May 3, 2007

Asshats In The Wild

Okay, look, I'm still all riled up about that whole Mission Accomplished thing but something else just got me all steamed up. I was walking into my building, past the obligatory outdoor ashtrays, and noticed a woman finishing up a cigarette. A very pregnant woman. And I promise she was pregnant. She wasn't fat, she wasn't wearing a baggy shirt. She was pregnant. The only shred of proof missing was a head sticking out of her hoo-ha but from the look of it, that wasn't far behind.

What the fuck is wrong with people? And what the fuck can you do to show your disapproval in a situation like that? I mean, that kinda shit can't go unchecked, right?

Posted by Chris at May 3, 2007 11:09 AM

I KNOW!! I hate that! I never know what to do either. Does shaming them help at all? I just don't know. You would think they have to know all the reasons why they shouldn't be doing it, but have chosen to anyway. So will a stranger giving them crap do anything?

Posted by: donna at May 3, 2007 11:32 AM

I agree with you. But, where do we start and stop?

It's not just the pregnant smoking. There are all kinds of lines that I feel people cross everyday that we see far too often.

People race around town gabbing on their cell phones with one hand on the wheel. Drinking and driving. Reckless driving. Running of red lights. Parents screaming at their children in public. These are just a few of the many things that I notice myself. How and where do we draw these distinctions and what do we do about it?

We confront them and then, what? Risk a shouting match, a nasty confrontation or a fight?

Posted by: Diane at May 3, 2007 11:43 AM

Sad thing is, I'm sure she knows what she's doing and is choosing to ignore the consequences. I can only hope that karma really is a bitch, and that her unborn baby is okay.

Posted by: sandra at May 3, 2007 11:43 AM

The excuse to that is "My doctor said I should try to cut back. Quitting all together may be too stressful for the baby.. " Give me a break.
I know someone who went through Fertility drugs to get pregnant.. they tried for years and finally their prayers were answered.. except.. she smoked and drank through her pregnancy.. HUH? I don't see the logic behind this. Not one bit.

Posted by: Molly at May 3, 2007 11:45 AM

oh man, when I was a kid back in the 70s my mom had no qualms about giving the what-for to young pregnant women smoking. It used to embarrass me to death.

When I was waiting tables in college, I once had a table of four, including one VERY pregnant woman, who were drinking up a storm. Not to be judgemental, but let's just say that they reminded me of your old neighbors. I was totally freaking out. I served her one drink and then I went to my manager and said, "I can't do it." He told me that legally we had to. I said, "Give the table to someone else then. I can't do it." It completely horrified me.

Posted by: kalisah at May 3, 2007 11:50 AM

What about when you're driving around and you see someone whose young child isn't strapped into a car seat? Don't you just want to call the cops??

Posted by: kalisah at May 3, 2007 11:52 AM

oh, for shame! hasn't she seen those "truth" commercials about low-birth-weight? i don't know what i'd say to a stranger, but i had a friend who did this and i bitched at her every day. btw, her baby came out tiny and is still tiny tiny TINY.

Posted by: b. at May 3, 2007 12:05 PM

kalisah-- i DO call the cops.

Posted by: b. at May 3, 2007 12:08 PM

I was in a pub once when a very pregnant lady came in with friends and had a small baby shower -- many presents of cute onesies, etc. The woman smoked and drank through the entire thing. I just wanted to go over there and kick her in the kneecap. There is no excuse for that.

Posted by: Carmen at May 3, 2007 12:22 PM

I agree. She is an asshole. I quit cold turkey when I found out I was pregnant.

HOWEVER. It can go unchecked. You can't say anything. It's not your place. It's her choice. In my opinion, a stupid one, but still, she's not asking what any of us think. Just think about your own parenting choices. While I am sure they are no where near this woman's choice to smoke while pregnant, I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate someone weighing in. I know I don't.

[I am mean this in a totally non-confrontational way]

Posted by: Type (little) a at May 3, 2007 12:26 PM

I was always APPALLED at people who yell at their children in public! Or those people who could not control their children in a store, nasty whining brats! Oh my god, and women who smoke during pregnancy *shudder*. Well guess what? I quit smoking during pregnancy, but I snuck two smokes during it, and had anyone given me crap during either one I would have ripped their head off and smoked it with the blood still dripping into puddles at my feet. And my toddler screams in stores and I scream back - it's just a white trash world out there when you're not shopping at Saks ain't it? But seriously, cast the fucking mote from your eye before you cast the beam from theirs.

Posted by: Snotty at May 3, 2007 12:30 PM

Oh- I think i would have had to say something to that Selfish woman...and it would not have been something nice...
There's a lot of women who try to have healthy kiddos and cannot and she just stands there taking it for granted.

Posted by: Stephanie at May 3, 2007 12:48 PM

My sister-in-law smoked during both of her pregnancies and although her babies were born weighing 6 to 6 1/2 pounds each (which I consider small but it really isn't) they are both incredibly healthy. She knew the consequences and she did cut back considerably, but no one could have convinced her to quit.

I'm like you though, it's difficult to hold my tongue when I know an innocent human being might be affected by negligent actions of others.

I could go on forever, but it's not worth it. Our opinions aren't going to change the behavior of others. **sigh**


Posted by: ProudMary at May 3, 2007 12:48 PM

Maybe she's continuing to smoke so her baby will be born small. Maybe she wants her baby to be "sexy" like Anna Nicole wanted Dannielyn to be (and therefore underfed her). Sheesh. There are some incredibly ignorant people in this world, aren't there?

I totally agree about the car seat thing. That really pisses me off too.

Posted by: coolchick at May 3, 2007 1:06 PM

It always makes me really sad to see that too. And I never know what to do/say. They probably already feel pretty guilty, though.

And I have heard that it's really hard to quit, but--newsflash--being a parent is hard, it requires you to make sacrifices and do things that are hard. No better place to start than by quitting smoking.

Posted by: lorien at May 3, 2007 1:11 PM

The one time I called a pregnant woman on doing something stupid (drinking tequlia) I was screamed at about how it wasn't any of my business and she could do anything she wanted to HER baby.

Since then, I've kept those sorts of comments to myself because people will be stupid because they want to be stupid, even if it hurts someone important.

Posted by: ticknart at May 3, 2007 1:27 PM

I can think of all kinds of snide comments that would probably wind up offending your readers too. Let's just say I would mention her future greeting the short bus, or ask her if Osh-Kosh makes iron lungs.

Posted by: whit at May 3, 2007 1:32 PM

Oh this makes me angry. There was a woman in a neighbouring office who openly smoked throughout her pregnancy, several times a day she was outside smoking so I don't think she was even trying to give up. What made it worse was that my boss was also pregnant and doing all the right things but not having an easy time of it.

I have no idea what you say. I wish I did.

Posted by: Katherine at May 3, 2007 1:33 PM

Next time if you see a pregnant woman smoking, ask her if she thinks her baby will prefer lights or menthols.

Posted by: Michelle at May 3, 2007 1:35 PM

Whole I totally agree with you, I have a friend who wasn't able to quit when pregnant. I promise you, she tried. She was so ashamed about it. I don't know what makes some people more able to control addiction than others, but I would be careful about actually saying something to a pregnant woman about it. Chances are she knows what she is doing is wrong and for some reason hasn't been able to stop herself. Or she's an asshat, it's hard to say. But unless someone can come up with a respectful thing to say that lets the mama know that you wish she could stop but doesn't make an already guilty woman more stressed out (therefore more likely to smoke MORE), then I say keep your mouth shut.

It's hard though. Trust me, I'm famous for putting my foot in my mouth.

Posted by: Elaine at May 3, 2007 1:42 PM

People like that are too ignorant and selfish to be shamed by anything you or I would say to them.

Posted by: Pinky at May 3, 2007 1:44 PM

If you'd like your chance to tell off a smoking pregnant woman, then I guess this is your chance.

You see, I was that woman - I smoked through my pregnancy. And I hate it that I did that. I hate that I became addicted to cigarettes in the first place. I hate it that cigarettes exist. I hate the smell of smoke and I hate the cough that is a constant companion of smokers.

I grew up with a smoking parent, and it had been a life-long constant that smoking was a way to deal with stress and problems. I can't remember a time that I wasn't addicted to cigarettes,... I smoked my first cigarette because I was jittery and shaky - I "knew" I needed that cigarette, even though I'd not smoked before.

When my husband and I first decided we wanted to be parents, we quit together. We signed up for those encouraging emails,.. we went to the doctor,... we did everything we could to be successful. I? ended up curled up on the couch just crying and rocking myself because it was so terrible. And we both started again.

When I got pregnant, I prayed that the little one inside me would give me that extra strength I needed to quit. I so wanted to do it, and I tried so hard. My blood pressure went through the roof, I was having problems (and concerns of miscarriage) and my doctor told me that the stress of quitting smoking was more dangerous on my baby than the smoke. I was terrified, because I didn't want to do anything to hurt that little one, but it seemed like I couldn't escape it.

I did cut back, and I switched to the most ultra-light stuff I could find.

My baby was born, and yes, he was small. The entire pregnancy was difficult, but I'm not sure if the blame lies with me and my smoking, or with the fact that he's close to the size his father and uncles were when they were born. I don't know. But I did cry and blame myself constantly,.. I lived in constant fear that my baby would be a SIDS victim,...

I brought my baby home from the hospital and quit cold turkey. My husband quit a day later. We have not had a cigarette since, and we're going to keep it that way.

I guess this makes me a selfish woman, an asshole, a terrible mother, and every other insult you all can hurl at someone whose situation you don't know. And perhaps you are right. I certainly don't feel like a stellar example of motherhood,... but I'd give my own life for my child, and I did the best I could in a pretty shitty situation.

Posted by: Heather at May 3, 2007 1:47 PM

I agree that it's hard to see that, to see someone making a bad health choice that hurts an innocent baby. For a while I compliled the daily news headlines for DotMoms and as I scanned I saw literally hundreds of stories about the bad things parents do to their kids. It made me sick, literally. And even though I agree with you that women who are addicted to cigarettes and continue to smoke are harming their babies, it's other, worse things that parents do to their kids that bother me much more.

Posted by: Kris at May 3, 2007 2:26 PM

Chris, what a great way to get us thinking about a really tough question. Thank goodness for Elaine for putting it into better words than I was coming up with. Also, Heather, I'm so glad you found the courage and strength to stop -- it's such a tough habit to kick.

Posted by: Laura GF at May 3, 2007 2:39 PM

I always stare real hard and say either "Awwweeessoommme!" really loud or ask them what kind of cigarette's their child prefers (if there's enough time)

I used to work in a restaurant and I always got in trouble for saying stuff. Eventually they just didn't put me in the smoking section.

I'm a firm believer when people are stupid they need to be told so.

Posted by: Stephanie at May 3, 2007 2:52 PM

Oh and I would like to add that I've been smoking since I was 12 and when I got pregnant I managed to quit for the well-being of someone's life who depended on me. So I don't feel bad when people are all "oh but it's so hard and you just don't understand" because that is absolute bullshit.

Posted by: Stephanie at May 3, 2007 2:55 PM

Wait. What? Smoking during pregnancy is bad? :P

I know it sucks and it makes us crazy but really, it's all pretty arbitrary. For all we know, she quit smoking crack while preggers and now she's ONLY smoking cigarettes, so that's an improvement, right?!

Heather, your confession is brave and wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Nothing we do as parents is perfect and I wish I could make everyone make healthy and good choices, we can only worry about what's in our control.

And what's in my control is calling the cops if I see people drinking and driving, smoking a doobie and driving (yes, I see that all the time) and driving around with small kids unstrapped. Unfortunately, there is no law about what legal substances we put in our bodies, pregnant or not. Also, (un)fortunately, stupidity is not a crime yet (otherwise, I'd probably be in jail myself!).

Posted by: trix at May 3, 2007 2:57 PM

I am absolutely against smoking while pregnant. And drinking.


There area about a million things you aren't supposed to do while pregnant. Depending on which recs you follow, you can't have everything from raw egg to sushi to deli meats. Are you going to crucify the next pregnant woman you see eating a sandwich with sliced meats? After all, one infected sandwich could cause a miscarriage or a collection of birth defects, way more damage than a single cigarette.

So where do you want to draw the line?

Posted by: Becky at May 3, 2007 3:22 PM

Smoking during pregnancy isn't the worst thing you can do to a kid.

Posted by: nicheplayer at May 3, 2007 4:17 PM

It's really so sad that she can't put her kid first from the very beginning.

Posted by: Beth at May 3, 2007 4:22 PM

Oh that's disgusting. I'd definitely say something. Maybe not to her, but so that she could hear. That sort of stuff really makes me mad.

Posted by: E :) at May 3, 2007 5:00 PM

I agree also! But what can you do, it's their body and their business. I live in MD and can NOT wait for the smoking ban in restaurants next year! WooHoo! I don't think just because YOU smoke and go out to eat and I like to go out to eat, that I have to smoke with you. Second hand smoke kills, I don't smoke, never have and don't want lung cancer, just cause you don't care.

Granted I could stay home and eat...but still....

Posted by: been there, done that at May 3, 2007 6:10 PM

In situations like that, it's always hard to decide what's worse: (a) that maybe she doesn't know smoking is bad for the baby or (b) that she knows and doesn't care. Is it bad that I hope maybe what you were seeing was just a well-placed tumor? Eek.

Posted by: Leah at May 3, 2007 6:11 PM

I wish people could just know the pain of their child dying. Perhaps then they would consider what they put into their body when they are pregnant.

Posted by: Maribeth at May 3, 2007 7:33 PM

I am not a smoker. I could not do that to myself let alone a baby, however! what Heather wrote really resonated with me.

I am from a part of the world where we are more reasonable with respect to alcohol and pregnancy. I drank while pregnant and there was nothing wrong with that. Mind you, people who have been brought up in North America seem to think this akin to child abuse. Go to Europe where nobody bats an eye. Even the country I come from has almost never heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I also scooped my cats' kitty litter much to the tsk tsk of everyone around me. Give me a break.

Why are we so quick to judge the choices women make with respect to their children. Absolutely, it is awful that this woman is smoking whilst pregnant, but being judgmental is not going to change a thing. It may give you a sense of moral superiority, but where do you stop? Do you berate the family going to McDonalds for dinner where their child is clearly overweight? I am a teacher and would love to berate the parents of children who let them stay up late or go to school hungry. I don't do it though. Who am I to tell another person how to raise their child?

In conclusion, I agree that it is jarring and horrible to see a pregnant woman smoking. However, nicheplayer wrote it best up there: Smoking during pregnancy isn't the worst thing you could do to a kid.

Posted by: Jacqueline at May 3, 2007 7:39 PM

Dude, you and your tough ethical questions! Seriously though, I myself have become the stereotypical ex-smoker (about 9 nine years, two packs a day for a while). I've found that I'm all for limiting the places where people smoke, based simply on the reality that smoking is harmful beyond the smoker. I was so happy when Austin passed the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants so that we could get on with demonstrating that it's NOT harmful to business. As for pregnant smokers, that just takes the cake. I fail to see how someone could have so little regard beyond their own selfish wants and desires.

Posted by: Holmes at May 3, 2007 7:46 PM

its crazy....i knew a woman who smoked thru her pregnancy and when her kid was diagnosed with severe asthma she was all 'I dont know how this happened!'.....HELLO!! i had to bite my tongue so many times to keep myself from telling her off. So there is more money spent for healthcare to treat this poor kid with a disease that may have been prevented.

Posted by: MadMom at May 3, 2007 9:52 PM

I work with a woman who has smoked her whole pregnancy. She is Kentucky trailer trash granted but still people would have to live in a bubble ( not sure you can smoke in a bubble though) not to know smoking during pregnancy causes birth defects. I fight the urge everyday not to smack a bitch. I guess the kid doesn't have much of a chance anyways knowing his mother she isn't much in the itelligence department.

Posted by: Sunshine at May 4, 2007 12:13 AM

I don't have a comment on this post. I was going to comment on the previous post until I saw that people would rather take the piss out of a pregnant smoking person than they would the, um, leader of the free world. What's up with that?

Posted by: p-man at May 4, 2007 1:51 AM

When I was pregnant with Sully, my best friend at the time was 6 months along with her son. I was there for her whole pregnancy. She not only didn't quit smoking, she actually increased the amount (I'm sure that wasn't intentional, but its still weird). And the topper? She complained about how she would get killer headaches, and you know what her dr prescribed? Vicodin. That's right. I had to sit in the room with her and watch her pop WAY more than allowed (and I know it was too much because she ran through her rx too quickly, and then before too long her dr pulled it)... It was one of the hardest things to do. (In the end her son was just fine, he was like 9lbs and is still perfectly healthy now.)

But, pregnancy is SO strife-ridden and controversial, as is all of parenthood, that it's really no one's place to say anything. Unless you are the dr. Or it's illegal drugs. Smoking during pregnancy doesn't bother me (this is a personal thing that I'm sure no one cares to hear), but things like drinking and other drugs do. The drinking in public is tough to call out--I've heard of gals who get virgin drinks or NA beer, so they can still hang out with their friends...

My mom took shrooms while pg with my brother. And asked her dr about marijuana, who said the occasional joint was just fine. I still find that hilarious.

Posted by: Phoenix at May 4, 2007 7:37 AM

You don't even want me to get started on any pro/con smoking discussion, but I just wanted to respond to Jacqueline's comment and clear something up. I, too, live in Europe and it is not true that no one here bats an eye if a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. I do not know which country Jacqueline lives in, but it certainly is not true for all of Europe (I live in Austria).

Also, is it really a strong argument to say that smoking while pregnant "isn't the worst thing you can do to your child." Sure, but does that make it okay?

Posted by: Catharina at May 4, 2007 10:08 AM

My sister in law didn't smoke while she was pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. But the moment she's out the hospital, she started up again. She was nice enough to smoke away from the baby. But she breastfed.

Um. Yeah.

Posted by: oakley at May 4, 2007 10:42 AM

Don't get me started. My company does health education. Main topics? Tobacco, skin cancer, nutrition, and binge drinking. (I kinda like the binge drinking actually). So I bite my tongue every time I go out in public.

Posted by: aimee/greeblemonkey at May 5, 2007 1:35 AM

Oh, and Mission Accomplished? Not so much.

Posted by: aimee/greeblemonkey at May 5, 2007 1:36 AM

My take on this is pragmatic. If you see a child in front of an approaching car there is clearly a responsibility for you to act. If the child is two miles away from you and you are seeing it through binoculars, you can have no impact and no matter how much you want to make a difference, you cannot. If a parent is abusing a child in front of you, you do have an obligation to speak up, or you are supporting abuse.

On the other hand we all do things that we know to be wrong and destructive at different levels of intensity. These are not things that we are ignorant about, but things we feel powerless against. If your goal as a stranger is to change that behavior in an individual -- confronting them and shaming them will not achieve that goal. It will increase their guilt, self-hatred and the pain that is the source of their behavior in the first place.

I believe in preposterous levels of interrelatedness among us warty human beings and I think we can have an impact on one another in an unspoken, weird, spiritual way.

Because of that, I believe that sincerely sending the hope that they will get the kind of help and support they need to make a different choice in their life has an impact. I also believe that reaching far enough into yourself to feel compassion for this person rather than rage or disgust will in the long term be more fruitful.

That may be a crock, but it is a crock that offers me a way to try to effect a positive change for the people I encounter. On the off chance it will help -- it is worth letting go of my condemnation for their sakes as well as my own.

Posted by: Gillian at May 5, 2007 7:36 PM

Either she is hopelessly addicted, or she doesn't care. Either way, it's not your business so let it go. Heck, I'm nearly 8 months along myself, and everyone has their little thing to say about it. It's remarkable how much society feels they have a say in my business, now that I'm expecting a future little society member. I don't smoke, and I think smoking is repugnant when anyone does it, but I also understand addiction, and the whole reason for addiction is the little part of an addicted person has no conscience. The holier-than-thou guilt train only makes it worse for the rest of the addicted person that would do anything to stop.

Don't say anything. Let it go. Make your own good in the world. Go talk about your experience quitting and as an ex-smoker at a local event for the great american smoke-out or something. But don't add to asshattedness by shaming a woman for smoking.

Posted by: bisous at May 6, 2007 6:07 PM