Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones (and words will always hurt me)

I wish I was a little more like my mother or my mother-in-law: a little more patient, a little more rational, and a little more willing to write off bad behavior. Unfortunately, I am not. As hard as I try, I just can’t escape the foot-in-mouth syndrome. I kept hoping that once I turned 25 my brain would be a little more mature, but sorry internet, it’s not. So here, for your enjoyment, is another hot-head Maria Trueblood on a war-path blog (please be aware, these are my opinions. they are not the opinions of my husband, mother-in-law or father-in-law).

My son was discriminated against this weekend. Actually dis-invited to spend the night at his great-aunt’s house due to a medical condition. Here’s my account of what happened:

My husband and I were taking the boys to see my husband’s grandmother aka Nanny (maternal) in Champaign, IL. This is about a 9 hour car drive from our place in Minnesota. We decided, with Matt’s parents, to break up the trip in about 4.5 hour chunks. So Friday we were to drive to Madison to stay with Matt’s maternal aunt and meet up with Matt’s mom. Saturday we were driving to Champaign and meeting up with Matt’s dad along the way. We were going to see Nanny Saturday, stay overnight in a hotel, and see her again on Sunday. Then we were driving up to Madison Sunday spending the night with the same aunt then drive home from there on Monday. The first part went great: we arrived in Madison around 7pm. Matt’s cousin, his wife, and their daughter (about 19 months) are currently staying with his aunt. So we were excited for the boys to have a playmate. Sorkin, my youngest, and the little girl hit it off immediately. It was great. Things went well into the next day. Then just as we were about to leave Emerson, my older son (almost 3) had a diaper that leaked up his back. 

This is the problem. Emerson is currently being treated for C-Difficile (if you google it, be warned it is a super-bacteria and will terrify you parents). I needed to bleach the changing pad where his pooped leaked and ensure that the bedding was put in the wash. I needed to be responsible for the situation so I did not get anyone else sick. So I requested bleach and then I felt obligated to explain that Emerson has C-Diff since there was a young child in the house. I was asked by Matt’s cousin-in-law what C-diff was and gave an explanation. In hindsight, it was probably too blasé and hurried. I did explain the following:

C-Diff is a super bug. It is naturally occurring in every person but becomes a problem when it is out of balance. It is the result of Emerson being on frequent antibiotics and his c-diff being active. I did say that bleach kills this bug and we, Matt and myself, are cautious when Emerson has it.

Of course this was told in the course of us getting ready to go and having hands full with kids. I probably did not do enough to educate around the topic.

Still, we went on with our weekend as plan. That night (Saturday) my mother-in-law had a text from her sister regarding c-diff and wanting more information (the text came earlier in the day). I said I was willing to speak with whomever and provide more information. I did say that looking online would be a bad resource and checked out webmd to see what information they have available. Once I got to the risk factors I was comforted by the way the information was presented. Matt’s Aunt said that her son and daughter-in-law had done some research and felt comfortable with what they found (this was reported to me in a conversation with my mother-in-law, I was not on the phone conversation). I again said I would be willing to speak with them if they would like more information.

I once again put it from our mind as we were visiting Matt’s Nanny on Sunday. We went out for lunch on Sunday and were about to head back up to Madison when my mother-in-law broke the news: Matt’s cousin, and cousin-in-law did not feel comfortable with my son spending the night and we were no longer welcome (oh, but Sorkin was a delight to have). I was told Matt’s aunt felt uncomfortable with making that phone call but obviously not enough discomfort to prevent her from doing it anyway.

My son. My baby boy. I am worked up. I was worked up then and I am worked up now. I can’t even believe it. How can someone treat my son this way? How can someone in my husband’s family treat my son this way?

So here is my open letter, dear internet, please enjoy:

Dear _______________
I am so sorry for you ignorance. I am so sorry for your small world and your small minds. How can you look at one of my children as wonderful and the other as some horror to keep out of your home? How can you feel educated after reading information on the internet?

Here is what I wish you would have taken the time to learn: Your daughter is at low risk for C-Diff. She is young, has a healthy immune system, and is up-to-date with her immunizations. I wish you would have listened to me when I said Matt and I are cautious. We are not cautious just for Emerson. We are cautious for Sorkin, for us, and for everyone who could be exposed to c-diff. This is Emerson’s third time being treated for C-Diff. In that time, my second child has never been diagnosed or infected with c-diff. In that time, my two siblings with chronic illness (who are at high risk) have never been infected. My three grandparents and your grandmother have NEVER been infected (also high risk) from Emerson.  

C-Diff is scary. But guess what, it’s not scary for you. It’s scary for Emerson who has C-Diff. It’s scary for me and my husband who wonder if this will be the time the antibiotics don’t work. It’s scary for every parent who has a child with a weakened immune system. 

You cannot live in fear for what may happen or what could happen. How can you live that way at all? Emerson cannot live that way. We had him in a bubble. For 6 months, my son lived in a hospital. For the first month of his life, he flitted between life and death. I am not prepared to lock my son in the house to keep him “safe”. There is nowhere in this world he is safe. There is risk everywhere, for him especially.

Emerson misses so much of his life due to his health status. He stays home when his cousins are sick. He doesn’t travel often and never too far from a good hospital. This is his reality. It is scary, but it is not his life. His life is full of love. His life is full of joy. Emerson has been through more than most children his age. He has definitely been through more than I have been through and (I feel confident saying this) he has been through more than your daughter has been through. 

I am so sorry for you. I am sorry that the two of you cannot look at both my children and see their beauty and worth. I feel bad that Emerson is just a risk to your daughter for you. He’s not. He is a joy. He has a great personality; he is funny, gentle, patient, and stubborn. Also, Matt and I, we got this c-diff stuff. We know how to protect him and we know how to protect your child. We would never (and i cannot emphasize this enough), we would NEVER  put another person (child, adult, elder) at undue risk. Of course the risk is present. I could never guarantee that your child would be c-diff free. Yet I feel fairly comfortable saying that unless your daughter ate my son’s poop, she would not get c-diff from him (and even if she did that, if she was not on a broad spectrum antibiotic, her body would probably not react to the c-diff the poop presented).

There is nothing you can say to make this right. There is no apology or explanation. From one parent to another: what you did is inexplicable to me. You made my child “less-than”. You made my child an “other”. You sent the message that there is something wrong and different about Emerson which means he is not worthy to be in your home. How dare you. How dare you continue to perpetuate a world where ignorance, intolerance, and discrimination are acceptable.



ps: I hope you have at least enough sense to see this as MY opinion and not the opinion of my husband, mother-in-law, or father-in-law. I am off the reservation. I am rogue. I have no one’s blessing to say what I say.