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Choose Your Guilt

Moms can be masters of guilt.  We feel it.  We dish it out.  I find that no matter what parenting choice I make, I can find some way to feel guilty about it if I try hard enough.  This has to stop.

Last night Wanda was restless.  Every hour or so she would wake up screaming, something she hasn’t done in the last year unless we were camping in close quarters with several of our friends.  She was a mess and Dan and I were exhausted.  We took turns comforting her but we couldn’t really tell what was wrong.

She had a bit of a cough and a bit of a fever and she seemed panicked.  So we thought she might have an ear infection, our default invisible disease.  Kid not eating well?  Ear infection.  Kid can’t sleep?  Ear infection.  Kid being a jerk?  I’ll be darned.  Her ears might be infected.  We’re usually right.  My kids have inherited my stubby little Eustachian tubes and they’ve caused them no end of trouble.  Mom guilt alert!  If I were less selfish, I would have considered the negative effects on my future children before choosing to reproduce, given my genetic deformity.

Anyway, early this morning Wanda could no longer be calmed in her crib so we brought her in bed with us, only to discover when we looked at her chest close up that her breathing was labored and she was doing croup-like retractions below her rib cage.  The fear she’d exhibited all night was likely because she couldn’t breathe.  Awesome.  I should have caught that sooner, although I’m not sure what I would have done differently.  Maybe taken her outside?

So we took her to the doctor as soon as their office opened and they were glad we did.  They gave her breathing treatments and steroids and had us stay for observation before sending us home with a prescription for more steroids and an inhaler.

When I take the kids in and there turns out to be nothing wrong, I feel bad for wasting money and wasting the doctor’s time.  I don’t want to be a hysterical mother.  When I wait too long and they’re in a bad state before I get them to the doctor, I feel neglectful, like I should have taken better care of them.

This time I felt pretty good.  I hadn’t gone in prematurely but as soon as things looked bad, I was right there asking for help. 

When I went to have the prescription filled, the pharmacist mentioned that it wasn’t surprising that Wanda would have breathing problems.  Looking at her medical history, he could see that she had used antibiotics several times before age one and he said that, anecdotally, he’d noticed that kids whose parents give them antibiotics early in life have a much higher chance of having asthma or developing allergies.

Being the guilt-drenched mom that I am, I took this to mean that her croup was my fault for treating her ear infections with antibiotics and that it was likely she’d have ongoing breathing problems.  I started to get upset.  And then I thought, “Wait a second.  I did the best I could with the tools I had.”

I have tried nearly everything to get rid of the ear infections and rarely did the natural remedies work.  My neighbor will not use antibiotics and her kids have had ear infections that have lasted several days with her kids crying and in pain.  There has to be some sort of guilt attached to watching your kids suffer when you know there’s a medication available that will ease their pain. 

I guess when you make a parenting choice, you just decide what type of guilt you’d like to deal with that day.  I only hope that sometime in the future, I get to a place where I can honestly say, “I know I’m doing the best I can.  I love my kids and that has to be enough.”  When my kids are all grown and they come and tell me all the ways I screwed them up, I hope I’m confident enough to know I did my best and be at peace with that because the world’s most perfect mom could have done something better.

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