Seems to me like motherhood and guilt go hand in hand. I’ve never felt so guilty in my life.
It starts with pregnancy. You feel guilty because you feel that you are not eating well enough for your baby; that you are exposing him to stress because you work while infanticipating; that you are setting him up for a life of possible obesity and diabetes because you have gestational diabetes.
When he finally arrives, you feel guilty that he was born underweight, probably due to the dieting you had to do during your pregnancy to control your blood sugar; that he has low blood sugar when he was born, also due to your gestational diabetes; that he has to stay in the hospital for 7 extra days because he has neonatal pneumonia, which his pedia says he got because you got exposed to someone sick a few days before you gave birth (it was your boss); that for those 7 days he has a steady drip of antibiotics; that he sleeps in the NICU in an incubator, all alone, instead of in your room at the hospital; that you get so tired and sleepy that you can hardly muster the energy to walk to the nursery to feed him every two hours; and that when you do get there, all he does in your arms is sleep, such that when feeding time comes he had to take formula in a feeding cup, given by a nurse and not you; that he spent his first Christmas in the hospital, woken up by the nurses and the other babies, and not by you greeting him Merry Christmas.
When you take him home a week after his birth, you find that your milk supply is nowhere near his requirements, and you feel guilty because after 2 straight hours of feeding you have to give him formula to satisfy his hunger; that breastfeeding hurts at first, and you feel that sometimes you have to stop just so you can get a respite from the pain; that try as you might, you cannot fulfill all his needs just yet.
When it’s time for you to go back to work, you feel guilty because you had to go to work instead of take care of him yourself; that you are leaving him in the care of a virtual stranger for almost 12 hours a day to earn a living; that you barely have quality, much less quantity, time for him; that when you get home from work he’s all ready to go to sleep; that after a long, tiring day at the office the day before, you cannot wake up early to play with him in the morning, and so you hand him off to the yaya while you sleep for just a few minutes more; that you seem to spend more time at the office than at home.
Even when you finally found a way to somehow lessen your guilt, such as by making sure you pump enough milk in the office to bring home to your baby, and even after you changed jobs so that the demands of work are less time- and attention-consuming to allow you to focus on your child, the guilt is still there. It’s there when you go out for the rare dinner with friends, beckoning you to go home right now; it’s there when you go to the mall before heading home; it’s there when you shop for yourself instead of for him or the house; it’s there when you let the yaya give him a bath instead of you; it’s there when you can’t pay him enough attention because you brought work home with you so you can spend more time with him; it’s even there when you raise your voice in an attempt to instill obedience and discipline in him, because his tears and the way he put his face in his hands just breaks your heart and moves you so that you immediately take him in your arms and repeatedly say “sorry.”
And I’m sure it’s still going to be there in the future, just lurking around the corner, waiting for the next opportunity to make you feel guilty yet again.