Yesterday was my one year blogoversary, and this is my 200th post. I didn't plan it this way, but see below re: blog neglect in the absence of the second driver in the family. I meant to write this yesterday, but got hit with the worst migraine I had in months just as I was getting ready to start. Booooo. So here I am this morning, writing in the quiet house. Let's see how long I get before it's no longer quiet*. So I have been thinking about this topic, this Reverse Pain Olympics, for many months, on and off. Have meant to write about it at least half a dozen times. I guess today is as good as any other day.
Many moons ago, and in web time something like eons ago in fact, there was great unrest in the internets, all about who had it worse, or the worst. Pain Olympics. I noticed, though, that ever since the very beginning I have been engaging in my own private Reverse Pain Olympics. Not denying my pain in any way, but more of "this could've been so much worse."
We had great and compassionate care in the hospital, and even then I was thinking "wow, how much worse could this be if we were surrounded by insensitive boobs?" And sure enough, just click around and you will see enough stories of insensitive boobs mascaraing as medical professionals to fill your indignation quota for the year.
Yes, we had to explain to Monkey what happened, we have had to support her, validate her grief, even on days when what we really wanted to do was crawl into a very small hole and stay there. But we have her, she is here for us to support. We didn't have to wonder, as so many other bereaved parents do, whether there would ever be a child in this house. She doesn't make up for the loss of her brother, and since she had never before seen us crying or even just that sad, we had to explain to her, and keep explaining, that she isn't responsible for making us feel better, that sometimes shit happens that is so big that it makes you sad for a very long time. But she is here. She is here.
Most of our friends have been very supportive. They made it completely ok to talk about my pregnancy, some asked to see A's pictures. They made it so comfortable, in fact, that when it came time to venture into the wider world, I didn't really want to. I know that is not unusual, but I think in my case there was this added benefit of being so comfortable in my slightly-larger world that made it hard to want to push the boundaries wider, where the reception was less likely to be so humane. Do I even have to mention how many others have felt lonely, abandoned, complete outcasts even among the people who used to be friends or family?
There is more. But listing examples is not so much the point here. One of my points is that nobody else is allowed to say these things to me in the "at least you have X" format. Because when others say it, especially others who are not bereaved parents themselves, it sounds belittling. It sounds like they are ranking, and find my story not tragic enough. Like they find my pain lacking. And I know, I know that in reality it's about them, not me. It's about their inability to deal with the bad things in the world, about making themselves feel better by not having to feel so bad for me. But it still pisses me off.
Slightly more recently, last summer I think, there was another tiff in the blogland. A popular magazine launched an infertility blog, one of the writers of which, having gone through IF treatments, started her first entry with something very much like "Hi. I am So-and-Such, recently back from maternity leave." Open new post window, insert foot. Some readers took offense, the magazine didn't react too well, and the whole thing went on in circles for what seemed like a while.
The magazine editors, I am sure, couldn't see how some of the infertile readers could be so heartless as to reject this blogger just for having accomplished what they themselves were hoping to accomplish one day. These very readers couldn't see how sticking someone who was so glowing with her motherhood that it amplified the regular glow from their screen approximately fifteen fold in their tired and strung out faces was a tactful thing to do. After all, they argued, we have to deal with happy mothers and baby mania in real life. Shouldn't an infertility blog be a safe haven for us?
There were even words to the effect that anyone who has had a baby should be disqualified from calling herself infertile, and should certainly not bitch and moan about wanting more children when she has been already so bloody lucky once. You know that sat well with me. Excuse me, I wanted to say, but my infertility is right here every time I have to decide what to eat. PCOS, see, insulin issues, directly relating to fertility hormones. I took the bait, people. I was right there, running qualifying heats for the Pain Olympics. I stopped, though. I stopped just short of typing that angry comment, featuring both my food choices and my dead baby, and hitting post. Because what do I know of the pain of ten years of IF with no living child to show for it, with not even a pregnancy, not even a BFP?
It is easy these days to think myself not so badly off. I am 19 weeks today. My husband made it back from his business trip in one piece and doesn't seem to be suffering jet lag. I have a daughter who amazes and delights me every day (yes, frustrates too, but that's not the point here). I have a doppler for when the paranoia hits, and I have the world's best OB. I have started to feel movement.
But you know what? My daughter wanted to buy flowers at the store yesterday. What for, I asked. To take to the cemetery. Yup, that's what my living child wants to buy flowers for. And that still sucks. No matter what else happens in my life, it will never be ok that A is dead. It will never be a little thing.
So why do I play Reverse Pain Olympics? I think it's a defense mechanism. When talking about the original Pain Olympics Tertia wrote about how you don't want to be that one, the saddest story around. You don't want to win that trophy. You don't even want to be in the running for it.
But with a dead baby you are pretty much guaranteed a spot, at least in your real life universe. It's a part of what makes us feel like freaks, being the saddest story around. (This, I believe, is not unique to deadbaby freaks. IF, widowhood, cancer, surviving violent crime-- so much can qualify one for the saddest story trophy.) So we go online, and we find other freaks. And we feel better, because it turns out so much of what we feel is ok, is normal. This new definition of normal none of us ever wanted to discover, but the normal that is helping us find our way through our days and nights, somehow.
So is this a contradiction-- wanting to be acknowledged for the tragedy in our lives, and, at the same time, not wanting to be pitied as the saddest story around? Is this asking too much of our fellow human beings? Are most people capable of acknowledging our tragedies without denying us our dignity? I don't know. I honestly don't.
While we ponder those questions, though, how about a blogoversary present for me. Tell me, please, what are your defense mechanisms? (If they are of the mixed drinks variety, I would be much obliged if you included recipes. Merci.) What helps you muddle through?
*So clearly, given that I am posting this in the evening, I didn't manage to finish the post before the rest of the family woke up. At least it's still today...