Sunday, November 11, 2007

My, but this shit is insidious

Recently I got into it with a commenter on a grieving mother's blog*. The commenter was of the opinion that in order to get pregnant again quickly (the expressed wish of the bereaved mother), the mother should be full of light and happily awaiting the arrival of that next baby, since, see if you can follow this without your head exploding, there is a belief that a baby selects his/her parents, i.e. the baby's soul looks for and finds his/her future mother and father, and she (the commenter) would not choose to go to a sad mother. Still here? But want to smash something? Go ahead, I'll wait. Feel better now? Ok, moving on.

Not wanting to jump down somebody's throat in another person's house, I at first inquired politely as to whether she really said what it appeared she said. I got an unabashed confirmation that yes, while the mother can be sad for herself and the dead baby (and isn't that a generous allowance? don't we all feel better knowing we are permitted that much?), she should be full of light, etc. for the baby to come. So because I didn't think that calling the commenter an ignorant twerp from the la-la land was going to be particularly productive, I then proceeded to explain, in a very respectful tone, that (a) telling people how to grieve was wrong; (b) you can't split yourself in half; (c) if there exists a bereaved mother who was able to pull off the subsequent pregnancy without anxiety and complicated feelings about carrying her next child while she should be raising her dead one, I don't know a one among the many I do know; and (d) such advice does nothing but set up the grieving mother for self-blame if by chance her next pregnancy is not swiftly forthcoming.

The response I got back was, impressively, both patronizing and insulting. Not bad for two lines and one smiley face. I am currently undecided as to what to do next. A wise friend is advising me to let it go, to let that response stick out there like a sore thumb. However, walking away from a fight is not exactly my strong suit (what, you couldn't tell?), so I am still thinking.

What got me upset enough to write this, though, is a somewhat unrelated thought. We all know about the stupid things people say that, when inverted as logic dictates, place blame for things going badly squarely on our shoulders. Oh, you should think good thoughts. Oh, you should stay positive. Oh, don't let it get to you. Oh, you so deserve this one. Oh, you should be full of light and happily awaiting the arrival of the new baby. Right.

The thing about the comment that started this spat, though, the one about the babies choosing their own parents, is that it places the blame on the babies. See, if you believe this you don't have to feel bad about crack babies-- they chose their own drug-addicted mothers. You don't have to feel bad about the children who are abused-- they chose their own abusive parents. You don't have to feel bad about babies who contract HIV at birth-- they chose their own HIV-positive mother. You don't have to feel bad about children without health insurance-- they chose their own poor parents. And if you don't have to feel bad about it, you don't have to do anything about it either. Insidious shit, isn't it?

*Don't look for it-- it's protected and in the Old Country language


Karen said...

ugh! Yes, I know and I've run into this before and frankly it feels so wrong to me, wrong like racism and genocide- things that remove us from the humanity of other humans - I work in the birth community and there is this completely crappy movie about this whole theory, called conscious conception and the ugly underbelly of the whole thing is that it claims children born by c-section are born without love and will carry that lack of love with them into the world, forever. It almost seems to hint that perhaps we'd be better off without them and their birth baggage - which seems to suggest some willingness to let these less valued babies die? Did I get that right - I'll be damned, if I'm wrong that movie is totally all about eugenics and it's called "born with love" or something deceptive but stupid but vapid enough to make lots of birth junkies swear it is gospel... Ugh, so maddening - and like you, it's hard to back down from a fight when from where I sit the losers in that fight are people who can't make choices, babies, how can it be up to them?
as for grief, I don't know. It just does it's own thing inside a woman as she walks through what's next. Once after a miscarriage I waited a long time to get pregnant. The next time I did the opposite. Neither was better, they were just what I did.

Julia said...

Oh, Karen, I am horrified. But I can no longer say that I don't believe it. I believe it. But I am disgusted with these cocooned privileged asses spouting their falsely enlightened crap. Sorry you have to deal with them what sounds like a lot.

Beruriah said...

So wait then, does that mean my son died because he chose poorly, or because he changed his mind about me, or did I simply have the (mis)fortune of being chosen by too-good of a soul not long meant for this world? I'm not really clear on the particular rules of this brand of "meant to be."

And WOW this baby I'm carrying right now must be a sucker for the anxious worried types. Because you know, if he chose me, he really ought to have noticed how I am just not always happiness and light these days. He must really be a scientific rationalist as well, since he chose to reside in a body destined for medical interventions. Or at least I'm glad he's chosen to overlook all the ugliness so far, since I promise he will be very loved no matter how he enters the world.

Really, I admire you for even taking on this woman for a moment. I'm glad you spoke up, but only for the sake of the blogger. I'm not sure anything can be said to open the commenter's eyes. But she should keep her vitriol to herself.

Lori said...

Oh wow. This fires me up too! And I didn't even think about your point about this "theory" placing the blame then on the babies who "choose" poorly (sorry for the aggressive use of quotes, but I can't even repeat those words without separating them somehow from my own).

The only reason I would advise you to step back is simply because this is obviously the sort of person who will never be convinced no matter how well you explain yourself (and knowing you, I know you did so beautifully). I hate to think of you beating your head against a wall.

The thing that really annoys me about this kind of vapid thinking is that it is disguised as though it is somehow a more positive, life affirming view of the world. When really it is just naive, condescending and ignorant.

Aite said...

Well, that commenter was, put it extremely nicely, very, very simple. And if her insult is properly inverted, she has at least one point: she knows you weren't talking to her in your comments, as it's several levels too complicated for her to even begin to process. So she thought you were talking to yourself. See, she isn't even smart enough to realize you were commenting in large part for the benefit of the blogging mother.

I like Lori's idea of "false positive" thinking as displayed by that commenter. I'm not sure it's worth thinking through all the implications of the mental turds people like her leave in their path.

niobe said...

The commenter sounds like a complete and total idiot.

I've heard this theory before about babies choosing their parents, though it wasn't presented as a way of justifying unfairness or inequalities. It was more a way of saying that the souls of the parents and baby somehow belong together.

And (though I don't believe it) I think some people do believe something like that. For example, a grieving parent doesn't just want a baby, any baby. She wants the specific baby that she lost. There's a bond between them that this story attempts to explain with the concept of the baby choosing the parents.

ms. G said...

Oh, I hate this. What always really raises my hackles is the fact that this lovely advice always seems to come from people who have had simple, wonderful, end with living babies, pregnancies. Yes, because those people know so much.

I am so glad you spoke up, mostly for the blogger. The commenter will most likely never get it, but I'm sure the blogger felt relief that someone else could see through the BS.

And Beruriah, He! He! on your baby being a sucker for anxious types. My second child is too!!

Catherine said...

"It wasn't meant to be."
"God has a plan."
"Babies choose their parents."

There is a theme here that is created by humans as a way to make sense out of the senseless. You can't really blame a person for wanting truth and justice to win out...for everything to fit into nice neat little boxes...nothing messy...nothing random. I understand the need to feel that security. I needed it too.

Here's the thing. Everyone has to reach their own conclusions. I personally wouldn't use another person's blog to wage a war of ideals. I think stating your beliefs while allowing others to state their beliefs is sufficient. Let the blog owner travel her own path...accepting what she wants and discarding what she wants. It shouldn't be about being right or winning some philosophical contest. It should be about allowing a grieving mother the freedom to decide for herself what she believes. Maybe she'll end up believing in happiness and light. Maybe she won't. But she doesn't need people pressuring her into one or the other set of philosophies. Grief is hard enough without feeling like you've stepped into a nightmare version of the mommy wars.

slouching mom said...

Excuse my language, but what an asshat.

kate said...

thanks for telling me not to look for it, because otherwise i would have done exactly that. Because, you know, i'm just that way.

Yes, it is insidious, and i am sorry for the person whose blog it is, that she had to see that crap. I agree that you should just leave it alone. Or maybe send a private email to the idiotic commenter, if you want to continue with it.

Tash said...

Wow, I was going to ask if we could all go and flame somewhere, but apparently not so much. (Maybe we could flame here, and you could translate? What's old-country for "you fucking ignorant bitch?") Did I miss something though, is this commenter ALSO a grieving mother? Because, if she is, wow. And if not, maybe she should watch posting on other people's blogs where she has zero experience and nothing to offer.

Although now you have me thinking, who on earth would want my family? (or maybe, who wouldn't?) Dogs too much? Did she pick up on the fact that we were going to give her the small room? Not so into sports?

I applaud you for sticking up for the blogger, and frankly wouldn't let it go (just my .02) unless you're sure that the blogger is comfortable with it out there. Because dude, I wouldn't be. I'd find it comforting to know that people had my (stressed out, bereaved, confused) back.

Amelie said...

That's so wrong. And so annoying.
If it is a protected blog/space, how did such a commenter get in? Couldn't they be kicked out? I guess I'd have a hard time letting go too.

Coggy said...

I was wondering the same as beruriah when I read your post. Does it mean that my baby chose me because he was going to die? That would imply that he chose me either a) to teach me a lesson or b) because he thought I could deal with it? I don't think either of these things.
I also agree that is wrong to give opinionated advice to a grieving mother. I for one take things really to heart at the moment. I appreciate hearing about what other people decided to do, but I don't need to be told what to do and no one has done that to me. If I was being told to be happy and cheerful right now, and that if I didn't then it would kind of be my fault as to whether or what 'baby soul' I would attract, I think I would crack up.

Julia said...

Tash, the commenter is not a grieving mother, as far as I can tell from her own blog.

Catherine, I actually agree with you almost 100%. My comment there (which was much longer than my summary here) was mostly about how telling others what to do and how to feel was wrong and unproductive. I didn't even mention the blaming babies part there. The reason I was having a hard time walking away was that the commenter has now insulted and patronized me personally, and I don't generally enjoy that. But upon reflection, I think I am going to let it be, since I really don't give two shits about her, and I think I made my point in enough detail for the blog owner.

thrice said...

I'm just wondering why an adopted baby picks a mother that is ready to give her up for adoption. Does the baby know the adoptive family too?

I believe in positive imaging to a point. This goes way past the point. I believe that these way-past-the-point-imaging-people can't think on their own and that is why they grasp on to crap like this.

S. said...

Oh, come on. Biology! People who don't pay attention to biology are just not worth the time.

Anonymous said...

People like this make my blood boil. Of course the commenter wasn't a grieving mother. I wonder how comforting her view would be if she had lost a child. I am sure she wouldn't be comforted by her own reasoning.

Carole said...

I'm so sorry about this person's comments. Sounds as if they need a hard whap upside the head. It bothers me to no end that someone like that wants to spread their clueless crap.

Magpie said...

My head exploded a little. People are nuts. Let it go, because you're not going to change that mind.

Aurelia said...

There's also a touch of protestant predeterminism here that drives me nuts.

Like, from conception our destiny is set whether we are babies or adults, or what have you.

Stupid crap.

And like Thrice, I'm wondering, I was accidentally conceived in the back of a Chevy to kids who didn't want to get pregnant, but were full of happy thoughts, and beer. And then given up to some seriously fucked up people who happened to have their file come up to the top of the pile that day. A total lotto, a game of chance.

I guess I deserved what I got? Hmmmm

Oh I know!

My children died as punishment for my original sin of being born a bastard. My positive thinking would've erased that sin, but oh no I had to go be a realist....*smacks forehead*

I'm so relieved now.