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A Letter to Moms of Children with Cerebral Palsy

If you are a mom, you have likely experienced “mom guilt” at one point or another. As a working mother, I have had my fair share. The more I speak with other mothers, the more I realize that it is an almost universal feeling. It is rarely rational and logical, but that feeling remains, all the same. We can explain it away in our heads, but our hearts don’t listen. For what it’s worth, I think it has to do with the basic human instinct that we have control over everything in our lives, even when we know that we don’t.

I spend a lot of time with families of children who have injuries arising from birth. One thing I have seen numerous times is a hesitancy from mothers to pursue medical malpractice claims on behalf of their injured children, even when they have very strong cases. Most people would say that if your child is likely entitled to millions of dollars to care for his or her extensive medical needs, you would pursue it. But it’s not that simple.

The first thing most moms think of when something happens to their child is whether they could have prevented it, because it is very scary to think that there are outside forces that can injure our children that are completely outside of our control. We think of outlandish scenarios in which we can protect our children, and even though we know it’s not rational, we feel that way anyway.

This may explain why many mothers are hesitant to go down the road of a claim against the doctors or nurses for their child’s injuries – deep down, even though they know it was outside of their control, they blame themselves in some small way. It’s what moms do – it’s functional when we lift cars to save our children, but not so much when it turns into guilt over something we are powerless over.

A mother who is in labour is in one of the most vulnerable states she will ever be in during her life. She is in pain, on mind-altering medications for that pain, tired, and often scared. Most of the labour process is a blur. So why do my clients tell me that they feel they should have done more to prevent what happened while they were experiencing this? I think it’s the deep-seeded feeling that they should have the power over everything that may harm their children.

I’m here to remind you that, unfortunately, that’s just not the case. You place yourself and your baby in the hands of qualified medical professionals, and rely heavily upon them during your labour and delivery. You are not trained to read fetal heart tracings, and you certainly cannot perform a cesarean section if things go badly during labour. The medical professionals are there to intervene in case something goes wrong. You are not in a position to do so. You have enough to do with the super-human strength that is sometimes required by being a mom to a child with a disability – don’t waste that energy on blaming yourself.

Written by Shelagh McGregor