Thursday, January 29, 2009


I recently wandered upon a blog entry that really got me thinking. I think I meandered to this blog through Becky's blog, but now that I think back, I really am not sure how I ended up at this entry. Either way, it really jumped out at me and gave me something to think about. It has stuck with me for a number of days, and I am finally getting around to writing a post on what I learned while reading this blog entry.

The entry was about experience and how we related those experiences to others.

Everyone has experienced something in our lives, unique to our lives. Not completely unique mind you, but unique enough that we find ourselves in an exclusive club of people. Some of my life experiences, "unique" to me include:
  • Growing up in south Florida
  • Playing high school sports and traveling around the country with those sports
  • Attending a Division I college on full basketball scholarship
  • Being married to my high school sweetheart
  • Waiting ten years to be parents
  • Spending five years doing infertility treatments
  • Living in Kentucky
  • Living in Minnesota
  • Adopting a baby (ISAAC!!!!!!)
  • Adopting from China
  • Being pregnant after infertility
  • Owning a Dalmatian
  • Being 6'3"

. . . Okay, okay. You get the idea. These are things that I consider myself "knowledgeable" about, or at least semi-knowledgeable, simply due to the fact that I participated in them.

Let me jump to one of my life lessons. That life lesson involves the title of this blog: Life in the Polar North. As most of you know, I spent four long winters in Rochester, Minnesota. You'd think that that would entitle me to claim a bit of "club membership" to the exclusive group of Minnesotans. Right?

Ha! Yeah right! Even though I learned how to say "Out and about" regularly and agreed to call my Coke or Soda a "pop" . . . I left Minnesota four years later feeling that, alas, I was not welcome in their club at all!

I promise you that no matter how cold it got or how much snow there was or how far I drove off the road into that corn field in that snow storm, the Minnesotans would not allow me to feel if I was in their club, especially when it came to the weather.

An example. The first winter I was in Minnesota it reached 40 below with windchill. Pretty cold I think. I made the mistake of running out to my car after teaching and coaching without my hat on. I had left it in my classroom and just didn't feel like going all the way back upstairs to retrieve it.

HUGE mistake.

As I sat behind the steering wheel, begging the Lord to take away the unimaginable pain in my ears from the exposure to the cold for just a mere fifteen seconds and, quite literally, trying very hard not to start sobbing uncontrollably in the fear of doing this for four more years, I thought: Okay. Now, I have experienced cold.

At least I thought that until I ran into some locals the next day. Their responses? Oh you think THAT was cold. You should have been here in the winter of '61 . . . or some other variation of that statement.

I had lived through forty below zero and I still wasn't in the club. Go figure!

The last winter we were in Minnesota, we had a snow storm in May. The record books even etched this one in as the largest snowfall ever recorded in the month of May in a 24-hour-period or something else of the like. Awesome! Now I am in the club! I lived in Minnesota for a record setting summer day.

Yeah right! For one reason or another, despite the fact that two feet of snow had fallen as my birth date neared, I still didn't belong. This record really didn't count. Why? Well it depended on who you talked to. One person told me that it didn't count because while there was a lot of snow that fell in that 24-hour period, there wasn't as much snow already on the ground to measure into accumulation. When he was a kid there was snow on top of snow on top of snow and that was worse. Another person told me that these records didn't go back long enough. If they had gone back to when he was a kid (he was really old), then our May total would be rather pitiful.

You get the idea.

Clubless. Left out completely.

Okay, so, my point. Sorry.

My point is that I realized we all, myself included, do what the local Minnesotans did to me during those long winters. We want our pain or our experience to be the worst or the most important. It's human nature.

I used a fun example. I mean, who really cares if I belong to the Minnesotan club, right? But on a more serious note, there are other clubs. There are clubs for those who have lost a child, lost a parent, lost a spouse. There are clubs for those who have gone through infertility like we did or for people who have battled a terminal illness.

An example: I cannot tell you the number of times I have had someone say to me: "My husband and I have been trying to have kids for ___ years and have not been successful."

At this point I have two options. The first option is to weigh their situation and determine whether their pain qualifies them to be in my club. I can do this by saying things like:
  • “Oh, that’s nothing, I…”
  • “Just you wait…”
  • “When it happened to me…”
  • “Toughen up…”
  • “You’ll get over it…”
  • “Trust me, I know…”

Or something similar.

But instead of trying to compare my pain . . . instead of trying to make sure that they are "allowed" or "justified" to feel the same pain as me, I could use a second option which sounds more like this:

  • “I’m so sorry you’re experiencing so much pain…”
  • “Keep hope, it’s hard but it will pass…”
  • “Tell me more about it…”
  • “How can I help?”

Or best of all, silence and a good set of listening ears.

I have had so many people write me emails or say to me in person that they feel guilty grieving their own infertility when they read how long and how hard the journey JB and I traveled. I am quick to tell them that grief is not something you can measure. My five years may seem like a lot. Four negative IVFs seems like a lot. But trust me. Somewhere there is someone who is looking at my little 'bout of infertility and feeling that I don't belong in the club.

The truth is, if you have dealt with infertility for even one month longer than you thought you should, you have a taste of this cruddy road. You understand my grief. You can sympathize. You can feel for me and for others like me. Your understanding may be different. It may less or more intense. But grief is grief. We can all sympathize and be there for someone no matter what. Heck, even if we haven't lived with infertility ourselves, we can be there for other people with understanding and kind words.

I leave you with the hope that the next time someone tries to join your club, you welcome them with a listening ear and words of encouragement -- not guilt that they aren't as worthy a member as you are. I also want to encourage those of you out there who are in the early months or years of struggling with infertility to feel free to email me as you deal with your grief. I will never think that you don't have a right to be frustrated, scared, grief-stricken, overwhelmed. There are no rules when it comes to grief, and if it's been one month, three years, or ten years, your understanding of what it is like to watch a dream slip away is real.

Oh and c'mon local Minnesotans . . . even if I only did four winters in Minnesota, I think I put in enough time to at least have a partial membership to your club. Don't you?!


Amy T. S. said...

If they give celebrities "honorary degrees" to universities they never attended, you'd think that you would be able to get an honorary mention in the Minnesota club!

Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf said...

Beautifully said (((hugs)))

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to part of the "mom" club but there was always someone who had more children, had been a parent longer, had better parenting skills... And now,the Dugger family-there's no way to compare! I think you nailed it when you said -just listen:)
love you, mom k
ps Save this one for the book:)

Erica said...

Good post, Wendi. :) I laughed so hard about the Minnesota club because you hit the nail on the head. This is my 3rd winter here, and they still say that to me..."Oh this is NOTHING." Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Wendi. You're part of the MN club. :D And if it makes you feel any better, I've lived here all my life and that's just what we do here. For example, we just had a temp of 36 below without windchill and when talking about it there was at least one person who said something to the effect of "that's nothing! I remember when...." So, in my book you're a Minnesotan. And a smart one at that because you moved to a warmer climate. LOL :D


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. :) So well written. I agree that you should include it in your book.

-friend from HP

AW said...

This is something I really try hard not to do. It's hard sometimes, but learning to meet someone where they're at in their grief is really an important thing. I remember sitting in my Shiloh bible study (IF support group) and hearing other women share their stories and inwardly feeling angry at some (you've only tried for 6 months, why are you here?) and inwardly embarrassed to be sitting in the same room (you've had 7 miscarriages? Why do you keep trying?). We simply cannot compare stories. Now that I'm typing this, it reminded me that it was one of the "rules" of the not compare. What that taught me was to be more like Christ: to meet people at their pain, however insignificant it might seem in our eyes. Because after all the torture that Christ went through to forgive us and pay for our sins, isn't that what He does with us? Not having a fulfilling career - what is THAT in the grand scheme of his torture?! I'm sure I sound like a whiney brat. LOL! But He continues to love and comfort and promise me a better future. If He's doing that with us, why wouldn't I do that with others in their pain?

This is a great post. Thank you for addressing it! And reminding me how far I still have to go!

thePiks said...

Wendi, I have been following your blog for several months now and have finally decided to leave a comment. I am amazed that you are experiencing all these contractions and waiting and still sit down and write something so meaningful and well stated. Thanks for sharing! Prayers for a quick and safe delivery!

Anonymous said...

Minnesotans: a club you never knew you were a member of until you realize you're "okay" with the contents of your nostrils freezing while walking to your car.

Very well stated. I liked this post. Good luck in the next few days, Wendi!


Thelma said...

I was going to post on something very similar, but you said it far better than I could.

Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

I think you're in the club. For a Floridian to survive 4 years that far north is an unusual thing!! Good for you. And I echo you need to add this to the book. It's great stuff :)

Becky said...

I think you probably did wander onto that blog entry from my blog since I have a link to it.

I definitely needed to hear this because lately I have been finding myself doing this, not with m/c, but with the number of years that someone has been experiencing IF. It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing pain and start discounting the pain of those who have been trying for less time. This is such a great reminder to me of the support I can be to others no matter how long they have been trying.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

Wonderful post!

I do think that those comparisons are made even to other legitimate members of a "club." One mom telling another that she doesn't know sleep deprivation unless she's had twins, for example. Or a cold-weather veteran telling a younger native of the same city that it was much colder in their day. The common theme is one person trying to put themselves above others. So those people would say that you're less of a Minnesotan than they are no matter what, but that doesn't mean you can't be in the club.