Sometimes knowledge is power and sometimes knowledge is pain

I have a friend who is a doctor and she shares snippets of her daily life- the trials and tribulations of a resident physician, her patients and the lessons about life she learns. Some stories are beautiful and uplifting. Some make me cry. Some make me cringe. All are insightful.

Recently she wrote of a meeting of providers- discussing their patients’ cases and one of them, an oncologist was distracted because he had recently learned of his mother’s breast cancer. He had trouble focusing on the meeting because he knew better than anyone what the diagnosis meant for his mother and his family.

“Because sometimes knowledge is power and sometimes knowledge is pain.”

This was me, my entire pregnancy with Mabel. I had a week before my first ultrasound where I assumed everything would be okay. Until there was no heartbeat and we thought I had a blighted ovum. Seeing a heartbeat a week later, confirmed a viable pregnancy but I spent the rest of the first trimester knowing what it felt like to miscarry and worried I’d be feeling that way again. Though I told my family I was pregnant before my genetic testing, I asked them not to share the news until we got the results, because even though I had no risk factors, I knew it could still happen to me. When I learned Mabel had Down Syndrome, I decided to accept the diagnosis, but it wasn’t simply recognizing I’d be raising a child with special needs. It was also recognizing that I might not be- I was all too familiar with the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth with the diagnosis (ironically, I wasn’t thinking about neonatal loss). When we were told her kidneys weren’t working, she had no fluid and if she were even to be born alive, her lungs would likely be too small to sustain her life, I had some hope, because what mother doesn’t? But I also knew. I’ve told people myself when there is no fluid at early gestation that their baby will die. I knew.

Yes, sometimes knowledge is power. I was able to research and make my own educated and informed decisions about my body and my baby. But knowledge was also pain for me. I never enjoyed my pregnancy like I should have, like I wished I did; it was too tainted with worry.

I’m sure those of you out there who have had a pregnancy after loss also know that knowledge is pain. There are some of you who may have learned that lesson with your first pregnancy, like me.

Is knowledge power? Is knowledge pain? What is your experience?


6 thoughts on “Sometimes knowledge is power and sometimes knowledge is pain

  1. Ugh. Both! The more you know, the more prepared you are for the worst. It doesn’t soften the blow, but at least you’re not completely blindsided. I know we’ve talked a lot about how there is no “worse” and no “hierarchies of grief,” but I personally think it’s better to have been prepared for my son’s death than to have lost him to a stillbirth after a picture-perfect pregnancy. I do think that in my case, I appreciated that I was at least informed that bad things were likely to happen. As a mom, you still have so much hope that things will turn out well, so the grief is something you’re still not able to prepare for. Now that I’m talking myself in circles, I’ll say – knowledge is powerful, but having it doesn’t make it any less painful.

    • I have similar feelings. I felt the knowledge was power learning about Mabel’s DS- I could prepare. But it was painful knowing all the risks. The eventual knowledge that Mabel might die based on her birth defects was powerful in a way- allowed me to be prepared for those six hours I had with her- had I not known, the different kind of trauma associated with meeting my baby and having her whisked away only to die shortly after, would have been so awful (not that my trauma wasnt awful- just a different kind of awful. a calm awful?) But the knowledge killed most of the joy I had in pregnancy- I mourn my baby but I constantly mourn the loss of a joyful pregnancy, which for me in my field was so important. I’m so sad about that. But if i were to do it again, I would choose knowledge and the power that comes with it, despite the pain.

  2. From where I’m standing knowledge is power – I’d never heard of HELLP syndrome before the diagnosis, and if I ever get pregnant again I’ll be better equipped to spot the signs. However, knowledge is also pain because it’s terrifying to know how close to death I came, how it could happen again, not to mention all the awful pregnancy complications I now know about. Sometimes I wish it were possible to selectively erase knowledge and memories x

    • exactly. knowledge can be life saving- you are the perfect example- but terrifying too, so close to death, impact on the future. I too wish I could have selective memory loss!

  3. I think it’s both. Every batch of tests they run on me seems to turn up something new, but that is knowledge we can use to refine the next try. Also, I’d rather know I have a blood clotting disorder (lupus anticoagulant) before I have a blood clot. I can be more careful to lower other risk factors. In that way it is power.

    It is also pain. I watched my sister struggle with infertility before I began my batlle, and I’ve always been a believer in educating oneself about medical issues, so by the time it was my turn I knew a lot already. On my second pregnancy, I watched as my hcg levels failed to double, then sped back up, then slowed again. I then watched the growth in my weekly sonos do the same thing. After a sono where I was measuring 2 weeks behind, my Dr. told me it didnt look good, but it could turn around; stranger things had happened. I knew better. I told him, “No. I’ve seen this movie before. I know how it ends.” Two weeks later I was right. That was painful. Or trying to explain to my Mother-in-law that there was nothing to hope for in a pregnancy with an initial HCG level of 7 (they always say that 1st number doesn’t matter, but it matters when it’s 7). She stubbornly insisted she would hope for me if I wasn’t going to hope. Yeah, knowledge is pain, too.

    • the curse it must feel to have watched your sister deal with infertility only to go on to suffer in pregnancy yourself. It’s hard- I am a big believer in knowledge, but it can hurt some times- robbing us of those normally happy moments before the doom sets in.

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