Saturday, July 14, 2012

Infertility and Loss

I occasionally frequent a online discussion board for mothers.  Topics vary quite a bit, from "What should I make for dinner?" to "What do you think I should do about [insert dramatic family issue here]?"  While I was reading yesterday, I came across a post that made me pause.  The woman who was posting had been suffering from infertility for 17 years.  She was venting to the group about how her sister-in-law had handled a recent miscarriage that she'd had.  According to the poster, her sister-in-law didn't even know that she was pregnant until she miscarried, meaning that she'd only been about 5 or 6 weeks along.  Her sister-in-law also already has 5 children.  In addition to these circumstances, the poster claims that her extended family has been constantly updating her on her sister-in-law's "woes", so to speak, and let on as if she, because of her infertility, should be able to relate to and comfort her.  The venting part kicked in when the poster mentioned that her sister-in-law "couldn't possibly understand" what she'd been through since the sister-in-law already has 5 kids.  She also went on about how she didn't understand how she could make such a big deal about miscarrying because a) she didn't even know she was pregnant beforehand, and therefore hadn't even bonded with her baby, and b) she already has 5 kids.  Needless to say, this post was met with a lot of mixed feelings.

I'm not trying to rag on this particular woman because I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to not be able to have children, especially for so long, but I do know what it's like to have a miscarriage.

Side Note:  For those of you who weren't aware, I got pregnant in August of 2009 and miscarried 10 weeks later, in October.  We ended up getting pregnant with James the following February.  It's completely okay to mention this or to ask me questions about it.  There's nothing taboo about this to me at all.

At any rate, this entire post made me think about how we judge our pain against the pains of others.  There is no doubt in my mind that some people endure a great deal more pain than others, but how can we really know how our pain measures up to someone else's?  For example, if one person endures infertility for 4 years, and another endures it for 8 years, before finally being able to conceive, does that automatically mean that the person who only (and I use the word only very loosely here) had to go through it for 4 years only endured half of the pain of the other person?  Or perhaps the pain is the same for both, just prolonged for one of them?  Or maybe, simply by the nature of how this particular trial affects both women, the person who endured it for half the time struggled so much more because the person who endured it longer could endure it better?  Do you see where I'm going here?  How can we possibly judge how we are feeling against how someone else is feeling?

I can't even count how many times I've heard people say, "You have no idea how I feel" or "I've gone through [issue].  You having gone through [other equally difficult issue] doesn't even compare."  We naturally want to feel like we've suffered more than others.  But why?  Maybe so we can feel justified in our misery?  I mean, if "no one knows how I feel", then it's okay to wallow in self-pity, right?  Or maybe it's so that we feel like we can be the expert on whatever it is that's affected us so deeply?  I'm sure there are countless reasons for why people behave this way.  My point is that perhaps we should take the time to see the grief of others, even if we're still dealing with our own.

The Savior has commanded us to be "willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..." (Mosiah 18:9).

Rather than comparing our losses and grief to the losses and grief of others, I think that we need to take a moment to reflect.  Not only do we need to reflect on how this affects the person on the receiving end of our unhealthy comparison, but we need to reflect on how we are affecting ourselves.  We definitely need our own time to mourn in situations like these, but having love and compassion for others who are struggling, no matter how it compares to our own struggles, will not make our own pain any less real.  It can only turn our hearts toward helping those who really need it.


Jen said...

I have been dealing with infertility myself for 6 years. I have a beautiful daughter who is 7 years old. I have had a miscarriage and a ruptured ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. I have felt very guilty in the past for feeling sad about my infertility when I have been blessed with a daughter and some people never get to have any children.
I learned something just recently when talking with a friend. Yes, its true that there will always be someone with more troubles than us, but that doesn't mean that what we are enduring is not heartbreaking to us.
Self-pity is not a good thing, and neither is comparing yourself to others. But sometimes, it is OK to be sad. I believe the woman who has five children and had a miscarriage has every right to grieve, just as the woman who has had no children for 17 years has the right to do so.
I really appreciated your comments here. Let us comfort one another, no matter our own circumstances, and we shall be comforted in return. If not be another person, by our Father in Heaven and Christ's Atonement.

Kimberly said...

I wondered about this, because it seems I want everyone to know just how FREAKING HARD pregnancy is for me, how very very sick I get and how weak I get. And one day I asked myself, "Would I be bummed out if I didn't get sick? Would I be upset if I had nothing to complain about?" The answer was NO! So why was I trying so hard to be the winner of morning sickness? My answer was that it was so hard for me to not feel like myself I just didn't want anyone to under estimate it. And I think that realization has helped me, just a little, cut back on the comparing. Good discussion question!!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. First of all, you are a great writer. I love how clear and concise you are. Your thoughts come out very well.
Secondly, Jordan and I had a huge ongoing discussion about this recently.
This last pregnancy was really rough for me. I was depressed for a few months and it was horrible. I remember waking up some mornings and feeling terrified because I looked at Jo and Jordan and didn't feel love for them anymore. It was really difficult. I have a friend who is infertile, and she mentioned some negative things about me on a blog, of coarse she has a lot of infertile friends, and the post turned into a major "bash Kayleen" party. I was heartbroken. I understand my lack of knowledge about infertility made me unintentionally unsensitive at times, but she also did not know that I was on the verge of suicidal. I remember thinking about suicide, and knowing it was insane to be thinking about it, but feeling so hopeless. Then I got on her blog and saw how everyone agreed that I was unfit to be a mother, when I was already questioning my ability to stay with my family. Talk about a punch in the gut!
It is true, we don't know how others are hurting, and they don't know how we are hurting. We should never ever compare, and never ever judge. And never assume someone has it easier than us, but not be afraid of acknowledging our own sorrow either.
Thank you for your post. I loved it. You are right on.

Sarah Ragatz said...

Disclaimer: I'm extremely tired at the moment. Short comment on a wonderful post: this made me sit back and analyze myself. Thanks.