For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

The story goes that Ernest Hemingway once won a bet by writing a six word short story that was so good, it could make people cry – “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” This little story came to mind when I began snapping pictures and writing listings to sell the baby items we had collected last year.

For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn. by Ernest Hemingway

Recently, I sold quite a lot of brand new cloth diapers that we had purchased for Clara. They obviously were never used, and most were never even washed and prepped for use. I reduced the prices significantly from what I paid for them, so that I could sell them quickly. The first bunch sold right before Mother’s Day weekend, which was a difficult weekend, so the diapers went into the mail on the following Tuesday, and I emailed the buyers to let them know that they were on the way.

A few days later, I received a return email from a lady who bought two new Bumgenius 4.0 pocket diapers from me and then realized that they had been intended for a baby who died. She said that she wished I had mentioned why I was selling the diapers before she purchased them, because she would not be able to “put down my senses” and be able to use them.

I wrote back and clarified that the diapers were brand new, never washed, never used, never even in the vicinity of a baby. I asked if she was asking for a refund. She said that she did not want a refund, that she just wanted to let me know.

I apologized, but immediately after I sent that apologetic email, I got very upset. Why should I apologize? What am I apologizing for? I’m sorry that my baby died and you have some weird issue with using diapers that were never even near her? I’m sorry that you are superstitious, but I’m pretty sure that these diapers won’t cause your baby to die? I’m sorry that you think I should have stated that the diapers were being sold because my baby died and couldn’t use them?

Why is that important? I didn’t explicitly state why I was selling the diapers for several reasons.

  1. It’s not relevant to the sale of new/unused cloth diapers.
  2. I didn’t want each “for sale” listing to have dozens of “I’m sorry for your loss” responses.
  3. I didn’t want to appear to be looking for sympathy sales.
  4. I didn’t want to discuss Clara’s death with each person who had questions about the diapers.
  5. I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable.

I am hurt. I am offended. If someone is legitimately upset by the thought that their newly purchased cloth diapers were intended for a baby who was stillborn, than that’s perfectly okay for them to feel that way. I’m not trying to judge anyone’s fears and superstitions. What I don’t understand is why this person felt the need to tell me that she was upset. She wasn’t seeking a refund, so what was the point in getting in touch at all, beyond letting me know that the diapers arrived?

It’s impossible for me to imagine hearing of someone’s baby loss and feeling that I needed to tell that grieving mother how her loss upset and inconvenienced me. Just keep that part to yourself, you know?

It’s unfair to make me feel bad (and actually feel guilty because I had to sell diapers that were intended for a baby who died, and I didn’t want to disclose and discuss that part up front with strangers when it wasn’t relevant). I sold the diapers at a great price for new products. If you don’t want to use them after they’re already in your hands, just re-sell them and move on. Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know.

I sold all of the cloth diapers at the same time. I have to think that maybe it was kind of obvious why I was selling them, if someone stopped and thought about it. Why would someone have a full set of brand new unused diapers that they were selling unless something happened to their baby? That’s not a case of “we tried them and they didn’t work for us”, since they were never used.

For Sale: Cloth Diapers. Never Worn. | The Destiny Manifest

The listings sounded much like my own version of Hemingway’s story: “For Sale: New Cloth Diapers. Never Worn.” It’s all there: beginning, middle, and end. If it is very important that you know the complete history of each item you are purchasing before you put it on your child, then ask, “Hey, why are you selling these anyway?” I would have answered her question in a private email. I’m not hiding anything, as evidenced by my public blog. I just didn’t want to talk about it in a huge group with hundreds of people who just want to buy cloth diapers and go on with their day.

I wondered at first if I was overreacting. I asked the mamas in one of my parenting groups what they thought, and the overwhelming consensus is that I am not. They were all pretty upset for me, that someone would be so thoughtless and insensitive.

What do you think?

How would you feel if you bought {brand new} cloth diapers or clothing for your baby or child, and then realized that they had been purchased for a baby or child that died? Would you feel that you couldn’t use the items? Would you feel the need to write the seller and tell them that you wouldn’t be using the items?

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I'm Heather, a married mama of two teen girls, a stillborn baby girl (7/1/12), and a sweet and wild preschool girl (4/2/14). I've been blogging at The Destiny Manifest since 2001. I like to write about appreciating all of the beautiful little things that surround us, particularly in the face of grief, infant loss and mental health issues. Every day is an adventure!

Latest posts by Heather O. (see all)

  • So not overreacting and what business is it of hers why you were seeing them. You are such a wonderful person Heather and truly didn’t owe her an explanation and so sorry she made you feel this way. Seriously, you didn’t deserve that and her reaction was truly uncalled for. I hope you are feeling a bit better and just know this woman was truly out of line and it wasn’t you.

    • I’m glad you don’t think I’m overreacting, Janine. Once my initial shock wore off, I was just flabbergasted that she felt the need to write me… and then I got angry, then I cried. That one email pulled a whole gamut of emotions out of me, which is why I felt like I had to write about it. Thank you for being so sweet and helping me feel better.

      • I definitely don’t think you are overreacting and just so sorry that this one person could be so cruel and callous. I meant it when I said you are just a truly wonderful and amazing person. Don’t let this one person bring you down, she really isn’t worth it.

  • Danielle

    I don’t think you are over-reacting at all. As for the question of how I would feel if I’d bought them. There might be a moment of shock and sadness if I hadn’t already made the connection, but I think I would still be able to use them. It would likely just remind me how blessed I was and remind me to say a prayer for those not quite as lucky.

    Her superstitions or unease are not on you. And you are right to feel like she shouldn’t have told you that.

    • Thank you for being honest, Danielle. I can appreciate that some people might be comfortable with using the diapers… I don’t agree, but I can appreciate it. I’m just not superstitious at all, and I know some people are very much so. You’re absolutely right though, that she should not have put her superstitions and unease on me. I appreciate your comment!

  • Macy Moon

    You are absolutely NOT overreacting. That awful woman has clearly never experienced such an awful tragedy, and what she said was horribly inconsiderate toward your feelings. Unfortunately there are people in this world who seem to make every situation about them. All we can do is shut them out and focus on the good people out there.

    • Thank you for your words, Macy. It’s very true that the best thing to do is move on and focus on all of the good people I have in my life. 🙂

  • Stephanie Sprenger

    That is ridiculous, Heather. HER, not you. If she had those feelings, fine. But she should keep it to herself. Your experience, in the case, is more important than hers. She can throw the whole batch in the trash if she wants, but how dare she make her conflicting feelings the problem of the mother who lost a child. I feel outraged right now. What a selfish, thoughtless thing for her to do. I am so sorry.

    • I absolutely agree, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • BethBass

    I think it was very insensitive of her!

    • I’m glad everyone seems to agree! I was really worried that it was just me, but I see that I was right to be offended and hurt. Thank you, Beth!

  • Kayla Yow

    So very insensitive of her! Even ridiculous that she would take time to write you about that! If I knew that the diapers I purchased were originally for a baby that did not survive, I would cherish them even more because I had my baby. But, then again, maybe I am that way because my baby did die.

    • That’s what I thought at first too, Kayla, that I was upset because I’d lost my baby. It’s pretty clear from the comments here (and on Facebook) that it’s not just us… it was a truly offensive thing for her to do. I appreciate your words, Kayla. Much love to you!

      • Kayla Yow

        Much love to you to, mama! <3

  • JoAnne Potter

    I had to read this more than once.

    YOUR baby died and this person is concerned about HER feelings. Good grief.

    I am so sorry to hear about your sorrow and loss. I hope the woman who wrote you has since taken the time to re-evaluate her response as she looks at her very alive child and thinks about where those diapers came from.

    It doesn’t matter how she feels in the end, however, and it wouldn’t matter how I feel if I were on the receiving end, although I would like to think I would take the time to mourn with you…

    What does matter is that you concentrate on your own journey through this hard time. Even an understanding that everything happens for a reason does not mute much of this profound sadness.

    God bless you, Heather. May you rest in God’s hands, the same hands that hold your child.

    • I appreciate your comment very much, JoAnne! Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts… and thank you for seeing my point of view here. It means a lot to me. <3

  • Kelly Gentry

    Wow, this post made me sad and angry. What a selfish person that woman is. Clearly everyone here is in agreement with you. I just can’t believe that someone felt the need to do that to you.

    • Thanks Kelly, I cannot understand why she felt the need to share either.

  • Catherine S

    I would have cried my eyes out for you and your family and thanked you for sharing your precious belongings with me.

    • Thank you Catherine. <3

    • Certified Hamster Midwife

      Perhaps I’d give my baby an extra cuddle with every diaper change and think about your little one.

  • Elizabeth A

    If you are such a delicate blossom that you can’t “put down (someone else’s) senses” and make use of secondhand items, you should buy new.

    And when the heck did she pick up your senses in the first place? You’d never met!

    When I was younger, I was impressed by people who claimed to be highly empathic, until I realized that those people always meant that they would put themselves at the center of any emotions going. They could never be asked for help in any event whatsoever, because the need to process all the emotions (mostly their own, which they would claim were other people’s) took all their attention.

    In this case, your baby died. And the empath who wasn’t there and never met you will need emotional support for that. A wiser human being would recognize that she should seek that support from someone further from the pain, not from the person closest in.

    I don’t need an excuse to give an extra cuddle with every diaper change (or shift in the wind direction), but I’d be thinking of you and Clara.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Well, to be fair my youngest daughter is truly highly empathetic and rarely thinks of herself or her own emotions and is always very helpful. Though I do have a friend who is exactly like you described. Though she is not the least bit empathetic, although she thinks she is, and has actually been diagnosed with some personality disorder where she feels little empathy for others. What she thinks is empathy is assigning her own feelings to others.

  • violinwidow

    I would have bailed my eyes out for your sadness, and I never, never would have presumed to criticize you.

    • Thank you for saying this. It’s amazing how much that woman’s words still sting, and it helps to know that other people would have reacted so differently from how she did.