Meet Jamie Sumner. You will relate to her whether or not you have a special needs kiddo or went through infertility. Most people (parents) wrestle with the malady of false guilt. You will be encouraged by Jamie’s words and wisdom. Jamie also has some exciting news. Her book Unbound:Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood was recently published. Look for the instructions at the bottom of this page on how to receive a free signed copy.
When Guilt Owned Me
When we were going through the hard years of infertility, the years filled with pills and shots and ultrasounds and IVF and miscarriage, guilt ruled my life. It was the subtext of every dose of bad news.
What was I doing that was preventing us from getting pregnant or staying pregnant?
What would make the magic happen?
What had I done to tip God’s scales against me? (This, of course, was not a rational response. Logically, I knew this was not how God worked, yet my emotions, the rawest parts of me, wondered at the seeming injustice of it all.)
The guilt returned when I was thirty weeks pregnant with Charlie. Only hours before I went into labor, my son was diagnosed with a rare syndrome. He lived in the intensive care unit for twelve weeks and came home a medically complicated and fragile child.
I asked,”What should I do? What can I do to help him thrive?”
My impulse of doing and taking on all the responsibility only grew weightier when we received his official diagnosis of cerebral palsy at age one. I took a microscope to every single moment of my parenting.
It was exhausting.
All parents feel guilt.
“What did I do?”
“Where did I go wrong?”
“How can I better serve my child?”
We are habitual self-examiners because we want the best for our children.
Are they happy?
Are they safe?
Are they thriving?
And… when something goes awry we often choose any or all of these options:
- Anger at God
- Personal guilt
- Actions to “fix” the problem
But sometimes the problem is part of the package.
“As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”
John 9:1-3 (NIV)
What I hear now (that I never heard before) when I read these words from Jesus in John 9:1-3, isn’t the pat answer, “it’s all part of God’s plan.” Instead it is all part of God’s plan to prove it is not in my hands.
We all want a linear cause and effect. God doesn’t work that way, or He does, but His line is much longer than ours. Jesus healed the blind man. Charlie will not be “healed” of his diagnoses until after this life is over. But he has already been such a testimony to God’s power. He reminds me every day that he is part of a plan much greater than mine.
I think we all have to keep this in mind as we parent our children… to lighten the sticky guilt we so often feel. We have to remember “the plan” belongs to someone else and He will orchestrate it for our good and His glory.
What triggers your parenting guilt and how might you practice releasing some of that into God’s hands?
Jamie Sumner is a writer and mom living in Nashville. She is the author of the book, Unbound:Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood. She has written for The Washington Post, Scary Mommy and Parenting Special Needs Magazine and has an essay forthcoming in The New York Times. She is also an editor at Literary Mama. She can often be found at the park with her three kids, the dog and a large cup of coffee. All the writing happens when everyone else is asleep.
Jamie is offering a free signed copy of her book for those who tag her on Instagram with their own pic of “honest and unexpected mom life.” Tag @themomgene and #Unbound.Click here to head over to Amazon.