We all say things. All day long. We comment and chat. We offer up opinions and advice. We discuss. We make small talk. But, do we realize the impact of our words?
There is a person I've never met, and she doesn't even know that she broke my heart.
I was a new mother to J. He was six months old, and he'd been out of the NICU for just three months. I hadn't slept a night straight through in six months. All the stress of bringing him home had finally decimated my milk supply. I was emotionally raw. And exhausted. And so fragile.
A friend mentioned to me that her doula wondered why I'd had my baby so early, and my friend relayed that she'd told her it was a mystery. The doula wanted to know if I'd been taking my prenatal vitamins.
Still, after three years, that one comment has the ability to cut me to my core. I felt my heart sink, and in that moment, I was completely at a loss for words. I, a talker and a writer and a teacher, I had absolutely nothing to say.
I think back to the woman I was then. I just needed a big hug. Not a slap across the face.
It's such a casual comment. I realize no malice was intended. And the comment should never have been shared with me because it was judgmental and hurtful and ignorant. Shouldn't a doula, a woman who has had babies and who delivers them, shouldn't she know that the human body is both miraculous and confounding? As human beings we should never be so bold as to assume we have all the answers. And because pregnancy involves two lives, it is that much more confounding.
It's so naive, the idea that a vitamin could have stood in the way of preterm labor when all the heavy drugs they threw at me did nothing. A vitamin?!
I realize that blaming me is a defense mechanism for some women. Surely, if I somehow caused my babies to come early then what happened to me can't happen to someone else. It is natural for us to want to assure ourselves that someone else's nightmare can't become our own. But, every time I see a prenatal vitamin, I think of those words, so unsympathetic, so callous, so hurtful.
And it reminds me to reign in my temper. To watch the words I use. To apologize when words come out sharper than I intended. Because sometimes the things we say stick with people and hurt them in ways we can't imagine.