Can I Choose to Forgive Myself
Choosing to let go of the guilt is something I don’t come by easily. I am cradle Catholic. Practicing to this day and I come by my guilt honestly. Always have. Sadly, forgiveness is not something I am good at when it comes to myself.
When I first suspected Seraphina’s autism, I began to recount each individual occurrence of my pregnancy. I wondered what I had been exposed to and how it could have manipulated her genetics. I spent hours trying to determine if her unusual behaviors were just a sensitive, quirky child or a child with a disability that I needed to get help for? When I finally had the courage to get the help she needed when I knew what I was facing was far bigger than myself, we officially had Seraphina diagnosed. Her primary diagnosis is mild autism with a smattering of other smaller diagnoses highlighted on the paper the doctor handed me. As we drove home that day, I immediately wanted an answer. Why? Why her? Why us? What did I do? Was this karma? People always talk about karma. I haven’t always (and sometimes I am not) nice. Why was my child having to suffer for something I did? Or was it in fact something I did? Or perhaps something I didn’t do?
I would be lying if I said I have completely I have completely rid myself of the guilt that I feel surrounding Seraphina’s diagnosis. If I had chances are I wouldn’t be up writing at 3 a.m. thinking about Seraphina, her life and how I can help her in the morning. Each day, I question if I missed my vitamins during pregnancy? I wonder if it was a glass of wine or two while nursing? Was I exposed to viruses and illnesses while I was pregnant with my germ-infested children coming home from schools and playgrounds? Was it the fact that finally after five children I took some time for myself, joined a gym and allowed her to watch TV shows while I selfishly worked out almost every day? Maybe. Maybe it was one of those things. Maybe it was all of those things. Chances are whatever it is that caused or triggered the autism will never be something I know or understand. Tonight, I am up in physical pain. I am sitting with a stomach ache thinking of how I cannot fix my sweet girl, how I cannot take away the struggles she faces every day with simple things that I took for granted in all my other children. I cannot pretend I don’t lie awake each night as my sweet sunshine snuggles in deep within the crook of my body and wish I pray asking for her to be healed. I blame myself for the life she’ll face living as a person with a disability. Cognitively I know I shouldn’t but emotionally I cannot forgive myself or allow the guilt to completely subside.
With all we have been living, I have had a lot of trouble turning to my faith in the last few months. People often say I am full of faith but truth is lately I feel like an empty vessel trying to figure out how to manage this new journey and meet the needs of my family. When I see those “look back” photos on social media of my beautiful child BEFORE her symptoms started I want to go back and freeze time to try and change whatever it was that triggered this within her little body.
Truth be told I am not sure I will ever be able to rid myself of the guilt completely but I can choose to accept the person she is. I can choose to embrace her as she is created and face her trials, struggles and challenges with her. I can also choose to celebrate those milestones that never meant much to me with my other kids like today when I asked her to wave good bye and she told me she didn’t want me to go. She understood good bye meant someone was leaving. That was huge. I can wake up each morning and choose to do my best to help Seraphina make the best life for herself. Isn’t that what we do as parents for all our children? Not just our children with special needs? I have to begin to choose to forgive myself for any skipped vitamins, for exposure to viruses and germs while pregnant and the occasional glass of wine while nursing and for those hours she spent in tot watch at the gym. I cannot go back and change it. I can only choose to move forward and live the life we have been given and perhaps as time goes on those guilty feelings will lessen and I will be able to choose to allow myself to be forgiven.