Posted by: colloquiallyspeaking | June 24, 2010

To Each His Own

A little while go I got into a discussion with a close relative of mine which ended in her barely speaking to me since.

She and I are both expecting, around the same time.

She has been married for three years, and this is her first pregnancy.  She was telling me about how some people were telling her she can’t complain about feeling unwell, since it’s such a wonderful thing that she’s pregnant altogether, and she should just be grateful.

I responded by scoffing at those people, saying that she has  a right not to feel well and anyway, it’s not like she was infertile for ten years and then miraculously conceived.

I guess that was my mistake.

Her response was to let me know just how long three years is, and how insensitive I am.  She followed that with insisting that I could never understand her waiting. 

Now, I agree that I can’t understand that.  I can also say that, in retrospect, my comment was indeed insensitive.

However, what she was unwilling to hear was that she could never understand what I go through, when it comes to the issues of pregnancy.

I can conceive easily.  I, however, cannot carry a fetus successfully without the help of hormones and bed rest.

I will never know the ache of empty arms.  I hope that she will never know the ache of arms heavy with the weight of a lifeless baby.

I will never know how it feels to go to work day after day with no one waiting for me at home.  I hope she will never know how it feels to never be able to commit to a job because of a possible pregnancy.

I will never know what it’s like to go for infertility treatments.  I hope she never knows what it’s like to talk about steroids to boost lung development.

What I can understand is what it feels like to hear comments that invalidate the pain, whatever it may be.

I am ashamed at myself when I think of what I said.  I don’t really understand what chord it hit, because my intentions were not clear in the wording of my comment.  I am ashamed because I inadvertently caused someone to feel the way I felt when I was bombarded by people commenting on my own unique situation.

People can be cruel, without meaning to be.

“Premature marriage, premature baby.”

“These children usually end up disabled, so it’s good your son died.”

“At least now you don’t have to spend months in the hospital with a baby and you can move one.”

“He wasn’t an actual baby, just a fetus.”

And so on.

Have I actually joined this hall of shame?

Everyone experiences pain.  Everybody hurts.  Everybody also makes mistakes.  Nobody can know the exact right thing to say or not to say.  Nobody can know what reactions their word might bring.

On the other hand, silence is not always golden.

So what should I have done?  What did I expect from other people?

The truth is, I don’t know.  And what I expected from others was for them to just be, and not to have to know.

The best call came from a rebbe of my husband.  It was weeks after my baby had died.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call.  I didn’t know what to say.  I still don’t know what to say.”

That was all.  It validated our right to our experience.  It was such a cooling, refreshing balm for our still raw wound.

I should have understood that much.

Everyone deserves the right to their pain.

I can only hope that I have grown from this entire experience and that I can truly live up to my newfound realization that when I say to each his own, it truly means to each his own.

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Responses

  1. I’ve learned not to judge others. You never know what may or may not be going on in another’s life.

    And by the way, don’t feel so bad. That comment of yours was far from the stupidest I’ve heard. Really.

  2. Here’s one I’ve gotten. “It’s such a zchus! Only special people are chosen to carry a neshama for these few months.” That is NOT what I wanted to hear at the time. Made me wonder why she wouldn’t be davening for such a zchus.

    • SC – thanks. made me feel a whole lot better knowing it wasn’t so bad. and every time i think i don’t judge, something comes up to show me how i’ve changed the face of judgment again…

      MW – i got those too. i wanted to pass the banner of holiness onto them. the worst thing was a whole care package from ATIME that someone sent me. i sat and read story after story about infertility and miscarriages…wasn’t very uplifting to someone who just watched her pre-term baby die in NICU…


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