Sometimes I wonder if that's how people feel around me.
Preemie parenting can lead to some of the rawest, thinnest skin out there. It just comes with the territory. It comes from constantly bracing yourself for the bad news, the questions, the concern, the pity, the stares. It comes from a deep hurt. The hurt of watching your child fight for his life and then wondering what kind of life he will have. It comes from protecting your child. Yes, even some of the best Mama Bears have thin skin. Strong, yet always, always on guard.
People say to me all the time "Jessi, I just don't know how you do it. You are so strong. God knew what he was doing when he put Jack in your life. I just don't think I could handle it!" ... you know, the kind of statements that make you scratch your head and wonder... was that a compliment?... or was that pity?
(again, thin skin)
So I put up walls. Often very necessary. Protecting myself. Protecting my boy.
Logically, I know it's a coping mechanism to shield oneself from people. From the nut jobs who continue to say crazy things. From the moms who brag incessantly about their smartest-strongest-fastest-kid-in-the-universe-and-entire-history-of-mankind. From the "he walks like a drunken sailor!" said with a chuckle, commenter. Survival often means shutting out people or any chance of getting hurt. Because people are human and they say things.
About a year ago, someone made such a hurtful statement, in a public setting, which I heard. This statement was not directed at me or preemie moms. I am 100% percent certain this person was not talking at all about me, but when Jon and I got in the car afterward, I said "did you hear what so and so said?! Can you believe that statement came out of their mouth?! Don't they realize what that sounds like to someone like me?! Why do people suck so much?! I'm pretty sure Jon just nodded his head. A year later, I still remember the words that were spoken that day. Either I have a really amazing memory, or I have a thin skin.
It's incredible to think about, but at the very same moment you are developing this incredible inward strength, this "I've been there and made it through" attitude that all preemie parents understand, you are also struggling and hurt like never before. Words cut deeply. People cut deeply. You spend so much time trying to get people to understand, to educate, when in reality, they will never understand unless they go through it themselves.
What's the answer here? Wear earphones and shut out the word? Sometimes, I think it's perfectly fine to do that. But it can get pretty lonely. And if you want relationships with people, with those that don't really understand every facet of prematurity (how could they?), then I think a little skin growing is called for. And some grace. Because heavens knows I've said my share of stupid and hurtful things.
Do I even know how to do this? To get a thicker skin? I really don't. But when I do, I'll make sure and let ya know.