Have you ever felt guilty about your child´s CP? Have you ever felt like maybe you did something wrong, that just maybe if you had done something differently this wouldn´t have happened? Do you feel guilty for thinking or feeling any of the above? You are not alone, there is nothing wrong with you, and no, it is not your fault. If you have CP, have you ever felt guilty or like a burden to your parents? I have.
There can be a lot of guilt associated with learning that something is “wrong” with your child, that their life will be different than other kids because of that. I am not a parent of someone with CP so I cannot claim to be an expert on this subject, and I can only attempt to write about this subject from my own point of view, and based on what my parents have told me when I enquired about it. I understood from my parents as I got older, that it was a devastating moment for them when they learned I had CP. The sense of relief that I survived was now mixed with the feeling of uncertainty, doubt, fear and guilt, of my future and theirs.
When I first really started to understand this in my teens I reacted with a mix of anger, empathy and guilt. Anger because a part of me felt that I wasn´t good enough, when it turned out I had CP, that I was not the perfect child that they so desperately wanted. Empathy because I could only try to imagine what sort of stress, sadness and fear for me my parents must have gone through when I was born. And I felt bad for my parents who felt guilty, and felt like they had something to do with me having CP, when I didn´t want them to feel guilty about a part of who I was.
I think my feeling of anger was a big reflection of my own self-doubt, and that seeking thought that popped up in my head saying “You are a burden to your parents”. Because if there is something wrong with me having CP, that means there was something wrong with me, that I was broken. And that was threatening my very core as a human being. Of course I was wrong in thinking this, and in fact I would say its quite natural and normal for parents to feel guilt after going through this.
Even though I think it is normal for parents to blame themselves, and look for answers everywhere, let me be as clear as I can be. It is not your fault. There are a number of things that can happen during pregnancy and birth that can cause problems and something like CP, it is impossible to guard yourself completely against all of it, and a lot of the time it has nothing to do with you as a parent.
I think I speak for the vast, vast majority of those with CP when I say that we do not blame you, I certainly don´t. I love my parents, and I especially love them for the way they have helped me growing up, without them there to support me, my life would not be as good as it is today. That again I think shows something that I believe very strongly in:
The moment and what you do with it is always more important than what you have done in the past.
I know no other reality than life with CP. I can´t know what it would have been like if I was born without it. Sure, I have thought about what it may be like, but most of the time, I just try to deal with the life I have and how to live happily with it. And at no point did I even think about blaming my parents for my CP.
And lastly, for those with CP, I know that I felt like a burden to my parents several times growing up. This is a type of guilt that I also think is fairly common amongst those with CP, and it is also completely natural, even though it is of course not correct at all.
I am not a parent, so I can´t claim to know exactly what it is like to be a parent, but from observing my parents and talking to parents they have all told me that their child or children is the most precious thing in the world, and that they have unconditional love for them, regardless of CP or not. That is very important to remember when you start thinking you’re a burden, that is only a reflection of self doubt, not a reflection of reality in the vast, vast majority of cases.
I hope this post was of use to some of you, I was a bit hesitant in writing this piece as I didn´t feel entirely qualified to do so not being a parent of someone with CP, but I thought I´d offer my thoughts on a subject that I think it is really important to talk about, and not hide away and keep inside you.
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Cover image by Gabi Agu