A thought-provoking Instagram post is highlighting a side effect of wishing expectant parents a “happy and healthy” baby.
Michelle Elman is a UK-based blogger, body confidence coach and activist. On June 14, she posted two photos of herself on Instagram ― one from her childhood and one from the present. Over each photo, she added the words “happy not healthy.”
“’Wishing you a happy and healthy baby!’ ‘We don’t mind if we have a boy or girl, as long as my baby’s healthy.’ That’s all parents dream of, right? Happy and healthy,” Elman began the post.
“Well that’s unfortunately not what my parents got,” she added.
In her 23 years of life, Elman’s had 15 surgeries, a brain tumor, punctured intestine, obstructed bowel, cyst in her brain and a condition called hydrocephalus.
Elman wrote that she used to feel heartbroken when she realized how hard her health struggles have been for her parents. Hearing phrases like “Wishing you a happy and healthy baby” affected her as well.
“Every time someone would say this in front of me, I used to wonder if my parents were disappointed when I was born,” she said, adding that she knew they weren’t because they have always been so wonderful.
“But each time I was hospitalized, I would see the pain their eyes and wonder if their life would be easier without me?” she continued. “They wouldn’t have had such a burden. I wouldn’t have caused all this pain to see me in pain. I wouldn’t have caused all the anxiety every time I got ill. Every time I went into surgery, I used to worry how they would spend the time waiting and how much stress they must be under.”
Over time, Elman said she bottled up these thoughts and fears and opted not to talk to her parents about her feelings because she didn’t want to add to the burden.
“But that wasn’t the solution,” she concluded. “Never keep it bottled in, please talk to someone! No, my parents didn’t get ‘happy and healthy.’ But they definitely got happy. Enough happy to overcompensate for the lack of healthy. And enough wisdom to know there is nothing to compensate for.”
Elman’s post received over 7,500 likes. She told HuffPost this topic had been on her mind for awhile, as she’s always paid attention to the impact of her health problems on her friends and family. A baby shopping trip with a friend brought back memories about how alone she felt at the time.
Elman runs a body positivity-focused campaign called “Scarred Not Scared,” through which she’s shared her health struggles and confidence journey. The guilt she felt has been an integral part of this journey, she noted.
Elman told HuffPost she wrote the post for anyone else who’s felt this kind of guilt.
“Often times when you are hospitalized as a child, you don’t completely understand the medical situations that are surrounding you, but you do see the emotional impact that it’s having on the people around you,” she explained.
“I wanted to speak to that and reassure those that were going through it that they aren’t alone and to speak about it,” she added. “When you feel guilty about something that you know isn’t logical or rational, it can be hard to reach out ― so I wanted my followers to know that it’s OK to having feelings around your illnesses and chronic pain that don’t always make sense.”