Monday, January 30, 2006

Got Pain?

I believe that no one has a monopoly on pain. You can't look at someone and say, "She doesn't know what I'm feeling. She can't possibly understand my pain." OK, that's not true. You can say that, and it probably is true that very few of us understand each other's pain precisely. But everyone suffers. Everyone feels pain. That's what makes empathy possible.

I read a lot of infertility blogs. I found my way to these blogs originally through Dooce thanked the members of the Barren Bitches Brigade for defending her. I followed the link and was absolutely stunned by the power of Getupgrrl's writing. I remember reading through her entire archives over the course of two or three days. I followed her links and discovered Julie, Karen, Julia, Danae, and others. Some, I read for just a few days. Some I still read. And every so often, one of these bloggers posts something about "Why do fertile people bother to read these blogs?" or their commenters will make more general "Fertile people suck," comments. Now, all of these bloggers have posted about people they know in real life and in the computer who are fertile and who are perfectly nice people. But there's still that sense that fertile people don't know pain, or don't know *their* pain, or have pain that is irrelevant.

Not true. And not fair.

Yes, it's true that I don't know the specific pain of infertility. I cannot even imagine it -- my children are my everything. I am worried right now because my 6-year-old may be too hot in the sweater I picked out for her to wear to school today. I am not exaggerating. I have spent half my morning worrying about it. I have debated driving over to the school and interrupting the first grade to ask her if she wants a change of clothes. I am well aware of the level of my insanity -- but I also know that without my children, I would be lost.

But to imply that because I am fertile I don't know pain, or my pain is not relevant? No. The pain I have felt -- while sitting at my son's side in the NICU, while watching in horror as he turned blue, while listening to various doctors describe his various death sentences, while wondering WHAT ARE WE IN FOR NEXT? -- this is pain. I wonder whether my infant son will speak intelligibly before my 2-year-old does, and I feel physical pain in my heart. I imagine the conversations I will have with my daughters when they complain that my time is usurped by their brother, and I wince at the pain as I try to swallow around the lump in my throat.

No one has a monopoly on pain. and while I might not know yours precisely, neither do you know mine. And to invalidate it callously because I am fertile -- this is unfair.


Anonymous said...

You are right. People often get so wrapped up in the specifics of their own pain that they doubt anyone without a similar roster of pain can remotely understand what REAL pain is. When we experience pain, we think back to the time before the pain and say "I could never have *imagined* that this would happen--and how devastating it would feel." We didn't truly understand it before we went through it, so it's natural to assume that others won't truly understand it, either. But the challenge (as if the pain itself isn't challenge enough) is to not allow oneself to become outwardly bitter and angry at those who haven't experienced the exact same thing. I don't know if the bloggers you talk about are just acknowledging the darker side of their pain... having found a safe setting in which to indulge in the raw, ugly emotions they must certainly feel. But comments like theirs are hurtful and alienating to anyone who is experiencing a different kind of pain but trying to reach out to fellow humans nonetheless.

Hang in there.

Dee said...

I saw your comment on my blog (thanks for helping me realize that I'm not some sort of mom-failure) which led me to your blog--pleasure to be here :-)

I just wanted to agree with what you wrote here in your post. People don't and can't know anyone else's pain, nor should they try to act like they do (profound, aren't I?). Everyone's got something they're dealing, or have dealt, with and what is painful to one may not be to another. That said, I think it's all part of the human condition, wanting to commiserate with someone on one level, but yet not having a true basis of comparison to do so. So we make stupid comparisons in return, not realizing that our words can be the most painful of all.

I have to say I'm sorry you're dealing with folks who just don't 'get it' or understand that fact. And I hope with you for an answer for your son...and will be checking back in on you all. Like the post before me said, "hang in there." Tough, I'm sure, but your words tell me that you're a fighter, and it sounds like your little man is too :-)