What is the first question you ask when someone tells you they were in a car accident?
Fine, you probably ask if they’re okay. That’s the polite thing to do.
But the first thing you think, and probably the second thing you ask, is whose fault it was. It’s okay. I do it, too. I mean, if you’re texting me about your accident I assume you’re fine. I need details, people.
Seriously, though, why is that? Why is it so important to know who’s to blame? We always want to know whose fault it was and we want to know how the person at fault will pay for their crime. It doesn’t just apply to car accidents.
Like farting. Or princess air, if you like. No one made it through elementary school without hearing “He who denied it supplied it” or “He who smelt it dealt it” at least once. Is smelt a word? I feel like it was just made up for a hilarious farting rhyme. At any rate, we as a society are determined to place blame – or in some cases, blame the dog – for any and every bad thing that happens.
I think I know why. I’m no psychologist. But I think we immediately find out who’s to blame because it makes us feel better. If we can assign fault to someone or something, it helps us take control over the bad thing that has happened. We can take steps to make sure it never happens again. If someone gets hit by a drunk driver, the answer is easy – make drunk driving illegal. Done. If someone takes the life of his coworker, lock him in jail. Simple enough.
When I found out Joshua would be born 14 weeks early, I wanted something to blame. The doctors for not catching it earlier. Daniel for not helping me see it sooner. The nurse-midwife for not fixing it right away. Myself for not realizing something was wrong with my baby. God for letting it happen at all.
At first I thought it was because I was so angry about what happened. I thought I could take all my anger out on someone and it would make everything better. I tried it. I didn’t feel better. Joshua was still in the NICU. Nothing had changed except I just felt worse. But I still looked for someone, something, anything to blame. It was irrational and illogical and I knew that but I kept searching.
And after a while I had an epiphany. Not the cool kind. I didn’t suddenly figure out how to make millions of dollars from home or how to really win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. No, this epiphany was kind of depressing, actually.
I wanted it to be my fault.
I wanted to be responsible for Joshua coming so early. I wanted the doctor to open his chart, point at a number, and tell me I should have kept it lower or higher or anything. I wanted the nurse to say that I shouldn’t have eaten peanut butter or go hiking that one time or stay up so late at night. I wanted them to tell me that the next time I have a child, I need to make sure I avoid certain chemicals and places and habits, because those things were responsible for his early arrival.
I wanted it to be my fault because I’m scared.
People have asked us how many kids we’re going to have after this. On February 21st, I would have answered at least two, but who knows? Maybe more! Now, though, that question terrifies me. How can I do this again? How can we knowingly set ourselves up for this horrible, draining, ridiculous experience even one more time?
See, if I had something to blame, I could fix it. If they said caffeine caused this I would never drink a drop of caffeine again. If they said I could take a pill or eat special food or take a class, I would do it. I would do it all.
But nothing caused it. It was no one’s fault. Pre-eclampsia just happens. Sometimes it causes the blood flow to the baby to reverse. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes women with pre-e are fine and don’t even need bedrest. Sometimes they do.
It just happens.
I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. There are laws against drunk driving but it still kills people. Murderers are put in jail but people still kill. I’m not saying there’s no hope or that we’re all doomed. But as much as we want to place blame and point fingers so that we can reassure ourselves we’re safe from ever having to go through a terrible experience again, it won’t help. Blame won’t make us feel better. We think it will but at the end of the day it only fuels our anger and makes us sadder. Because as much as we think laying blame will fix the problem, it won’t. It can’t. Only God can.
And sometimes things just happen.