Thursday, May 05, 2011

Benefit of the Doubt

A few years ago, before I was pregnant with Little G, there was a story in our local news about a couple who were headed to the hospital to give birth to their third, maybe fourth, child. They were trying to get into the city from a town up north and were traveling down the break down lane to get past the rush hour traffic. The couple was stopped three times by state troopers for travelling illegally in the breakdown lane. The first two troopers let them go, but the third ticketed them. Apparently, the trooper told them they could have an ambulance take them, or they could get back into rush hour traffic. They eventually made it to the hospital and she didn't end up giving birth until at least six hours after her arrival.

At the time, there were so many opinions strewn about on the local news board; most of them blaming the couple. If they were that much in labor, they should have taken the ambulance; and if they weren't, than what right did they have to bypass all the other people in traffic? If it was their third kid, than they should have known exactly how long it would take to go through labor. Why were they going so far away from home, anyway? People with kids think they own the world. etc., etc.

I hadn't had a child before. I had no idea what my opinion should have been but I do remember myself wondering if she didn't have the kid until 6 hours later, than what exactly was the big deal waiting in rush hour traffic.

Then I got pregnant. And the time came that I was so pregnant that I had to go to the hospital. I wasn't even having contractions; I had to get to the hospital first before I would get the prostaglandin that would eventually start my labor. And yet, as we drove to the hospital and I was as pregnant as a person can get without having contractions yet; I remembered the couple from months prior and 'got it'.

I wasn't even in labor and every teeny, tiny bump of the car was excruciating. Just sitting there was painful and I wasn't dealing with contractions! I couldn't even fathom how that poor woman would have been able to sit in traffic trying to get downtown no matter WHAT stage of labor she was in. Yet, I could totally understand that the last thing she would want would be to get in the back of an ambulance. Totally unnecessary, ridiculously expensive, not to mention the logistics of meeting up again once her husband finally made it.

It was a lesson in not making blanket assumptions when I had absolutely no experience with the subject.

So the other day, when I saw a friend post a tweet about a parent stopping on the side of a major highway in Boston so their kid could get out to pee and how wrong she thought it was; it really got me thinking. This friend is not a parent in the typical sense of the word. (She has a dog; which can have its entirely own set of logistical nightmares. But she doesn't have children.) So I know that our initial reactions to the situation were completely different.

As a parent, I see that situation and think to myself that 99% of the parents out there would NOT want to be the parent who has to stop on the side of the highway and let their kid out. So if they are, my guess is it is for a pretty dire reason. Whereas my pre-child self would have been just as indignant that my commute was that much more obnoxious; I find myself post-child thinking of that poor mother and how stressed out, frustrated, mad, embarrassed and concerned she must have been.

There's no right or wrong reaction to these types of events that happen. There's no way we can ever know every single detail behind every single situation. But if I have learned anything in the last few years, it is that sometimes the benefit of the doubt is the best way to lean. Because if it were me trying to get down the highway in rush hour traffic with a baby on the way; or if it were me stopped along the side of the road at the most inconvenient time because my child needed to get out. right. now. than I would need to hold onto the belief that someone out there was kind enough to give me the benefit of the doubt.


  1. Speaking of which, did you see this article:

  2. This is a great post - and I agree, it's so important to think about how these situations must feel from the other perspective! There are almost always factors that you don't think about unless you're actually in that situation.