Baby Loss and the Pain Olympics
Taking time away from making a tortilla espanola for the seder tonight to respond to Samantha Schoech’s post on Babycenter about equating miscarriage with baby death. Mostly because I need to take it out of my head in order to cook.
She’s entitled to her opinion; thought it is just that: her opinion. Just because she doesn’t believe in looking at miscarriage as the loss of a baby doesn’t mean that others can’t. The simple solution — the one I choose to take — is to not read her posts anymore. And frankly, to not visit Babycenter so I don’t have to encounter her posts. It’s a big Internet. If Schoech chooses to write that, she can and if Babycenter chooses to publish that, they can. But I also have a choice here: not to support the site and not to read her work.
By which I mean that when I get a sense that someone is writing something inflammatory solely for page views and not to release something important from their mind, I tend to be turned off and stop reading. I personally dislike having my feelings fomented for no other reason than to increase page views. And my foment-o-meter which measures things that are written only to upset people is on red with this post: I believe that Schoech believes this, but I believe that Babycenter latched onto it because they want page views:
Not because they want an actual conversation.
I base this on the judgmental nature of the language used in the post. Schoech writes in the comment section: “I care very, very deeply about language. It matters. I influences everything form emotions to politics to… everything.”
Language matters, which is why she used phraseology such as:
- “A familiar pet peeve. If one more person calls a miscarriage the “death of a baby” I’m going to lose it.”
- “I have living children now and I can say that losing one of them would make my three miscarriages look like mosquito bites in comparison.”
- “The attitude that equates miscarriage with the death of a child bothers me because it is hyperbole and hyperbole bugs me.”
- “It bothers me because it’s what my grandmother would have called ‘ghoulish,’ that weird delight we all take in recounting stories of horrible misfortune.”
And then, of course, she goes on to misappropriate the term “nazi” a few times for effect. Even though hyperbole bugs her.
My reaction to her post comes solely from this thought:
You know those conversations you sometimes get into where it just becomes one person after another upping the ante on untimely deaths, awful illnesses, and hideous accidents?
Well, this “death of a baby” thing strikes me as the same thing. It’s reveling in its own melodrama.
This post does exactly what she finds repulsive, reflecting what she despises and in doing so, creates her own melodrama. Instead of trying to top each other in the Pain Olympics by having the worst story possible, this post aims to negate the emotional pain of miscarriage by dismissing it — pointing out all the ways it’s not-as-bad-as. It’s a mosquito bite, after all. It’s ghoulish.
I do despise the Pain Olympics because comparative pain is only hurtful. It’s using your hurt to hurt another person. It’s called the Pain Olympics because there are winners and losers. There can’t be two people on that gold platform. Though the problem with the Pain Olympics is that there is always another person who can knock you off that podium. Who has it worse. Who can negate your pain if you want to enter into a contest with the world.
I much prefer the Pain Campfire, where we’re all gathered around in a circle sharing support for each other’s stories with the understanding that we’re not there to shoot each other down but rather to collectively lift each other up. It may be my kumbaya-ness coming through.
I think we can all agree that there are varying degrees of pain, though I believe the degrees of pain are processed in such a personal way that we can never truly define what is “just as bad.” This morning I got my period and without even taking a pain killer, I went to a 75 minutes flow yoga class and sweated my ass off. And THEN I went home and took the Alleve. Because that’s where my pain was — for me. My friend gets her period and she cannot walk around the house doing common tasks. She needs to take the Alleve immediately. It doesn’t mean that my pain is less and her pain is more. It means that we both have pain and we both process it differently. One way is not better or more natural than the other. I’m not a goddess because I can do yoga through the pain and she is not a wimp because she can’t move.
We are two separate people with two separate pain thresholds who have two separate pains. We are not two people who share a pain threshold who are experiencing one pain. Do you see the difference?
I find the Pain Olympics so disheartening because it is about negating the worth of another person’s pain by telling them that you’re going to put their pain (you know, the one you don’t know about because you are not them) in perspective. It’s about telling them to shut-up; and in doing so, the speaker feels better. And this is how I saw Schoech’s post. She isn’t starting a conversation: she’s telling people to shut-up. And perhaps it makes her feel better; maybe it’s a preemptive band-aid that she is placing over her fear of (G-d forbid) ever losing a child. Maybe she needs to do this for her own emotional well-being because she is so terrified of losing someone now that they are born and this makes her feel better. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that her point is to make other people upset or uncomfortable in order to relieve her own emotional discomfort.
I really have to question why seeing someone else processing their emotions is her pet peeve.
Do I believe a miscarriage and neonatal death is the same thing — of course not. If they were the same thing, they would share the same term. But just because I see them as apples and oranges doesn’t mean that I don’t also see them as fruit. They are both loss. Letting someone experience their emotional pain over a miscarriage doesn’t take away from another person experiencing their emotional pain over a stillbirth which doesn’t take away from someone else experiencing their emotional pain over a neonatal death. Because what is the trump card — the worst loss that wins you the gold medal? At what point does the hill start curving downward and we say, “feh, it isn’t as bad” again? Is the death of a one-year-old worse than the death of a baby? Does preschooler trump infant? Does elementary schooler trump preschooler? Do you see the insanity in this? Why should someone try to determine the worst pain? Why do we bother giving attention to someone who is shouting “your pain isn’t bad; this pain is bad”?
I am totally willing to concede that there is a pain continuum in this world, though I believe it is only rankable by the person themselves. In my world, menstrual pain is somewhere near a 3, hitting my head on something is near a 7, child birth is near a 7, and an HSG is a 10. In your world, menstrual pain may be an 8, child birth may be a 10, sex may be a 9. So yes, there is a pain continuum, but it is personal, unique to each experiencer. And I cannot tell you the order of your pain just as you cannot tell me the order of my pain: whether that be emotional or physical.
Those are my two cents.
And now I can go back to chopping potatoes.