Knowing things

Do you ever know something, but look it up anyway? Like just now, I know perfectly well where Worcester, MA is but as I was working on a map, I looked it up on Wiki.pedia anyway, just to see what it would say about it. I constantly do that sort of thing – which is one of the reasons I know that the BBC and the Oxford English Dictionary are collaborating on a television series I wish I could watch. I’ve looked up cerclage, progesterone, and pre-term labor even after I’ve exhausted all the information – just to see if I missed anything. But usually it’s probably a waste of time, a procrastination technique I tell myself is an exercise in personal enrichment.

Among our blogs, we’ve talked many times about “the things people say,” and I think probably the most offensive comments revolve around the suggestion that “everything happens for reason,” and its related content: “G-d doesn’t give any of us more than we can handle” and bad things happen to teach us some lesson we need to learn (that’s not exactly right but I can’t come up with the correct trite phrase right now). A certain relative I’ve mentioned before made probably the most offensive statement of all after my miscarriage: “I believe that you’ll be parents when the time is right.” I could list all of the reasons why that particular phrase is offensive, but the counter examples make for just such an easy target. Unless of course G-d is more personally interested in protecting me and my children than in others….I never thought of that possibility….

Along with these statements I think of all the well-meaning advice I receive and witness about what to do during pregnancy, how we might deal with our pain or chiming in on when we’ve crossed an unhealthy line. One such example would be our jealousy of mothers of infants and pregnant women. I saw it suggested somewhere (vague citation on purpose) recently that we remember that those mothers are not the reason our babies died, and that those feelings are an indication that a person needs counseling to begin moving towards a healthy place. You don’t say? Because until you told me that I really thought other people had babies to spite me or that there was a universal baby quota I didn’t know about. It’s natural to feel this pain, even if it’s not acceptable to shout about it in public. I’m not going to wish something bad on a woman with a stroller or tell her how I feel when seeing her! Feeling bad is still a long long way from acting out.

And therapy might or might not help. For me, this blog helps far more than individual or group therapy. I have not historically done well with therapists. Our values and intellectual interests tend to clash – they want to analyze my feelings and I want to discern the historiography of their approach or talk about how what they’ve just said is so clearly culturally determined. I’m sure it’s possible to find someone with whom I mesh well, but the search for a compatible one would certainly just exhaust me and our insurance. I tend to think the therapy suggestion (but not the act of going) more often indicates that the adviser is uncomfortable rather than that the advisee needs professional help. And the suggestion itself reflects a broad discomfort with grief.*

Fairy tales and 16th and 17th-century witch trials include a familiar figure – the old haggard witch jealous of the young woman. Her hostility leads her to act, to try to destroy that woman. We all know what has to happen to the witch – she has to be destroyed. Those of us who are still or always will be childless are not the old haggard witches who desire to destroy fertile happiness, but in a way, the world treats us as if we are. I could carry this allusion very far & develop it into a far more sophisticated discussion if I did some more research rather than just think onscreen. But look at the hysteria around the very rare (but undeniably horrific) cases where a pregnant woman is murdered for her baby. The stories always explain the act via the example of infertility, or a miscarried or stillborn child. Yes, these stories happened. But no they cannot be explained so easily. Murder and kidnapping are not normal acts of a grieving woman. The connection there is too literal to be entirely useful. I know no one expects these acts of any of us and we won’t be literally banished to the town edges or suspected of possessing the mothers around us. But why do we latch onto the explanation that a woman who is not a mother of living children will go insane? And why do people sometimes suggest they know better than we do how we should feel? It’s the jealous old hag again. It happens for a reason. G-d only gives us what we can handle. There’s a time for everything. What happened to us tells something about us. We did something to make it happen, or we questioned G-d, or we needed a cosmic lesson. It was about us.

That’s not saying I’m not learning something through this pain. But I’ve also gained wisdom by having friends, being married, teaching, listening to the people walk by my house. I didn’t need this.

* That’s not an attack on psychology or psychiatry in general, just on how we tend to use and view it – as a place for people to go when we’re not coping well – and that’s judgment – not the purpose of the fields. I think everyone can benefit from a good therapeutic relationship if they have access to it.


9 responses to “Knowing things

  1. I understand your vague reference, and I agree. It is hard to listen to the true raw, deep, emotional feelings of a person in pain- but that is exactly what that person needs. Someone to listen without judgment. Someone who understands that even though we may die inside every time we see a pregnant woman or baby, that does not mean we actually wish that person harm. Sometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself permission to say (or write) your feelings out loud. It can be healing to shout out the very worst thought you have, and discover that the world has not come to an end simply because you dared to say the unthinkable.

    And you already know how I feel about the whole ‘meant to be’ garbage.

  2. Absolutely Lori. Especially for those of us who are in the habit of nurturing or making other people comfortable!

  3. This is why I am so grateful to my friends for never saying this crap.

    The people who drive me mad are the ones who think that because some of us choose to make meaning out of our experience in a particular way that they approve of, than that is why we had to have it. I call bullshit. What we choose to do with the shambles that is our lives may tell one what kind of people we are, but it does not in any way tell anyone anything about what kinds of experiences we needed in our lives.

  4. Like you, I spend a lot of time looking up things that I already know. And that series sounds fascinating.

    I think other peoples’ grief can be frightening. Both because it’s hard to deal with, since there’s rarely anything concrete that can be done to help, and because, at some level, there seems to be an unconscious feeling that bad luck is contagious.

    And I completely agree with you that when people suggest therapy, it’s often just a way of trying to wash their hands of the matter.

    I have lots of experience with this, since my family just can’t believe that it’s normal that I’m still unhappy. After all, it’s been six whole months.

  5. I think you should consider seeing a therapist. lol. :o)

    Seriously…that suggestion always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up just a little bit. I think the reason it bothers me is because there is an inherent judgment in there that says, “I don’t think you’re dealing with this well.” I also think it’s because I feel like the person is really trying to say, “Don’t talk to me about this…talk to a professional…I don’t want to hear it.” And that hurts.

  6. I wanted to add that I too can relate to the desire to keep searching for information you already have. I did that so much after both the loss of my twins, and in my subsequent pregnancy. I know I was subconsciously looking for answers or assurance, neither of which really existed.

  7. I saw that comment and was outraged that she was not even validating the feelings. I think some people think therapy is the new “pharmacy”. You take a pill or go to a session and poof, all gone.
    I think those other comments people say are *sh%t*. But I do feel self conscious when people say things, like they are judging my character or lifestyle and looking for flaws and when they find them, then yes, of course that’s what caused my baby to die.

  8. Gee, i didn’t see the comment in question…now i must go search every blog to figure out what everyone is talking about!

    Or maybe i will just go attack a huge pile of laundry…that’s right, watch me exercise some self-control for *once*…

    And i agree with everything you have said here!

  9. I am so tired of people opening their mouths and saying unhelpful and insensitive things. One of the worst lately was when someone said to me, “Well, I had 2 miscarriages and my son died at the age of 30.” That was from left field. I also just got back from a teacher conference, where I had to spend hours and hours with pregnant women who complained about everything and tried to give me advice. There might be a tie between the complaints about the baby kicking and being stuck in a car for 4 hours, having to listen to three different delivery and baby stories.

    I think these people need some counseling to stop being so whiny, superficial, and uncompassionate. Just my humble opinion. šŸ˜›

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