Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Wow! When are you Due?" And other hurtful judgments

I am the kind of person who hates to judge others.  There are a few times where I, against my own desire, find myself coming up with preconceptions for certain people I see on the streets, but I always try to come back to the fact that I do not know their story, and I have not walked even a foot in their shoes.  I have no right to judge anyone.

This has been bothering me recently.  I think that judging others is a condition of our society despite the fact that it’s not nice, fair, or religiously acceptable.  Regardless, I think we all need to work hard at not judging those around us.  Due to my CF, I think I work extra hard at not judging others, because I know what it means to be judged.

Here are the judgments that have been made about me by various people.  These were just the people that were audacious enough to publicly share their judgments:

1)      You don’t look like you have CF.

There are so many reasons I have trouble with this one.  What does it mean to look like you have CF? It is quite rare that I run into a CFer who wears oxygen all the time, can’t walk on their own, or has “I have CF” tattooed on their forehead.  In fact, my fellow cysters and fibros look VERY normal.  You wouldn’t be able to discern us from the general population, unless we got into a coughing fit.  We might be tinier than those around us, but that’s not even true for all CF patients. Those who are pancreatic sufficient do not struggle with gaining weight much.  That said, please don’t say I don’t look like I have CF.  I often want to say, “You look like you have a brain, but I guess first impressions aren’t always correct.” I never do, but I’ve thought about it.

2)      You don’t look/act sick.

Very similar to the first one, but said to me equally as often, if not more so.  No, I do not look sick, but I work really hard at not looking “sick.”  There are days when my breathing is very tight, where I have to do 4 breathing treatments to feel better, where I have to force myself to eat over 3,000 calories despite the fact that I feel nauseous.  There are times when I’m suffering from intense abdominal pain because I failed to take enough enzymes to digest my food.  There are times when I’ve gotten only a few hours of sleep because I’ve been up half the night coughing.  I may not look “sick,” but I work my butt off to keep it that way.  I also know that many of my fellow CFers don’t look or act sick either.  If we’re suffering from a lung infection or on IV antibiotics, we might look sick.  Otherwise, we look healthy but most don’t see the work that goes into that.

3)      Wow! When are you due?

Suffering from infertility, this is my least favorite.  It amazes me that people still ask pure strangers when their due date is.  While gaining weight, my CF belly has become quite obvious.  While my belly has grown, my legs and arms have stayed stick thin. On a normal day, you could say I look like I’m in my first trimester.  On a bad day, I look a good 5 months pregnant, no joke.  My CF belly bloats like crazy, and I get a belly that no shirt can fully hide.  While I understand why people ask me this, I still don’t think it’s polite.  Again, don’t assume someone is pregnant just because they have a protruding belly – it’s not always the case.  While many pregnant women can’t wait to be asked for their due date, I hate having to answer that I’m not pregnant at all.  I often brush this one off by saying, “I wish I was, but nope – not yet!” Usually the person who asked feels embarrassed, and I feel embarrassed. Overall, it’s just NOT a good question to ask. 

These three judgments are ones that personally affect me because of my CF.  Having had a mother with MS, I have seen others pass judgment on her as well.  The theme of this post is that you can’t possibly know what someone goes through on a daily basis, so stop and rethink the labels you put on people before you know them.  Labels hurt – think before you speak.


  1. I think spending so much time at your house during those terrible teen years helped me out with this a lot. Even while rejecting religion, I was learning how to be a better, more compassionate person. And you and mom taught me a lot about how much a person with a "hidden" illness CAN do, how "normal" you DO look.
    I remember the first time I saw mom at a school function..I think it was a band concert. We had to introduce our parents to each other in order for me to stay at your house. She was walking with a cane, which at the time, maybe because I was young, I didn't think anything about. My mom asked me about it later and I had no idea what to tell her. I didn't know about the MS yet.
    Anyway, I've found myself over the years making more of an attempt to figure out Who people are, rather than What they have. Even the obvious ones. I think that's why I love my job so much; I get to help kids who have extremely obvious problems become more capable of interacting with "normal" people.

    And for the record, when I saw you a couple of weeks ago, you looked beautiful as always, and not at all pregnant. :)

  2. I went to get a massage done the other day, and the guy at the desk pointed at my stomach and goes "Baby?" I hated that he asked, but I replied, "No, just fat!" and laughed it off, but it made me self conscious for the rest of the day.

  3. Kayla,
    I'm glad that being around us helped you to learn about hidden illness. You have, for the record, always been a compassionate and GOOD person. I'm glad that you found a job which makes you happy, and I know you make a difference for those kids. I'm glad I didn't look pregnant the other day. Wait til Thursday when I'm not wearing black and we'll revisit the situation :)

    Anna, HOW HORRIBLE! I'm so sorry that he said that you. I don't blame you for feeling self-conscious after that. I would too. Another case of someone who should think BEFORE they speak.


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