Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thin Skin

Do you ever feel like you're walking on eggshells around someone? Worried that you may say, write, or even type the wrong thing?

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.
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Rosie Keisha said...

If you didn't have thin skin and feel hurt by insensitive people you wouldn't be human. Are there any other parents in your town in similar situations so you could form a support group? That might help if you felt you weren't alone. Our thoughts and prayers are with you..sending hugs!

catchupdaphne.com said...

It's not that you have thin skin, it's that layers and layers of skin were ripped off when Jack was born. You are still raw. I think that we do get some layers back, little by little, but there are scars, and you know how scars sometimes can be super sensitive? To this day I still gag silently whenever I hear women comparing labor stories, or bragging about their amazing kid in the 95% percentile. But it's not as painful, I'm a little bit less raw. Of course, some people out there are just plain dumb and insensitive and there's not much we can do about that :-)

Aspen25 said...

So true and so well said. Can I share this on my FB page?

Jessi said...

@Aspen25 - of course! There is a link thing at the bottom of the post.

Natalie Gordon said...

I have been following your blog for a couple of weeks now and have wanted to comment a couple of times but something just always came up and I never got a chance. I am a micro preemie Mommy also. We delivered our twins at 24 weeks and 5 days. They turned 3 back in August and there are still things that we deal with on a daily basis that will bring all of the horrific memories back. Having thin skin and your description of it is something I think all of us have that went through this experience and you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings!!! I absolutely cringe when I hear a pregnant woman say she is ready for her baby to come and can't wait to not be pregnant any longer or complaining about their weight gain! I had maternity clothes in my closet with the tags still on that after our babies were born, I just wept that I was not going to get the chance to wear them. Some people do suck and it is all we can do to just hold our heads high and make ourselves aware of our surroundings so that we do not deliver that same pain:-/. I truly love reading your blog...I wish I was strong enough to do one...maybe one of these days. In the mean time, keep on writing and inspiring all of us other micro preemie Mommies:)! Many Blessings!!! Natalie

Jaimie said...

I had my own moment yesterday in the grocery store. Because of Karsen's CP, he drools especially combined with teething. This lady in line in front of me saw Karsen and said "that's not normal, that's not teething drool that needs to be looked into." Oh I came unglued! I looked and her plainly said "He has cerebral palsy" awkward silence.... "do you feel dumb now?" Yes, I said that. Oye! Sometimes I don't have a filter especially for ignorant people.

Kasey Mathews said...

Jessi, remember the healing from such a trauma takes years and years. You are a wonderful Mommy Lion protecting her cub - so normal!!

Jessi said...

Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful comments! And Natalie, I am so happy you introduced yourself and let me know you have been reading. Made my day to hear from you!

Michelle said...

I totally get you. One of my friends had twins a week after mine were born in the same hospital. Hers were on time while mine were 16 weeks early. On a visit to the NICU, we ran into her husband in the cafeteria. He went on and on about how the doctors were keeping his son in the NICU for no reason. (They were only watching his feeding.). He kept talking about how he was going to go demand they release him from the NICU, etc. I couldn't even believe he was telling us this as our twins were on complete life support with collapsed lungs, PDAs, brain bleeds, etc. He did know we had preemies extremely early. I have not forgiven him and ignore him at any parties. I just can't believe someone would be so self-centered and insensitive.