Before we were engaged, my husband came up with a game called likey/no likey. He would take me to jewelry store windows and try to guess if I would answer likey or no likey to each ring. Hence how I ended up with a fantastic setting that kept in mind the fact that I wanted to be able to wear it while I went kayaking. Apparently, back then, I thought I would still be kayaking in my thirties. I guess I was mistaken.
But the point of the game was that it was a gut reaction, that first impulse. There are plenty of things that grow on you and plenty of things you can talk yourself into liking. But in likey/no likey, only the first feeling counts.
And me no likey comparative pain.
As incredibly obvious in my post a few days ago about seeing the hematologist, I engage in comparative pain. But I hate the game. Just one of the ways I'm a complete, bleeding hypocrite. It's unhealthy. It's unrealistic. It's unproductive. What is gained by being able to say that my situation doesn't suck as much as that person's? Does it make mine better? Does it alleviate any of the emotions I'm feeling?
The point of a comparison is not just to draw parallels between two unrelated situations--it's a way to negate and create a hierarchy. We want to scratch the skin off of someone else's face when they do it to us (at least you lost the baby at 8 weeks--could you imagine what it would be like to have a stillborn? At least you've only been trying for three years; I know someone who has been trying for seven. Oh, you had to do two IVF cycles?--I had to do four). And then we do it to ourselves. Alone. It our head. It's as if that well-meaning neighbour that everyone has who says these things has wedged herself somewhere in my head.
How many of you have doubted the legitimacy of your infertility emotions when faced with an even "worse" situation in a blog? Don't lie--I know you do it! We all talk about it on our blogs and you mention it in the comments. And I know that you do it because I do it too. I literally look at the cards in front of me and think: do I have the right to feel this upset? I've never endured an adoption reversal. I haven't experienced a stillbirth. We didn't try unsuccessfully for nine years.
But this is the problem with comparative pain--it's not just what you go through, but the choices you're able to make when other factors are taken into consideration. Not everyone can afford IVF, therefore, not everyone will get to endure failed IVF cycles. Or perhaps it's because their religion doesn't allow it. Or it's just not physically possible. Or their husband isn't on-board. There are a multitude of reasons why a person wouldn't be able to do IVF. But does not enduring a failed IVF cycle mean that you didn't suffer? How does a failed cycle of IVF rate a higher level of pain than someone who desperately wants to do IVF and can't? Or someone who doesn't want to do, but doesn't have another viable choice?
And then we get into the fact that pain is in the eye of the beholder. All of us would agree that it is devastating to lose a child--it goes beyond human endurance. It is literally heartbreaking. But what about the woman who never gets to experience pregnancy at all? Who goes through her whole life never knowing what it is like to carry another person inside her body? In all of the pregnancy loss interviews that I've conducted to this point (and there could be many more people out there with a different point of view), not one person has said that they wished they had never been pregnant. They wished it had turned out differently. They wished they still had their child. But they didn't wish away the entire person. They still cherished that baby. Their pain is understood and recognized. Who is recognizing the pain of the woman who never gets to come close to being pregnant? It just doesn't hold weight in comparative pain--but the pain is just as heavy and real and sharp as the pain felt by those who have lost.
Is that woman who never carries to term "more" infertile than one who finally gets pregnant after their fourth round of IVF? Is the woman who suffers loss after loss somehow "more" infertile than one who never experiences pregnancy? How do we quantify it and stack it up? And what is even gained by doing this?
My mother asked me recently if I would still feel infertile if it happened for us faster this time. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened faster--we're starting with diagnosed problems therefore, we're at least saving ourselves the year of wasted cycles. We're not even bothering to try without Prometrium--what's the point? At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if it took much longer or didn't happen at all. We're not sinking money into treatments if it doesn't look like I'll have a good chance. We may go to adoption instead. Or keep trying like assholes on our own. And then does the waiting time count? Can we say that we've been trying for months if we have to wait until June to cycle with IVF? Is it even really trying if you know that there is little chance that you're going to get and stay pregnant without intervention?
The answer to her question is yes, I would still feel infertile. Because the problems didn't go away in between these two rounds of trying to conceive. Infertility is not curable--it's treatable. And if we want another child, we need to go through that help all over again. I may even still feel infertile when I'm eighty years old and I've been in menopause for more time than I've been ovulating. It has changed the way I view the world. It has changed the hope I feel at the beginning of something new. It has made me more realistic. It has made me more empathetic. It has made me more grateful. Those are things that wouldn't change even if I got a positive pregnancy test next month (please let there be a positive test, please let there be a positive test).
Listen, your doctor wrote infertility in your chart. He or she wrote a reason or unexplained. Your pain is your own. And someone else's pain her own. And my pain is my own. And what I can handle may be the thing that drives you to your knees. And perhaps I could never endure the problems you have endured. But we're all on this island. And we all go through crap. And stop thinking about your own journey as somehow "less" than someone else's. I get enough judgment from outside the community for how I cope or the choices I make. I don't need it from my fellow stirrup queens. And I certainly don't need it from myself.
Just my two cents. Or...judging by the length of this post...my half dollar...
Your thoughts on quantifying pain--do you do it? And how do you stop yourself when you get in that mindset? And is there something healthy to be gained from this way of thinking (and I'm differentiating between keeping things in perspective and comparative pain. Comparative pain is hierarchical) that I've missed?