How Do You Know?

“How do you know?”

I can’t tell you how much I hate that question.  So much of the time, when I would say something, Bubba would respond with, “How do you know?”  I would then have to defend myself and what I’d just said.  Even when I had the research or information to back me up, Bubba would still question it.

The best example of this that I can think of is when Shane was five weeks old.  I was breastfeeding exclusively.  I’d become involved with a breastfeeding support group when Liam was born and had continued to be involved in it over the years.  When Shane was 5 weeks old, he stopped pooping.  At around six weeks of age, it is very common for a baby’s stooling pattern to change.  Yes, Shane was only 5 weeks old, but it was close enough to six weeks that it could be considered normal.  After a few days of Shane not pooping, Bubba started to freak out.  I told him that it was totally normal and that we shouldn’t worry.  Bubba insisted Shane was constipated.  Shane was not showing signs of an upset stomach or of being in pain.  He simply wasn’t pooping.

We had Shane’s 6 week check-up with the pediatrician coming up that week and Bubba kept saying that he was going to ask the doctor about suppositories at his appointment.  I was exasperated at this point and just looked Bubba in the eye and said, “No!  You will NOT stick anything up my baby’s bum.  This is completely normal!”  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “How do you know?”

I was stunned.  I’d been involved with the breastfeeding support group for about 5 years at that point.  I’d hear the moms in the group say this so many times.  They liked to warn new moms about the basics of breastfed baby care such as: common growth spurts occur at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months, baby’s stooling pattern can change around 6 weeks of age, and it can take 4-6 weeks to have a well-established milk supply.  I told all this to Bubba.  He still didn’t believe me.

Thankfully, I happened to have a book about breastfeeding basics on hand and looked it up.  It was right in front of Bubba, in black and white.  He again simply refused to believe it.  He kept insisting that Shane was constipated.  I even explained that we wouldn’t know if he was truly constipated or not until he pooped and we saw if it looked like hard, little rabbit pellets.  If it didn’t look like that, he wasn’t constipated.

At the six week check-up, Bubba asked the doctor.  She said it was normal but Bubba could use the suppository in two days if Shane hadn’t pooped on his own yet.  Even though she said that, I was NOT going to let Bubba do that to my baby.  I decided to block feed Shane all day on the deadline day.  I prayed that he would poop.

That evening, Bubba was putting on his coat to run to the drug store when I felt something warm fill my lap.  I knew exactly what it was.  Shane had finally pooped – after 8 days!  It was such a mess that we had to hose him down in the shower.  Then we had to hose him down again a couple of hours later.

Oh, how very satisfied I was that I had been right.  There was nothing constipated about the baby at all.  Bubba never acknowledged that I’d been right.  There was never another word mentioned about it, even when Shane continued on this pattern of pooping every 8th day only.

I started doubting myself the more Bubba would question, “How do you know?”  It got to the point where I was looking things up just to prove it to myself because I would start questioning myself.  “How *do* I know this?”  Somehow, finding out I’d been right was never enough to convince me the next time to just trust myself.

The ironic thing was that I was never wrong.  I would always think carefully before speaking about what I knew.  If I doubted myself before sharing with Bubba, I would simply not share.  Each time I would think, “Well, I know this answer.” and I’d share with him.  He’d question it and I’d be forced to defend my knowledge.

I’m still amazed that I continued to try to speak up about things.  Why didn’t I just give up and never tell Bubba what I knew?  I honestly don’t know.  Maybe it is the eternal optimist in me.  Maybe it was that I was so caught in the abusive dynamic that each time I was able to think, “This time will be different.”  Whatever it was, it was always equally devastating to hear, “How do you know?” and realize that the man I loved, the man I trusted, the man I was married to would never trust me to know anything.  He showed me over and over that he believed I was the stupidest person on the planet.

I’m just sorry it took me nearly twenty years to believe he was who he constantly showed himself to be.



  1. I know about eternal optimism…the “it’ll get betters”. It is hard to continue to speak up when knowing you’ll get shot down every time. It’s not perfect, but counting my blessings I have outlets like writing for me to have my say.

    • I guess abused women really do have strong spirits. To maintain that eternal optimism shows a strength of character that I never understood before I left. It is only looking back now that I can see how strong I was to continue to hope.

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