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“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?

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.

CF Belly and New Jeans

Let me begin by saying that I have always, always been self-conscious of my belly.  I will not show it to anyone and I hate shirts which emphasize its size (especially relative to the rest of my tiny body).

That being said, my past weekend included a trip that I didn’t think I would be taking this early in my life, and this blog will detail something I never thought I would write about (although I hope it will help other cysters).

A few months ago my doctors gave me a strict order that I needed to start gaining weight. Well, 8 pounds later, my pants won’t button and the ones that I can wrestle together end up causing me terrible stomach pains.  Obviously, it was time to get new pants, but I have an issue in this department.

Due to my cystic fibrosis, my arms/legs/butt stay really thin and refuse to let meat be added onto them, but my stomach keeps growing (it also bloats like no other due to digestive problems. I swear that some days I look at least 4 months along).  I’ve tried crunches but I really don’t think that my abdominal muscles are the problem because with all the coughing I do daily I work them out pretty well.  Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I was the only one who experienced this not-so-pleasant phenomenon.   Other cysters, however, have posted blogs about their CF belly and I have come to find out that I am far from alone on this journey.

Before putting on weight, I was wearing at most a size 3/4 jean.  They were baggy in the thighs and butt, and they fit tightly around the waist.  This is the issue I have had forever and I was getting used to it.  With my increasing belly, however, I realized I need to go up to a size 5/6.  I reluctantly tried a pair on and realized quickly that both of my thighs would easily fit into one of the legs, but the waist would just barely snap closed.

Well now, I was discouraged.  If I wanted a comfortable pant size with room to grow I would have to buy 5/6 and 7/8 jeans, but if I wanted them to fit my thighs and butt I was going to need a size 1/2.  This is a depressing conclusion to reach when you are trying to conform to retail-driven America. I know that I am not the only woman out there who loathes buying jeans because you just can’t get the right fit. . . ever!  Thankfully, a  light bulb was going off in my head:  Maternity jeans.

That’s right.  I’m not pregnant (although I have been asked when my due date is), but I quickly made my way into Motherhood Maternity in my local mall.  I felt completely out of place in this store since there was no little life growing in my belly, but I started to browse through the jeans regardless.  I tried on a small size and an extra small size, hoping that at least one pair would fit correctly.

As I went into the oversized dressing rooms (these should be in every store, honestly), I quickly pulled on the small sized jeans.  The feeling in my stomach was amazing. There was no struggling to button them, struggling to breathe, or intense pain whenever I sat down!! The legs, however, were still too big.  I looked at my thighs swimming in the material and my non-existent tush in the mirror.  I quickly took them off and crossed my fingers that the extra small pair would fit just like they should.

I pulled the extra small on and have never felt so excited to be jean shopping in my life! They were perfect! Again, no pain in my stomach, but this time my legs fit normally and while my rear is still somewhat non-existent, it still looks better than it looks in normal jeans.  I was thrilled!

I rushed out of the dressing room and looked for additional extra small pairs, but all I could find were boot cut which unfortunately I cannot pull off.  I sighed, realizing that my size is still the minority, but still feeling excited as I brought my one pair of jeans to the cash register.  I do plan on hitting the store again early next month or checking out Kohls maternity section.

As I paid for my jeans, the store clerk asked me numerous questions about pregnancy and when I was due, to which I had to sadly tell her I was not pregnant.  Surprisingly, she was nice about it. She said that many customers who are not due come into the store because the clothing seems to fit better than standard clothing.  She did, however, sign me up for coupons and give me an exciting goodie bag!

When David and I got home we couldn’t help but laugh at the goodie bag.  We now have a (gender-neutral) pacifier for our future child, nursing pads, and loads of reading material on breathing techniques and the dos and donts of pregnancy.  I may not use them for quite some time, but I decided to keep them anyway.  Why not? They’re wrapped well so they will store just fine.

So next time you see me (please don’t ask me when I’m due), I’ll probably be wearing pants with a spandex material for the tummy.  You may not notice the difference (or maybe you will..how do I know?), but I can assure you that for the first time in months I’m not having extreme stomach pain every time I sit down.  And that my friends, is worth braving a trip to the maternity store, even when you’re not pregnant!