Empathy is a two way street

I’ll be the first to chime in with an “Amen!” when those in my community vent. We hear others complaining about not sleeping through the night because of a colicky baby or how they wish they could have some alone time just once in a while. We wish we could have that too and hearing people complain about what we wish for, just reminds us all the more what is missing. Sometimes our frustration is pretty valid, like how this loss mom describes how hard it is to read how people call their kids unseemly things in the name of humor. It’s hard for a bereaved parent to listen to others not appreciate what they have. I can get angry, especially at work where I see pregnant women and moms over and over. Sometimes my anger is justified. Sometimes it’s not.

You’re smoking marijuana while pregnant and mad at me for finding out? Sweet geez! You have no idea how good you have it! I would love to be pregnant and so unconcerned about my baby’s health that I make poor choices. Justified

You’re crying because you haven’t slept in days due discomfort of forty-one weeks of pregnancy? My gosh! You have no idea how good you have it! I wasn’t lucky enough to experience 41 weeks of pregnancy, let alone a baby to take home at the end of it.   Not justified.

I complain how people lack empathy for me and my situation. But who am I to speak, when I can’t show empathy towards others? Can I be mad at people when they make stupid decisions like drug use in pregnancy or calling their kids hurtful names? YES. I can and I will. Can I be mad at people who are suffering in their own world, even if there suffering isn’t as great as mine? NO. It’s like someone who has lost her baby and her husband looking at me and saying I have no idea what sad is. Or lost two babies. Granted, I think about these things. I have experience a loss that some would call the worst kind of loss. But not me. I know different. Since I have tasted badness, I know that there could worse. These women suffering in the discomfort of their expectant bodies just haven’t known worse. They are not thinking, “I should enjoy this moment of pregnancy even if my hips hurt, because my baby could die.” No one should think that. I’m sure, we of the babyloss, probably do think that with subsequent pregnancies; it’s where my mind goes when I hear these common complaints of pregnancy.

I need to learn to reel it in and bury these thoughts. They are unfair. I need to re-learn empathy. I remember a midwife who was once able to sit with her patients and empathize with their aches and pains. She was even able to do while pregnant with baby who was going to die. But she is not me anymore. I struggle everyday to be that midwife. I struggle to merely fake it.

14 thoughts on “Empathy is a two way street

  1. it is so difficult and you are doing the best you can! Hang in there. For the first 6 months after my loss, I hated seeing other babies/toddlers or pregnant women. Now, I just process the information differently, sometime suppressed and other times just pure numbing feeling.

    • I have that numbness sometimes. I actually think I was numb the past few months. now at the six month mark I”m having all sorts of feelings again. I wonder if its because I”ve had so much exposure so early that my feelings are jumbled up. I wouldnt mind some of that numbness returning. I had a feeling it wouldnt last

      • Whatever I feel I always tell myself it is OK to feel that way. Validation helps. But, I do not judge if it is normal and then I let it pass. This helps me to work through the process.

  2. You will get there. You’re so aware of the difficulties – but don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a rough place to be, so recently divided from your baby. I struggled with my work (still do sometimes) and it doesn’t involve babies apart from the rare pregnant colleague. Hugs.

  3. I comment here only infrequently, to let you know that I am listening, reading every post, and remembering Mabel, even though I didn’t know her and don’t know you. I comment infrequently because I am not a baby loss mom. But this post really resonated with me because it does apply, to a lesser degree, to many areas of life. My husband is in the Navy, so to hear people complain about their spouses “work trips” makes me a little disgruntled when I think about his rotating deployments. “Oh, how sad that you can talk to your husband on his cell while he’s gone for three days. I have 3 months to look forward to where I may not hear from him at all.” Nope, that’s not an appropriate reaction, even if I keep it in my head. But that’s beside the point. Every day I sit here and read, and frequently cry. You do great things every day. You get up and push and try and fight. I think you’re doing an amazing job, to rework yourself back into life while still keeping Mabel present in your heart every day. I cannot imagine. Go you.

    • As another babyloss mom – this is a really astute analogy. Like Meghan, I also sometimes struggle to remember that other people’s perception of “this is bad” is different from mine, simply because they don’t know worse. And that’s the struggle for all of us, right? Wanting them to “get” how much worse it can be without actually having to experience it for themselves. You get it. Thanks for helping me think about this a new way!

    • Yes! You get it, lauren! It’s the same feeling- us wanting people to appreciate their kids living existence, you wanting people to appreciate their partners presence. I’m so glad you shared this- it helps me remember things I want to be grateful for (like a partner I can reach by cell phone!) It’s so tempting for me to say to people “at least you have kids!”- but I’m trying to do away with “at least” from my vocab- its hard. I’m doing better at not saying it outloud, but I need to work on not saying it in my head. I”m glad I”m not the only one 🙂

  4. Absolutely. I try to remember it’s all relative – in a way I’m glad others can moan and vent so freely, because they’ve got no idea of the pain of the other side. I’m trying to reel myself in – life’s too short to get upset about every over-the-top moan – but there are times when, in our position, getting upset about inappropriate comments is justified. It’s part of the journey. Thanks for linking to my post, by the way x

  5. I lost my first pregnancy at 12 weeks. It was horrible. I was so damned grateful to birth a living baby a year later. I really didn’t care what I had to walk through to get her, to care for her, keep her safe. Nothing mattered as long as she was ok. That gratitude has never left me. That first baby shared my body for only two months, but she made me the mother I am.

    • some people get gratitude. some people dont, so much, because they are lucky enough to have not felt the misfortune of loss. I”m sorry you have had that experience and I”m glad you were able to appreciate your next pregnancy all the more

  6. I had a really miserable time when I was pregnant and I felt guilty for it. I still do. At 24 weeks, I started having trouble walking (because of no fluid, and the position of his head in my pelvis), and it just kept getting worse and worse. My hips were close to dislocating, my back hurt so much I couldn’t get up in the morning without assistance, I could barely make it to the bus stop, let alone shelve books at my library job. I felt terrible and I felt worse for feeling terrible. I knew that was my only time to spend with my baby, and I felt bad every time I complained. I felt like I was making it seem like I’d be glad if he were gone. So I struggled to not complain, and bit back a lot of comments I wanted to make about how I was feeling. Some still slipped out anyway. I find myself irritated with pregnant women who can still physically do things I couldn’t who whine about being overwarm or that their baby keeps kicking. I wish they’d remember that they should be glad at the reminder that their child is still thriving and that discomfort is part of the process. I doubt many of them had it as terrible as I did–at least not as long. So sympathy is hard for me, too. And getting harder.

    • YES! I did the same thing- I tried never to complain for the same reason! I just kept saying, I’m happy I’m still pregnant. I still struggle with empathy, but i’m trying…

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