, or the envy that has come from some sectors. Sometimes I wonder if half of what I interpret as a slick, under handed attempt to be spiteful or mean spirited  has more to do with my survivor guilt that it has to do with what has been said.

All I know is that I’ve lived under a shroud of guilt for the last 3 weeks and I’ve decided I’m not going to do it anymore. The crappy journey ends for all of us, one way or another, at one time or another. It has ended for me and its my time to be happy and I’m going to work VERY hard at not feeling guilty about that.

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  • Reply Yvonne

    I haven’t been in the shoes of an IF, so it’s hard for me to comment here.

    What I do know a little bit about however, is parenting. However slowly it feels like the time is passing in the moment – it really does all go by in a flash. My daughter is almost 5 years old already and honestly I’m reeling at the thought. As much as I look forward to and welcome all the new stages there is a part of me that is already grieving the loss of the baby stages, the dependance, the unconditional love.

    The time really does pass so quickly – before you know it Ava won’t be a helpless, totally dependant being anymore. She’ll be smiling within a few weeks. Then gurgling and giggling soon after. Within months so will roll over, crawl, walk and utter ‘Mama’ for the first time. It goes by so very fast. You don’t want to miss it while mired down with guilt. It’s just not worth it.

    Enjoy her Shaz. Understand that the difficult times will be there – but they will pass. And just try to enjoy her. It is such an incredibly special time.

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Still stop to smile for you every single day. I can’t tell you how happy I am for you, W and of course the beautiful Ava.


    January 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm
  • Reply Lea White

    You are so right Sharon, there is nothing in life that can really truly prepare you for parenthood until you are there and then sometimes you realise with a shock just how little you know (my experience anyway), it does get easier though :-).

    As for guilt – I’ve had the same thing with Bianca. I felt so incredibly guilty that Bianca ended up doing so well, that we reached that all important end of treatment date, that we got to celebrate when others lost their kids and others struggle through relapse. I have to remind myself that it wasn’t our choice whether my daughter got sick or not and we also didn’t choose the road or the outcome, so I have to work hard at not feeling guilty. When I write about the happy more normal post-chemo stuff it does make it feel a bit like I’m rubbing others’ noses into it, but that is likely just the way I’m seeing it.

    January 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm
  • Reply Lynese

    Parenting after infertility is such a strange beast. Those feelings are so hard to switch off and I really found it so hard to live in the moment. I felt a lot of guilt about my first IVF working, for not having been in the trenches for as long as the others. And then when we were trying again, I felt guilt about having a child and wanting another. I have recently understood that guilt is an exhausting feeling and much like anxiety, robs you of the joy right in front of you.
    Just because you shrug off the shroud of guilt does not mean that you have forgotten where you were, or that you do not have love and empathy for those still in the centre of the storm.
    Time does move so quickly, Sharon. Savour every moment with your precious girl. Be happy, it is your time, and I am so pleased for you!

    January 2, 2010 at 11:55 pm
  • Reply Rach

    Hmmm I’m sure some of my comments may have come across as mean spirited or envious and yes I’ll happily admit to them possibly being the latter, there would be no point in lying – anyone who wants a baby and doesn’t have one, at some point will feel envious of someone who does have one. Where they meant in a mean spirited way? Absolutely not. I don’t do double meaning comments. If I wasn’t happy for you, I’d have said it. If I wanted to be mean I’d have left mean comments. If I say I’m happy for you then I am happy for you, end of it.

    In regards to the comment you left on my blog Shaz, you’re right no one can stand in judgement of anyone elses pain, nor know it but people do, all the time.

    I don’t blame you for not wanting to live under that shroud of guilt anymore, you should never have been under it in the first place. You should be enjoying your new family rather than worrying that you got the prize and someone else didn’t, I know easier said than done.

    Lastly I do want to say that I cannot agree with one of your closing statements. “The crappy journey ends for all of us, one way or another, at one time or another.” That unfortunately is not always the case. I know of plenty of women who weren’t able to have children and years later (I’m talking 20 or so) their crappy journey is still continuing because every day they live without the one thing that they wanted more than anything. While we may put our “crappy journey” away in a box and put it somewhere out of sight, if you never get the prize at the end of the long road, then the journey will always feel like it never ended and you will live and fight the feelings associated with that for the rest of your life.

    And so pack the survivors guilt away Shaz, it’s completely understandable why you do but there is no need for you to feel it. However please don’t presume that everyone’s crappy journey will one day end nor how it will end. You’ve been lucky and achived status of parent, however the sad fact is, there are alot out there who won’t and people don’t like to talk about it I’ve found, it’s a topic that when it comes up, people are quick to move on, it sometimes feels like the taboo subject in the ALI community.

    **I hope this didn’t come across as catty or mean or bitchy because thats not the tone or way it was written, it was written in an honest way, from someone who will never stand where you are xxxx

    January 3, 2010 at 12:20 am
  • Reply jan

    Yvonne has summed it up very nicely – I jst also wanted to add that with your beautiful blog you open up the most innermost of yourself to so many,some are going to be feeling different feelings to your own and that is going to impact on how you feel.I for one am humbled by all that you have been through and all that you have allowed us to follow with you on your journey. So enjoy every precious minute with your W and princes Ava, you have suffered enough pain and heartache, without having to feel guilty now, when you should just be absorbing this wonderful time!

    January 3, 2010 at 8:13 am
  • Reply WiseGuy

    S, please remember that you do not need to feel guilty at all. Because if you did, I for one, would not like it. You have not had this coming to you like a stream of molten butter….you have fought and lost, have tried to get up and skidded, and it’s a miracle that God sent you a rope of fortune to finally get you out of the trenches. When you stand there, wave at me….let me see what the new world is like, be my inspiration (and you have been doing a good job at it already)….

    Please take care and H-N-Y!!!

    January 3, 2010 at 9:00 am
  • Reply K

    Hi Shaz. You are clearly in the full throws of motherhood.. because there is NO such thing as being a mother without feeling some kind of guilt for something! 😉 ask ANY mother you know and she will attest to this! but guilt is a funny creature..

    Two things.. firstly, anyone who knows you or who has read your blog for some time, can see that you are the LAST person who would be insensitive or smug in any way about your recent blessing.. anyone who believes otherwise – its coming from something inside them – not you – and therefor you have no control over it..

    Which brings me to the second thing.. in life – one of the hardest lessons we all have to learn (& the sooner we make peace with it the easier our journey will be) – there will always be people smarter than we are, but also not as smart; prettier but also not as pretty; richer but also far poorer; able to have kids more easily, struggle for longer – you get the drift.. point is – it isn’t in our hands nor is it fair – it just is.. and to feel guilty for it is as useful or appropriate as feeling smug about it.. obviously this is not to say that we can’t work hard for things, use help, and in turn feel blessed, appreciative or empathic for others sorrows – of course we should, and again.. in my experience, you always do.. you just can’t control others journeys or their feelings about yours..


    January 3, 2010 at 10:06 am
  • Reply Gwen

    Don’t let anything taint your precious time with your daughter. You’ve waited so long, you deserve for every second to be a miracle moment.

    The problem with suffering is that it doesn’t always make us nicer. It might make it easier to empathise with people in a similar situation, but it can be really hard to play nicely with those perceived to be better off.

    I suppose you deal with the comments the same way as you deal with ignorant comments about infertility. If people are just being thoughtless or clueless, ignore or gently point out their mistake. If they’re being deliberately hurtful or relentlessly ignorant, feel free to put them in their place.

    January 3, 2010 at 11:16 am
  • Reply Bratty

    Sharon, your road has been long and difficult..and anyone who judges should first have walked in your shoes. I am a firm believer in “Give out what you would like to receive”. So any mean and ill worded comments you might receive, ignore them. A true friend is someone who stands by your side, NO MATTER WHAT…! I remember when my best friend thought she was pregnant..I gave her my support..then closed my bedroom door and cried myself to sleep. Thats what friends do!
    Enjoy every minute of your little miracle….you deserve it. Enjoy every smile, cry and tantrum..

    January 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    Hi Sharon,

    I understand what you mean. And a previous comment made here also struck me as true. Since I became a mom through adoption in June last year, I also keep saying that becoming a mother has made me constantly feel guilty for many reasons. For being a parent when others won’t be, for being a working mom, for being tired sometimes, for leaving baby with grandparents sometimes, the list goes on! But I decided to accept it as part of the journey. And it has been a wonderful journey. She is the light of our lives and at 9 months, I am already feeling sad that the baby time is nearly over, and she will soon be a toddler! The time has passed so quickly. Enjoy every minute and take lots of photos!

    January 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm
  • Reply SCY

    Hear hear my friend. You need to enjoy this time with Ava – they do grow so fast! SO no more guilt about those of us still in the trenches. Enjoy the miracle that God has given you with a full heart and the thanksgiving you have already shown. Cos THAT my friend is what is needed right now. Not guilt.

    Love you all.


    January 3, 2010 at 8:36 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    I am never, ever upset or hurt or jealous about anyone else’s happiness. I don’t go on to Fertilicare often for that reason – all the “my manicurist is pregnant and I am not”. Shit, why should other people not have what I can’t? Everyone’s journey can end if they choose to end it. Anybody can be a mom if they choose to be a mom (no not always to their genetic child but there are a million ways to be a mom). Sometimes you have to get off that thorn that is hurting your butt and change your life. You did that Sharon and good for you. Let it be an inspiration to others to stop whining, and start living. Appreciate what you have people even if it’s not all that you want!!!

    January 3, 2010 at 9:08 pm
  • Reply Kristin

    Good for you Sharon! I hope you can put the survivor’s guilt behind you and truly revel in the joy your daughter brings you.

    January 4, 2010 at 5:16 am
  • Reply Gen

    Sies shaz, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT !!! You have done your time, so to speak and now it is time to be happy and devote all your love, time, energy to your beautiful baby girl.
    You have been through so much, as have I, but not for one minute have i ever felt resentful, or jelous — I decided not to live lke that a long tme ago, and your success brings me hope and motvation to carry on, I know not all my doors are closed and when I looked into adoption, i felt like it was such a difficult process BUT you have proven that it does not have to be — YOUR SUCCESS GIVES ME HOPE- and while I realise that it is not as quick for everyone as it was for you — it still shows THAT IT CAN BE DONE.

    Its your time to shine, its your time, to be happy, and for your heart to be filled with so much love that it wants to pop.

    You go live your life, be happy NO GUILT, you have to be in the best shape emotionally that you can be for your beautiful daughter.

    Go have fun !!!! Ill be here !!

    January 4, 2010 at 7:48 am
  • Reply Trish

    Hi Sharon

    Yes – I get you completely about the guilt! This is precisely how I felt and often still feel. I think it is normal and over the years I have found it is the same for most IF vets who are blessed with a child. BUT as you have said before – Ava and all her needs come first so you will naturally focus on her & the joy she brings and the guilt will lessen even though you still care deeply about your IF sisters – the two emotions are not directly proportional. Also try replace the guilt by feeling PROUD about what you have survived – You belong to that kickass awesome group of people that endured years of treatment, failures and heartache to make it through to the other side. That deserves some serious respect because it was hard to do everything you did – really hard and now is your time to enjoy what you strived for, you owe it to yourself, your family AND those still TTC! It is so sad that everyone doesn’t get to this place, we all know that and will never lose our compassion because we know what a horrible daily struggle it is to desperately want a baby and be unable to achieve that dream.

    January 4, 2010 at 9:20 am
  • Reply jaded

    I was just thinking of you yesterday and regretting that I failed to bookmark your new space. Imagine my delight when I read that you are a proud new mom! OMG! I am so so so so so happy for you.
    I was talking to my husband just the other day about how it sucks for some to be left behind. He told me that EVERY dog has their day.
    This is your day and your time – ENJOY IT.
    I look forward to mine.

    Happy New Year – although you are off to a good start.

    January 5, 2010 at 12:38 am
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