Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So, What Do You Say?

When my son was younger random people would just approach us and comment about how beautiful he is, how his curls make him cuter, etc. He attracted a lot of people. And we weren’t really surprised, he was a very cute baby.

Now, it’s Isabella’s turn. Random people would just come up to us and comment about how her eyes are bright and beautiful, how her lips are perfect, how her cheeks are so round and chubby that you just want to bite it, how she is so cuddly and squeezable, how she is beautiful and stunning and is no doubt a baby “girl”.

Now this is really nothing unusual. You see a baby, you look.

BUT, something was a little different…. Isabella seems to attract more people than Eloi did. She seem to magnet a lot more “oohhs” and “ahhs”. Could it be that she is that beautiful? Or is it because of something else?

When people do see and talk to her and try to get a smile out of her, they tend to ask this one question “ How old is she?” Now, I always find myself pausing before I answer this question (much like how I somehow try to avoid being asked the question “How is the baby?” or “How are you?”)

In that brief pause, this thought runs through my mind, “Do I tell her how old she really is?”

If I tell her that Isabella’s 6 months old, it will ensue a lot of follow up questions, and those follow up questions also give me a feeling of dread.

          Is she a preemie? (No she’s not, she’s full term)

          Why is she sooo tiny? (because her size is syndrome related)

          Is anything wrong with her? (No! Maybe something is wrong
          with you to even ask me that when I DON’T  EVEN KNOW YOU!)

I know, I know… most people mean well and they do get curious. Although, I have to admit that I did find myself wondering if the reason behind Isabella attracting extra curiosity is because of her ‘”look”. I did get to wonder if people are just being polite when they say “she’s beautiful” or if they see it. I am not a big fan of people staring.

The mama bear in me feels very defensive and protective of her little cub.

What do I say? Do I shock them with the response ‘Oh, it’s because she has a syndrome.” And walk away leaving them dumbfounded and marinating in their confused thoughts. Should I tell them that she has this rare syndrome and then proceed with a full blown lecture about WHS? If I do explain, will it result in the much needed “education of the public” about children with special needs? Do I print out brochures and flyers and pack them with me in my diaper bag ready to hand-out when the questions come?

Now, my husband tells them how old she really is, and when they ask why she’s small, he tells them,
“Because she just is.”

How he answers them makes perfect sense doesn’t it? I should be able to make myself confidently blurt out the same response… BUT, after his response people stay and look and stare at the baby and then look at us, as if waiting for a follow up, as if waiting for an explanation on why she’s small… they seem to not be content with “because she just is”. We stand there playing the “staring chicken game”…. And when it gets to the point that it becomes awkward, too awkward, they usually just walk away.

That “waiting for further information”, bothers me. I know it shouldn’t, but it does. I hope that eventually it won’t.

And since it bothers me, I tell people that Isabella is younger than she actually is. The other day this scenario happened…

          Stranger: Oh, tiny baby! How old is she?

          Me: Pause…. She’s 3 months.

          Stranger: 3 months? She’s too small for 3 months. (then stared
          at me as if waiting for an answer)

          Me: Staring…. Just staring… and eventually the stranger just
          walked away.

I realized I can’t pass my daughter for a 3 month old, so I decided to go another month lower and see if that excuse will “fly”. So with the next stranger…

          Stranger: Oh, cute baby! How old is she?

          Me: Pause…. She’s 2 months.
          Stranger: Smiles, stroked the baby's head a little and then
          walked away.

No awkwardness, no staring, no need to be defensive. There is this relief that that response worked out, HOWEVER, there is also this guilty lying feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach. And this tells me that what I’m doing is not quite right. Why else will my conscience bother me, right?

But, how long I can keep this up? Should I continue on with this “lie” (a white lie)? Should I come up with a better and more honest response that will not ensue such awkwardness, that won’t ensue that feeling that I need to explain?

I know, I know, I don’t really owe anybody, especially strangers an explanation, but, What do I say?


Kisses4Kaylee said...

I had to smile reading this post. Lauren wrote in one of her blog entries about having "blog soul mates," and I think you are definitely one of mine. I could have written this post as far as the feelings go-- I am still extremely sensitive to the stares of strangers and often wonder if people are just being overly polite when they comment on Kaylee's 'cuteness.' As for what to say? I have become comfortable with the response of "she was born with a rare syndrome that affects her growth" when people ask me how old she is. No one has ever questioned me beyond that, so it seems to do the trick-- they have an answer to explain her diminutive size, and they have answers to their suspicions (assuming they have suspicions) as to what might be "wrong" with her. They usually follow up with a reassurance of "she's adorable" or "she's so sweet." You know what? I'll take it! Always thinking of you and Isay. xo

Mihaela said...

Well, I do the same. I lie about HER age. It's so funny, isn't it? Denise is 1 and a half and I only say she's 1. Even though she's small to be 1 even, I've stuck with this for months now. I do it to keep my sanity. I have never explained people about her syndrome. I don't feel like it will help at all. At the end it will leave me empty inside. So, I lie.

Lauren said...

It's funny that you would write this post. People stop me ALL of the time in public to comment on the girls (that curly hair, light eyes). But Norrah definitely gets the most attention. I always think it is something about the way she looks at people. When she stares at you, you can feel the love and I am sure people observe that and just get drawn in.

But, the other day at church someone asked how old Norrah was and I know when I answered she was confused. She sorta sat back and was quiet. I am sure she always sees me carrying Norrah around, notices her very small vocabulary and finally asked. So... I just looked at her and told her if she was wondering how she could be so old it was because she had Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome. Her response was "well, She is beautiful!"

Ha. No one knows what to say. Not us and not them. Oh the social awkwardness.

isdadoinks said...

@ Laurie: when i read your blog, i feel that a lot of my feelings are validated... that it is "normal" to go through those feelings and to think those "thoughts". The only way that i guess we both can completely get to the "other side" is to go through this, its just a matter of time combined with the fight and will and "spunk" in uss... much like the other mommies who are already ahead of us in this journey. So yes, i guess, as lauren terms it, we ARE "blog soul mates".

@ Lauren: With people in church i do not mind telling them the real story. I do not explain what WHS is necessarily, but I tell them that she has a syndrome. It usually results to them praying over her and giving her blessings... and that is reassuring. But with strangers, i really do not quite know what to say.... i guess i'm just trying to avoid judgement perhaps, judgment for my daughter and for myself.

BUT... Lauren, i do think that it has something to do with their eyes. How they look at people, and the really well meaning strangers notice it.Yeah, i'm pretty sure that's what it is! =D

@Mihaela- i was already lying about her age, i tell people that she is half what she really is, and then i had to go another month lower because she didnt pass as a 3 month old. I agree that when you do explain to people, especially those who ask and yet do not really have the capacity to really understand, it will leave me feeling empty inside too.

Its funny that we'd rather resort to "lying"

An advantage for our tiny kids though, since we're already "lying about their age, is that perhaps if we want to stretch the lie a little further is we can save on entrance tickets to amusement parks. Imagine, she can go to disneyland for free even when she's already 5years old! hahaha!

Hannah said...

I am going to confess that I lie also, sometimes!! Now that Riley is 15 months, I just say she is 1. But like everyone else, people seem so attracted to Riley and ALWAYS ask about her. I was grocery shopping yesterday and literally 11 people stopped to check her out, commenting on her "beautiful eyes" or "chubby cheeks". If I told everyone about her syndrome, it would have easily added an hour to our shopping trip. So it all depends on where I am, what I am doing, and who is asking. If people genuinely seem interested, I explain things. Otherwise, I lie!!