Help me understand

22 Aug

This post has been knocking around in my head for years. And every time I try to write it, I get stuck because I don’t want to make judgments about something I don’t understand and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But it won’t go away and I suppose the only way to get rid of it is to get it out.

I know you’re never supposed to start a blog post or a blog comment with the words “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way….” but that’s how I have to start this one. I hope no one takes this the wrong way. This is not a criticism of anyone. It is not me trying to pigeon-hole or judge people unfairly. I am not trying to make a blanket statement about everyone in this situation. This is me, honestly and wholeheartedly, trying to understand something I haven’t experienced. I hope that I manage to write it in a way that conveys that and not in a way that upsets anyone.

**********

Shortly after my brother died, I was having a conversation with someone who is a rather large part of  my life. This person was going on and on about their brother and how he drives them crazy and they can’t stand him sometimes and the brother is just so annoying.

I wanted to lash out and scream at this person. I wanted to make them understand what they had right in front of them, and that I would give anything to be annoyed by my brother. But I didn’t say anything because I understand that people get annoyed by their family members and just because my brother died doesn’t mean that everyone else in the world has to automatically love and appreciate their siblings no matter what.

I tell you this story because I want to make it clear that I understand what it’s like to have something or someone unfairly ripped from my life and then have to go on and watch other people take that very thing for granted. I understand the anger that is, at times, all but impossible to ignore, and directed at people who don’t really have any control over my own loss. I understand that when things happen that aren’t right, that go against everything we hope and dream for as humans, it is a struggle not to lash out at every single person around you that doesn’t understand what you’ve lost.

**********

My pregnancy with Tessa was a very lonely time for me. My two closest friends were dealing with some awful and heartbreaking infertility issues and I didn’t feel like it was fair to call them up and complain and/or be excited about my pregnancy. I only talked about it if they asked or if I had something pretty generic to tell them. I felt like I was walking on eggshells because I didn’t want to inadvertently upset them.

This is not to say that they made me feel that way. They did not. Not once. I had some very open and honest conversations about it with both of them. I explained that I was scared of offering too much information and, in turn, upsetting them. They assured me  (because they are awesome and wonderful people) that, while yes, it hurt, and some days it would be hard to hear about, that they loved me, loved my baby, and wanted to hear all about it. But I could hear in the undercurrent of their words that it hurt more than they could let on. And of course it did – I totally understood. 

What I struggled with was convincing myself that the fact that it hurt them was not a reflection on me and it wasn’t my fault. (Again- they did NOT make me feel that way – I was over-thinking the whole thing).  It was just the nature of the situation and I would have given anything for these two amazing women that I love like crazy not to have been dealing with it.

But I still held back. And it sucked. Pregnancy is definitely a time when you need to be surrounded by friends, complaining about how much your back hurts or how often you  have to pee. Not to mention, these are girls I share everything with and I wasn’t able to do that. It was a pressure I, admittedly, put on myself, but it was there all the same. I missed them, to be just plain honest about it. 

I tell you this story because I want to make it clear that these women taught me so much about strength and courage and what it is like to struggle with infertility (NOT saying that I understand it, because I haven’t been through it, just that they helped me understand a little more). They showed me what bravery and determination is. The kind of bravery and determination I don’ t think I possess. They taught me that when you’re struggling with infertility, it does feel like the world is shoving into your face everything you don’t have – and that is a truly awful way to feel. Every mom-centered TV show or magazine, every unfit mother pregnant with her sixth kid who doesn’t care for the first five, every baby shower and baby announcement is a kick in the gut.

They handled it with grace and courage and I am so proud and thankful to call them my friends. Now they both have perfect little babies and our conversations are primarily centered around sleep (or lack thereof), poop, and our annoying wonderful husbands.

The rest of this post is in no way, shape, or form about them. I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not totally ignorant about this topic.

**********

I’ve been reading blogs for three years now. Some of the first blogs I discovered were infertility blogs. I was awed by the courage of these amazing women who were facing such heartbreaking struggle and loss. I was stunned by how many times they found the strength to try again. Countless times I cried in front of my computer screen for the babies they wanted so desperately. It was unfair.

But something I didn’t understand (and this is where I take a deep breath) is the undercurrent of vitriol in some of their words. Not the anger – I get the anger. But the hate that they very clearly expressed toward pregnant/parenting people shocked me.

I’ll never forget reading a blog in which the person admitted that when someone (it was a sister-in-law or friend or cousin or something) announced their pregnancy, that they could barely keep themselves from punching them in the face and that they wouldn’t be sad if this person lost the baby because then they would understand what it felt like.

I don’t understand that. At all. How can you so blatantly hate someone, simply because they have something you want?

I just don’t think that every baby or pregnancy centered thing out there, whether it be on the internet, TV, with friends and family or whatever, is some kind of personal attack and that all the “fertiles” are trying to make the “infertiles” feel like less than a woman, or somehow inadequate. I can certainly understand how it might initially feel that way – anger and grief make us super-sensitive, obviously, and I’m not faulting anyone for having those feelings (I feel the same way when people complain about their siblings) but to wish bad things upon that person? I don’t get that. I would never hope that someone else would lose their brother so they could understand my pain. It’s the exact opposite, in fact – I hope that I am forever lonely in my grief, so that no one else has to experience a loss like mine.

It just seems like that kind of vitriol is an effort to make the people with children feel badly that we haven’t struggled with infertility and that we should keep quiet about our pregnancies/babies in order not to make someone else feel badly. I don’t think that’s fair. It can’t be personal every time because not everyone in the world can know that someone is struggling with infertility. It’s one thing if we know someone is struggling with infertility. Then we do have a responsibility to tread lightly and put ourselves in that woman’s shoes. But there are a lot of moms out there  and there are going to be a lot of mom-centered internet campaigns and books and magazines and blogs and so on.

And just to be clear, I absolutely do not think that the particularly hateful blogs I read are indicative of the  infertility blogging community as a whole – not at all, not even close. But I also don’t know how pervasive it is. Do people hate me when I talk about my kids? Should I make an effort to minimize how much I talk about them?

So this is where I need your help, Internet.

Am I missing something here? It is impossible for me to understand, not having been through it?

Is it singular to just those few blogs I read? Is it because their blogs are their “safe” place to let out all of their feelings, good, bad, or ugly? (And for the record, lest you say, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.” I did stop reading the ones that I found particularly hate-filled.) Should I not judge what may simply someone’s brutally honest account of struggling with infertility?

If you are someone who has struggled with infertility and you have felt this way, will you tell me about it? Is it just so all-consuming that everything does feel like a personal attack? Do you really think that when people talk about their children or their pregnancies that they are doing it purposefully, to hurt your feelings? And moreover, if that is a pervasive feeling among those who struggle with infertility, how can I, as someone who hasn’t dealt with it, help and be more sensitive?

Am I complete asshole for even questioning these woman’s reactions to such an emotionally-charged topic?

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4 Responses to “Help me understand”

  1. Jessica August 24, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    So I kind of know what you’re talking about. Sometimes because I have a special needs kid I get angry at all the other parents and just want to throttle them. There’s no good reason for it. But it’s hard to feel misunderstood when other people don’t always understand or appreciate their good fortune.

    But… I don’t. And I don’t want my friends to not talk about their kids because they’re normal. It’s important to have a community you can talk to when you’re dealing with something like that. But it’s also important to keep a connection to the real world. That problem does not define you. It is part of you, but not all.

    I get the desire to give into the hate and exclusion. But I don’t think it’s the right choice.

    I think you should be you and say whatever you want to say.

    • Kristina August 24, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      That makes total sense – I think as humans we naturally get jealous and sometimes that jealousy translates into some more harsh and negative feelings, especially when you just want someone to understand how hard it is for you. Sometimes you feel like busting out with “You think THAT’S hard, well listen to MY story!” And again, I think that’s a totally natural and understandable feeling, one that I experience on a frequent basis. But I think it just takes it up a notch when you’re actively wishing something bad on someone.

  2. lori August 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Hey so ofcourse I’m going to comment on this one because its so near and dear to me. I’ve always said no matter how hard the calls were to get that someone else is pregnant or theres another baby shower this weekend, I could be jealous all I wanted but I couldn’t be mean and angry. It wasn’t their fault that god chose me to have fertility problems so don’t take it on them. I can be mad at the world and be upset, but I can’t take it out on that person. Someone told me everyone has ” their struggle” having a baby was mine, but it wasn’t everyones so you have to put a smile on and accept that it will happen when its meant to and as hard as it was I look back now and know that i did just that. So no people should not be hateful that’s just wrong.

  3. mrslltkings September 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    I have zero experience with infertility…or any big loss in my life so it’s probably one of those empty comments, but I don’t get it either. I get the anger. I get the back-of-the-mind jealousy and ill-wishing. I do. I don’t get letting that take over enough to actually express it out loud (or online) to someone else. Even though the feeling would be there I don’t see how I could rationally think that that’s an okay feeling to have. Then again, I’ve seen some posts and comments on blogs that I strongly disagree with and have stopped following the blogs bc of those posts because some people are negative and cannot see beyond their own perspectives in the moment.

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