Meet my monkey.

Yesterday there was a post in a mommy Facebook page I’m in by a fellow mom who had just found out her baby has only a two (versus three) vessel umbilical cord. She was seeking connections, wondering what this had meant for other babies, googling herself into a tizzy. The words popped out at me like lightning from the sky.

Two vessels.

Ellie was ‘diagnosed’ with a two vessel umbilical cord when I was around 16 weeks pregnant. We were sent to a specialist in Boulder for a more in-depth anatomy scan at around 20 weeks because the heart and kidneys develop at the same time as the umbilical cord. Everything seemed to be fine. I saw all of her organs. I saw the chambers of her heart. I saw her kidneys. Nothing stood out as wrong or different. Great! After that appointment, nothing was mentioned about it again. Those two words became obsolete in my mind. Two vessels? Whatever. My kid’s fine! And she was, at least at first. Or was she?

Allow me to introduce you to my monkey.

At this point, I’ll never know if Ellie was born with her coarctation. I’ll never know if it developed shortly after birth, or if she was born with it, I’ll never know the rate at which it worsened. I’ll never know if it had anything to do with that damn two vessel umbilical cord. Never knowing keeps my mind wondering. I wonder if I should’ve requested an additional scan. I wonder if we could’ve discovered her issue right away and avoided leading her down a path where she failed to thrive. All of this wondering has led me to believe there was more I could have done.

This is guilt. The kind that’s with me every day. It’s the monkey on my back, something of which I fear I may never be able to let go. Sometimes it’s a 400 pound Eastern gorilla. Sometimes it’s a Pygmy marmoset. But it’s always guilt, and guilt is always heavy. I hate the word. I hate its meaning and associations. I hate its ability to consume me in a way that feels like I’m slowly drowning. I hate its ability to bring me down so low that I feel unworthy to be Ellie’s mother. In my weakest moments, guilt tells me you should have known.

As we’ve journeyed down this medical road with three surgical pit stops, the monkey on my back has taunted me. One of these days, I desperately hope to come out from underneath the weight of this beast. I hope to be able to look it straight in the eye and tell it to go to hell where I’m certain the feeling of guilt originated. Perhaps opening up about it is the first step toward doing so. Time will tell. But in the meantime, maybe someone out there needed to know I’m right here feeling just as burdened as you might be.

Guilt is invisible which can cause it to be isolating. I guarantee you didn’t know I harbored this monkey on my back, and I guarantee that I have no clue what you may be harboring upon your own shoulders. I’ll take one for the team here and open the conversation. I’m learning that communication is so incredibly vital to my well being. It’s a hard lesson, though. I’m tested every day and fail often. But today, I’m talking. I needed you to meet my monkey named Guilt, and I’ll end this post with a request.

If you need to talk about whatever it is that weighs down your soul, I’m your girl.

Let’s talk about our monkeys.

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