Yesterday, I watched a woman who was in the first few months of pregnancy willingly light cigarette after cigarette. I watched her hand her 10 month old to someone else to hold so she could smoke. Other stupidity ensued and as I angrily left I composed what was to become the Rant of the Century for me. I also took it upon myself to post a picture of this ‘woman’ smoking and hashtagged it :#nosmokingwhilepregnant. What happened next was a whole new level of ridiculous.
Sure, it was cruel to post a picture of someone doing something really stupid. I mean, where was Facebook when I made some of my brilliant mistakes? Mistakes like drinking to the point of excess where I couldn’t get up for work the next day. Putting my own seflish addictions in front of my daughter’s well being. Mistakes that had my mother stand in my kitchen and tell me that I either get my shit together, or Liz was going home with her.
So who am I to judge? What gives me the right to look at this stranger and make such a judgement call that would cause so many people to be disgusted at her decision to smoke? Who gave me the right to take her picture and post it in such a public forum that would spread like wildfire, causing people to comment and make judgements of their own? Who died and made me God?
I don’t know. No one, I guess. Here is what I do know:
- I know that until you have heard the words “I’m sorry to have to have to tell you this, but your child is going to need surgical intervention in order to LIVE.” then you need to stand down, and shut the fuck up.
- I know that until you have gone for fetal echocardiograms and PRAY that the other side of the heart grew back miraculously only to have tears roll down your face as the technician does her best to find the damn aortic arch, you need to stand down and shut the fuck up.
- Until you have held that newborn in your arms knowing that you may have a limited amount of moments where you get to hold her so the nurse tells the staff they can wait transporting her to the NICU, again stand down and shut the fuck up.
- Until you have received a phone call during the first night of her life, and was told by a nurse that she stopped breathing and had to be put on a ventilator, then stand down and shut the fuck up.
- Until you have stood on your feet, tears rolling down your face while you stroke the baby’s hair so she knows you are near because you can’t pick her up, stand down. Shut the fuck up.
- When you have stayed up all night, holding your baby entangled in wires not willing to move an inch because you want to hold her as long as you possibly can before you hand her over for surgery the next day…stand down. Shut the fuck up.
- Until you have handed that baby over to the surgical staff, giving her one last kiss on her cheek, and not knowing if you were ever going to see her alive again…you know the drill. Shut the fuck up.
- When your baby has been cut open, chest split in half, heart stopped, put on ice, go on bypass and have their entire circulation re-wired….stand down, shut the fuck up.
- Until you have seen your baby with a tube down her throat with tears rolling down her face filled with fear at what was happening to her, unable to make a sound and scream in silence…you better stand the fuck down and shut the fuck up.
- Until you have had to stress about calories, about her gaining weight, losing weight, trying desperately to find an answer as to how we are going to stay out of the hospital, stand down. Shut the fuck up.
- When you know you have to prepare to hand this child over and over again for two more open heart surgeries before she turns three, stand down, shut the fuck up.
- When you read statistics about survival rates and realize that only 75% of children with her condition make it to age 5, stand down. Shut the fuck up.
- When you see on Facebook that another child has lost this battle against congenital heart disease, another heart mom cry out in anguish while you sit helplessly on the sidelines…stand down. Shut the fuck up.
- If you have ever stood in a hospital room and hear a code go off, watch doctors and nurses running while shocked parents are led out of the ICU….you know the drill.
- If you ever have to worry about your child making it to kindergarten, first grade, playing soccer, making it to prom, or just to adulthood, stand down. Shut the fuck up.
You see, most people don’t know what this is like, and good for them. But we who live in the heartland, or even the Land of Cancer, do know what its like and we never did anything to our bodies or to our babies that caused our children to be sick. We all did what we were supposed to. And what gets me is even though there is no known cause for CHDs, people still blame us anyway. I know people have mentioned that maybe we skipped a vitamin that day, or didn’t take enough folic acid. Or maybe it was in our genes….whatever it is, we too, are being JUDGED. No one escapes judgement. People always think they can handle a situation better.
So before you go off on me for judging someone who, in my eyes, did something completely irresponsible- stand in THESE shoes. See items 1 through 15, then stand down, and shut the fuck up.