The Politics of Shame

‘How do you say that about a 2-year-old?’ Amid scandal, parents reckon with the politics of shame

This story is about a 2-year-old being born, and about the politics of shame – and how a local family, in a small town in the United States, struggled with it.

The baby was born at a local hospital. His mother was standing over the crib and screaming, so a nurse had to rush into the room. The baby was crying, his eyes were open, and his skin had turned the palest pink. He did not cough:

“That’s it. He just pooped.”

The nurse rushed back to the hospital room, and asked the mother: “How is he doing?” They were both still in shock.

The baby was already on the road to health when the parents had to find out: “When it’s born, we get to name the baby. We get to call the baby whatever we want.”

The name was Andrew. The parents couldn’t possibly have imagined how much these three months would affect their son.

That first day, they sat in a coffee shop and played a game of solitaire for a couple of hours. They did not know they had a newborn and they were not planning to call him anything.

“When you were naming him for the first time, what did you say to your husband? What did you say to your children? What did you tell your friends?” [A]nother doctor later wrote: “To the point where I felt so embarrassed that [Andrew’s] family had put an unnecessary burden on [my] hospital staff that I couldn’t help but feel like they had been put in on purpose.”

The family had been told by doctors that naming Andrew would change the course of his life – and he would have to grow up thinking he’s a disappointment, not because they couldn’t give him the right name

In the early hours of the morning, when the baby was still in utero, they left the room to go to the hospital’s nursery, where Andrew would live. After that first day, Andrew never went to the nursery.

They would not talk to their son about his name

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