“…If you don’t mind me asking.”
Actually, I do mind you asking.
Miscarriage is painful enough to have to deal with in the virtual blackout we have that means that a pregnancy doesn’t “count” until it’s 12 weeks, and even then “It wasn’t a baby” and “It happens to everyone”. (Not my words but the words that many of us have to deal with in the wake of a miscarriage… In the wake of a painful revelation to friends that we lost a baby.)
Today this happened to me and I should be okay with it. I should be used to this being the first question that people ask, but I’m not. I felt angry that I delayed answering, wondering whether I could legitimately count it as a 10 week loss because the actual miscarriage happened between 9 and 10 weeks even though my baby stopped growing after 6 and a bit. (The bit is important, to me. He/she kept going after I saw his/her heartbeat on the ultrasound, but not long enough to make it to viability.)
I felt angry with myself that I felt the need to justify my baby’s existence. That somehow my baby wouldn’t “count” because it “wasn’t a baby” and it happened in the first trimester. I felt angry because that person made me feel that I had to explain and justify my sadness over the loss of my baby. (The person being a mother of two who, I sh*t you not, actually said she had experience of “infertility” because she had to wait just over a year to conceive her first… My heart bleeds.)
I just can’t.
She went on to tell me that there was a fantastic resource that some friend of a friend had set up, to support people with secondary infertility, which is “just as painful”.
My inner monologue went on overdrive: Okay so shoot me but I just don’t accept that. I absolutely get that it sucks, but come on… Please don’t try to console me with the fact that someone [who knows someone you know] can relate to what it feels like to be
forever long term, maybe forever childless because they can’t have a second child. I’m most probably being a total b*tch about this and I’m sorry (I really am sorry! Infertility sucks!) but I don’t think that the grief of never being a parent is the same as not being a parent of two. I have plenty of only child friends who vaguely wanted a sibling but who also have the most amazing relationships with their parents – and whose parents aren’t any less parents because of their one child. Infertile people are only going to get to be parents against all odds… Maybe never. Please don’t patronise us by trying to compare the haves with the have nots.
Anyway, this person was chasing me up because I haven’t been on Facebook for a while, as explained in a previous post. I’ve kind of responded to people who asked by saying I needed a break, and in some cases I explained about the miscarriage. I’m not quite up to public grief-sharing (I’m British, dontcha know) but it is kind of a straightforward way of not inviting too much further debate about the rights or wrongs of not being on FB. I liken it to the equivalent of the work explanation “women’s problems” in its abilities to get people off your back.
And yet. And yet I’m annoyed today because of this exchange. This person told me that they have a hard life too, yadda yadda, they don’t earn as much etc etc and I get that everyone has their stuff. I really do. Money stuff is stressful. (Which is why I’ve been trying so hard to get financially independent from my ex. It has taken years.) And yeah… Secondary infertility is stressful, I’m sure. I kind of wish I was in that position to feel that frustration… That my one kid could be asking me for a sibling. But I don’t have one child… And I may never have one.
It’s not a grief competition, of course. And yet… Maybe it’s natural to compare?
I know I’m not as hurt as those women who have repeatedly lost pregnancies. I know I’m not as badly off as someone who had to give birth to a dead baby, which is a grief I cannot even try to comprehend. I’ve been fortunate in many ways… I have had a privileged life (a life that started with loss but continued with giving, a whole new family that’s somehow still together even though they’re kind of crazy) and I have a good relationship and a good dog and a good job. I have barely anything to complain about and yet that one question made me feel upset and resentful, because to me it was questioning the validity of my grief.
The question was something like: How far were you along? Far enough to care that much? It happens to a lot of people. Is it reasonable to go off Facebook because you don’t want to have to keep looking at pictures of everyone else’s kids when you should have one of your own? When you don’t want to see the Motherhood Challenge or posts for Mother’s Day on what should have been your first?
And what I came to is this: Really, what right do I have to police anyone else’s sadnesses? None, that’s what. Someone else’s secondary infertility is bad to them, just as it seems an amazing luxury to me. And my “only 10 weeks” miscarriage is nothing compared to someone who’s had to cradle their dead baby after giving birth. We have no right to compare griefs and say one is worth more or less than another, because that way
msadness lies. And there’s enough sadness to go around.
So the next time I feel that resentment that someone is “only” dealing with secondary infertility, I’ll remind myself that I’m “only” dealing with my life. A life that isn’t that bad, really. As it stands, I’m going to enjoy the rest of this week’s staycation and especially the time with my favourite human, T, and my favourite dog, Dog. It’s a bit colder than I’d like but it gives us an extra excuse to snuggle. We had a great day today – we went to Hampton Court (home of Henry VIII – if you ever needed a reminder that life’s not that bad, check out how his wives ended up!).
In summary: Life’s okay – we just need to keep reminding ourselves and ignore the annoying questions!
If I was a certain sort of person, I’d probably have to post some boastful status update on Facebook about my new job – but I think I’ll pass! Instead here are a few from our staycation visit to Hampton Court Palace. It cost us nothing as we had free tickets! Definitely worth a visit if you fancy a little day trip in London. Be warned though that you will start to feel very sorry for all the women who were unfortunate enough to be married to Henry VIII!