After picking up a few things at the store, I pulled my cart over near the exit to dig out my keys before we hit the blazing heat outside. My 3-year-old daughter was in the cart ecstatically playing with her new Elsa doll. My 1-year-old son was a happy little clam sitting in his seat. He’s a social bug and was smiling at you with excitement as you approached us.
I saw your warm face and grey hair as you slowed down to check out my little man. He has stars in his eyes and a smile that will melt your heart, which he adeptly uses to flirt with the ladies. I smiled to myself in anticipation of you cooing over my precious little boy. I was actually still grinning for a few seconds after your comment, until it sink in. It went something like this, I sure hope she’s buying you food. You’re way too skinny. I stammered as I tried to blink back the tears and managed to mumble, “He was a preemie.”
You had no way of knowing my sweet boy was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks and 1lb, 6ozs. How would you have known we feared he wouldn’t survive the complications he faced during our four month NICU stay? It wasn’t your phone ringing in the wee hours of his eighth day of life. There were only a few words that sank in during that call, “You need to come . . . perforated bowel . . . might need surgery.” I was alone sobbing in the waiting room as the surgeon cut two slits in his teeny tiny body to drain the infection from his abdomen. I was the one sitting at his bedside while even before his eyes could open he was crying in pain. It was our family and friends who waited prayerfully for our little one to poop for an excruciating 29 days after his procedure. No poop meant open surgery on his belly, which was extremely dangerous given his size. You weren’t there when the nurse excitedly announced the presence of poop in his diaper and I cried tears of joy. Over a poopy diaper!
It surely wasn’t obvious that he’s been seeing speech therapy to coax him into eating well. We were so excited to give him avocado as his first food, just like we had given his sister! Our hearts sank as he gagged and vomited. Would he develop an aversion to eating because of all the tubes in his mouth for so long? You couldn’t have know that it’s taken six months from when we gave that avocado for him to eat well. You weren’t with us as we eagerly awaited the announcement of his weight from the nurse at every doctors appointment. You missed the celebration of his pediatrician when he was finally on the growth chart for his actual age.
You clearly couldn’t see the guilt hanging on my heart with the weight of my failure to keep him safe in my womb or the anxiety that plagues my thoughts over his health. It would be impossible for you to realize that less than a day earlier I confided in my husband about the many times I feel like a failure as mother. It wasn’t your hands that lifted anti-depression medication to your lips in an effort to combat the postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD from the trauma of watching my tiny baby fight for his life for so long.
Although your words stung my heart like a hundred angry bees and caused tears to flow from my eyes, I forgive you. I reminded myself of the love and grace God has shown me and how He desires us to extend the same to others. I do beg of you, please think before you speak of such things in the future. You are unaware of the road others have journeyed or how your words can cause hurt. A simple “What a beautiful boy!” would have done just fine. Because that’s what he is: a beautiful boy—and a miracle.