A few weeks ago, I thought about writing a post about my tendency and the tendency of others to compare our pain to other's pain. As so often happens, the topic arose on other blogs before I had a chance to write about it. Several blogs touched on the topic, which could be summed up as "whose pain is worse?"
Sometimes I think my own pain is pretty bad, but of course there is always a worse story. How valid is my pain? How does it compare to others?
It seems like there is usually some small part of me that is keeping a mental score sheet of who has it better, who has it worse. What if I took it a step further? What if there was a pain point chart for infertility? What if it went something like this:
Category I. This category is about time. I think so much of the pain of infertility comes with time. How long has your life been in this state of uncertainty and disappointment? Can you even remember a time when you believed that everything would work out the way you planned it? Points in this category would be awarded as follows:
100 points for the first year of no successful pregnancies
200 points for the second year
300 points for each subsequent year of infertility
Category II is about treatments and conditions.
100 points for each unsuccessful IUI -including chemical pregnancies
300 points for each failed IVF-including chemical pregnancies
100 points for male factor
100 points for female factor
200 points for unexplained infertility (the extra points for unexplained infertility are due to the lack of treatment plans available, but equal the same as male/female factors combined)
Category III Miscarriage
This is a tricky category because I know how painful it is to have a miscarriage and sometimes I wish I had never conceived the pregnancies that I lost, but I know that those that go through years of negative pregnancy tests wish they had the knowledge that they could even get pregnant. So I'll award points as follows:
100 points for each first trimester miscarriage
150 points for each second trimester miscarriage
100 points for each year (not including the first) that no confirmed pregnancy is achieved
10,000 points for those that have lost a living child
You must deduct 500 points for each living child you have.
Category VI relates to external factors that you have to deal with on a weekly and/or daily basis
50 points for each child that is born to other family members while you are suffering from infertility
50 points for each child born to best friends (up to three friends) while you are suffering from infertility
And so on...There are a million more possible points to be allocated, but the whole idea just gets sicker and sicker. Because, needless to say, there is no measurement for pain. As much as western society feeds on competition and quantifying, it cannot be done when it comes to emotions. Nobody "wins" when it comes to grief. Pain just sucks, and if it dominates your life, it can be crippling. What I forget on occasion is that pain is not about what has happened to you, it is about where you are, how you feel. It's your view on the world. People that are clinically depressed and maybe even suicidal may have lives that from the outside appear perfectly okay. Does that make those peoples' pain less valid? Of course not.
My personal score on this idiotic point system would only be 350 (of course I had to do it - just because it was there.) Pretty low in the scheme of things, I have to admit. I know people who would have much, much higher "scores." But I don't feel any less sad because of that fact. And therein lies the biggest problem with comparison, it never makes you feel better. It's not about where you fall on the bell curve, it's about getting off the bell curve.