The Pain Olympics

There are many types of bloggers.

For example:

A) Those out to promote themselves and their talents in specific ways (design bloggers, food bloggers, style bloggers)
B) Writers using their blogs as a platform to promote other works (novelists, non-fiction authors)
C) Experts advising on the right way to do things (nutritionists, doctors)

On the other hand, there are also bloggers writing about painful experiences they are going through. These writers are trying to find their tribe, a group of like-minded people who have gone through something similar or perhaps are suffering from a disease. These bloggers are a different kettle of fish to me. (Yes, I like my fish metaphors.) In these cases, blogs are a type of support group for people isolated by geography.

We had a really interesting discussion here about criticism. But one thing I neglected to bring up was The Pain Olympics.

What is The Pain Olympics?

I don’t know where the term came from and I wish I did, because it is such a great phase. The Pain Olympics aptly describes the following phenomenon: people minimizing your pain by comparing what you are going through to another experience.

Here’s an example. I was listening to the latest edition of the Bitter Infertiles podcast. I am a sometime contributor to the program, and I was aghast to hear that a listener was annoyed with my participation because someone with DOR who conceived twins on her first IVF attempt is unusual. The overall complaint was that the panel wasn’t diverse because the other panelists are now all pregnant. Not only were the “facts” about me wrong, but the notion that I hadn’t suffered enough to represent the community was sort of offensive. The assumption that my fellow panelists had not suffered enough was DEFINITELY offensive.

(Aside: I have heard complaints that Faces of ALI only features the “worst case scenarios” and not the Clomid/injectibles/IUI cycles, which also leave their marks on those who go through them. It’s a complaint I am taking seriously.)

Bottom line: You can’t win when you play the Pain Olympics. No one can.

Finding Your Tribe

No matter how I approach it, I just can’t reconcile people criticizing the support group bloggers. They often write anonymously, they aren’t looking for fortune or fame, they have nothing to promote. They just want someone to say to them: “You are not alone. I also have been there.” Why follow someone to their anonymous blog about infertility to say: “Your experience is not worthy of sympathy or empathy.”?

I just don’t get it. Why bother?

What do you think about Pain Olympics and blogger comments?

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46 Comments

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46 responses to “The Pain Olympics

  1. findmynewnormal

    There are no medals given out in the pain olympics and there are certainly no winners. I can relate to what you are saying so much. I don’t get why we knock each other in the ALI community. Why we compare losses. Do I win because my baby died? Does the fact that I had a full term stillbirth mean that I can’t feel empathy for someone who had a chemical pregnancy? Of course not and it’s silly to even entertain these kinds of conversations. I just ignore people like that.

  2. The pain olympics make no sense because everything is relative. There’s always someone who could outdo the terrible story of the person claiming their pain is worse. If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear your thoughts about IF-ers invoking the pain olympics to do the opposite – minimize their own struggles. I see a lot of that too (heck, I do it myself. “Only” three miscarriages is a recurring phrase on my blog.)

  3. Of course in a logical world, the Pain Olympics make no sense. That said, I think that there are at least two different kinds of Pain Olympians. There are people who won’t really be convinced that a problem is serious until it affects them. That type of self-centeredness is common, and its appearance in blog comments really says nothing of interest about the actual content of the blog post being commented upon or anything else.

    Another type of Pain Olympian is someone who is drowning in their own pain to the point at which their sympathy reflex has stopped functioning properly. Comments from this type of Pain Olympian are best viewed as a desperate cry for help. If a person finds herself playing the Pain Olympics, even in her head, it’s a good moment to take stock and make sure that she has done everything in her power to deal with her own pain in a healthy manner. Is she seeing a counselor? Has she enlisted the support of loved ones? Is she being kind to herself and respecting her own limits (including the limits of what she can read without suffering)? If not, then perhaps her foray into competitive pain can be an important wakeup call.

    But I think those moments are also an appropriate time for the target of the Pain Olympics to take stock. I suppose I’m referring more to real-life situations here, where the parties involve have a relationship that pre-exists the conversation, but surely this is often the case in blog conversations as well (i.e., the writer and the reader have established a relationship). The pain may be real, but is the person targeted by the Pain Olympian choosing an appropriate audience to which to complain? While I don’t think that a blogger necessarily has any obligation to the larger community, I do think that, for example, an ALI/PAIL blogger experiencing an unplanned, poorly-timed, or unwanted pregnancy would be well-advised to start a new blog upon which to explore her ambivalence about the pregnancy, or her thought process about the decision about whether to terminate a healthy, but unwanted pregnancy, rather than continuing to write to a readership largely consisting of people struggling with loss or infertility. Her problems are real, and worthy of sympathy, but even a cursory consideration of her audience should lead her to the conclusion that a) she is likely to get more support elsewhere, and b) that a discussion of her problem in some venues (with which she is intimately familiar) might cause her customary readers substantial pain. (You might think that this isn’t a real example, but it is something that I have experienced IRL with a family member who was my closest supporter while we were going through primary IF together–she just couldn’t seem to grasp that despite the fact that her problem was real, it wasn’t appropriate to come to ME to complain when my final failed IVF happened to coincide with her third, unwanted, pregnancy). Obviously that’s not what’s going on when someone going through her fifth loss dismisses the pain of someone going through her third, but at least occasionally, a sudden outburst of Pain Olympics in the comments can be an honest signal of insensitivity toward audience.

    • Sara, I feel the exact same way. Thank you for explaining your thoughts on this so well!

    • I appreciate the point behind your words here, but I don’t think anyone should ever have to feel that the most appropriate course of action is to up and move their blog. That’s very isolating and really puts the burden of community emotions on the individual. We all group together to support each other– we do it to strengthen ourselves and each other, not to take on a burden that we then have to shoulder in times of transition and change (which, as many of us know, also means fear and anxiety when pregnancy/adoption after IF is concerned). I do think that it’s appropriate to make a post and come right out with it in a “listen, I understand if you need to step away from here for a while” sort of way. I’ve seen that done plenty of times and it’s worked out fine because it’s considerate and courteous.

  4. I stopped going to ALI altogether when I got one of those ‘fun’ emails, accusing of being an imposter. Apparently, someone who had only a couple of clomid cycles and managed to get pregnant cannot count herself as an infertile. In my books, anyone who cannot do it on their on is infertile. Perhaps, my definition is wrong? For how long does one need to suffer, then?

    I did go through a year of problems – prior to even getting to see a specialist, wondering and torturing myself with thoughts of “will I ever get pregnant”. Who can decide whether I suffered “enough” or not? Who can compare? Should I be sorry I got lucky? But I left the monthly I love Comments week and pretty much limited my blog-reading (or, rather, commenting) to those who managed to get pregnant so as not to aggravate red flag. And then started a new blog altogether, wiped of all traces of IF; focused on the happiness of finally being a mother.

    • That really sucks– I’m so sorry someone tried to quantify your experience in that way (and found an inappropriate and insensitive way to vent off her frustration at you). You shouldn’t have to partition off IF to experience and process motherhood. IF has affected my personal early parenting experience and I would find it hard to blog without acknowledging it.

  5. Being perfectly honest, I think the term “pain olympics” is used TOO freely in this community. Many people sometimes say they can’t relate to someone else because the experiences weren’t similar, and they’re accused of playing in the “pain olympics.” That irritates me to no end. We all relate for different reasons, and I can promise you that when we were cycling (and failing miserably) with IVF, there was no way I wanted to follow people who were doing IUI’s because I just could not relate. I did not understand it. I was not doing it. Not the pain olympics, just wanted to spend my time relating to people whose experiences were “like” mine and who may be trying things that maybe I should be trying.

    I do understand people wanting to see more relatable experiences to their own – that’s why we all surf and surf to build a blogroll that we can keep up with, and RELATE to. I understand how someone could be frustrated with “Faces of ALI” for not sharing the experiences of someone who is doing IUI’s, for example. It’s all relative, right? I mean – I read every single one of your FofALI pieces and LOVE them, and have NEVER wondered about the IUI experience not being included yet. Because I was an IVF-er. If I was an IUI-er, I’d probably wonder, “what about me?” I don’t consider that the “pain olympics” at all. I just don’t.

    I have wondered how “Bitter Infertiles” is perceived/received by those who don’t know all of your histories, and given that you’re all pregnant now or parenting. It’s just “bad” timing, but to someone who doesn’t know you all the way that many of us “know” you, they could be frustrated by that. I get that. I think they should do their research before firing off nasty comments (your histories are quite easy to find, if you just check out your blogs), but I also understand their pained frustration at first blush. I don’t know what the person wrote/said about your experience and your “credentials” to be a guest/host of “Bitter Infertiles,” but I think the most important thing in all of this is to remember what it was like to be that person who still cannot get pregnant. I’m not proud of who I was back then. I’m not proud of the things I said and FELT. I know that I was beyond bitter and angry, and I’d hate for someone to hold me to that and let that taint their perception of me now. Having been there (and I wasn’t near as nasty as some of the things I’ve seen in the comments – I kept my thoughts and comments to myself with the exception of one time which I’m still ashamed of), I feel it’s my resposiblity as a member of this community to let people feel how they feel, and only confront it if it’s something that is bothering me, and to then LET IT GO. Because one day, hopefully, that person will be parenting and will look back horrified at what they said and did – and knowing that is enough for me. It’s all part of healing. We need to let these people heal.

    Long comment, and I’m sorry. I am just so frustrated with almost everything being termed the “pain olympics” these days within this community. It’s not always a competition.

    • I’ll admit the same– when I was pregnant, I started skipping some of the IFers in my reader. I needed hope and someone who was a bit ahead of me in the same game I was in to follow. That projection (aka “this will be me in a few months”) is how I process a lot of things– I have a good blog friend who has twin girls a few months older than mine (you know her!) and I love that sense of her being a few steps ahead of me. My journey is not the same as anyone else’s, not exactly, so it’s not TRULY following her path, but it’s how I deal with the unknown best.

      After I had my girls I wanted to read about people who were parenting but who “got” me, so I went in a “parenting through ALI” direction. That’s when the specifics of someone’s ALI journey started to matter less to me and I felt I could relate to most other “parenting through ALI” bloggers, whether they did IUI with injectables like me or did Clomid or did IVF or, hell, did IVF with no success and then got spontaneously pregnant a month later. When I was pregnant my “brand” of infertility felt like it defined me in a way; as a parent my history with IF just makes me feel connected to other people’s varied IF journeys.

  6. Wow. Sara & Courtney did such a good job expaining why people engage in the Pain Olympics. From the other side, I think that sometimes those of us who discount our own difficult experiences using the “Pain Olympics” language are actually trying to be considerate of others. I’d hate to be the one telling someone going into her fifth IVF that I understand how she feels, when I in fact conceived 2 children without medical help (one of them after several failed IUI’s, but no medical help that particular cycle). And so I start talking about how my experience wasn’t really that bad, I can’t compare it to another person’s etc. I’m often wary of offering support to real-life friends who are dealing with infertility, when their struggles are so much worse than mine. I don’t want to seem like i’m equating their struggles to mine. But the more we talk, the more we find out that we really do have so much in common. And luckily, the RL friends I’ve spoken to have dealt with enough people who have NO understanding of what they’re going through, that they’ll take me and my 3 IUI’s, no problem.

    As far as Faces of ALI, well, you’re not done yet! You’ve done a great job presenting variety so far. So, next up, IUI’s.

    • Deborah, I am struggling right now with what you describe. My second pregnancy was too easy, 1 FET and done. I don’t know how to support people who are on their 4th, 5th, 6th IVF cycle because we “only” did 3 to get our first baby. I feel like an imposter telling these gals that “I know how (they) feel” because DO I?

      It’s so hard to walk the fine line, trying to be supportive, but also trying not to offend.

      I’m glad you were able to conceive, ultimately, without medical help. What a sweet ending to a tough battle!

      • It wasn’t easy! You went through IVF.mmy darling sister, that was easy. Hmm should I have a baby I don’t know, let’s not oh I am pregnant again. That my friend is easy!!

  7. Yeah, that part of the comment where you conceived after one round of IVF of the comment shocked me too. To be so wrong about the facts and to minimize the pain of everyone was completely selfish on her part.

    But I think it’s part of a continual trend. People see others around them moving on. Jealousy erupts and anger. Or someone is struggling in all aspects of their lives decides to lash out. They minimize others to make themselves feel better. What the commenters in this case fail to do, though, is practice empathy. To take moment to acknowledge that they may not understand the situation or how difficult it is to produce an end product.

    I’ll end by sharing this recent Slate article with you. http://mobile.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/02/01/advice_for_women_dealing_with_internet_haters_assume_they_all_wear_fedoras.html
    A bit silly, but I think the message is sound.

  8. I’d say I have to work hard not to fall into the belittling my experiences camp, because I have a short “IF resumé” if you will, since I’ve managed to get pregnant without help 5 times and twice stay pregnant to 35 weeks or more. It’s a struggle for me as a reader of other folk who fall into that category too, because I don’t want anyone to belittle themselves or their pain because that isn’t something anyone can or should judge. There’s no medals for pretending something awful didn’t hurt so much any more than there’s one for hurting “the most” because “of the worst thing ever” whatever that might be. And Sara and Courtney are totally right on. The “my suffering is the WORST EVER” people are all about being self-centered and in a bubble where they choose not to have or are incapable of empathy, and well, haters gonna hate. There’s no fixing a personal emotional problem for anyone, and I do worry for those folks, that they’re getting help to handle things. Overall I get why and how it happens, and I try not to play personally and to call out those who are forcing folks to play. Life is hard enough without being hard on each other. I do look forward to that Faces of ALI portrait of the IUI person (and is there a Clomid only person too?) when you get there. Our diversity is our strength and while it can be hard, we need to be strong together because the rest of the world has NO IDEA and it’s better to have a safe space with people who (mostly) get it than to go back to being alone.

  9. The Pain Olympics. Argh. I think that pain is binary like uniqueness and there is no such thing as “more painful” or “less painful.” Pain is pain. Having said that, I admit to having felt bitter about those ALIers who achieve pregnancy after a couple of cycles of Clomid or an IUI. Or hell, even after an IVF and get to carry their own child. There. I said it. But I think part of it is my diagnosis and subsequent route to family building. I have a uterine anomaly that is very rare, so that made the people to whom I could relate while cycling a very, very small group. Then we pursued surrogacy. That made my group even smaller. And the financial cost of it all. I would never, ever tell the Clomid or IUI cycler that their pain wasn’t real or not as painful as mine. It’s every bit as painful and deserving of support and a place in this space.

    I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I think a lot of it comes back to what Courtney wrote about being unable to relate to a particular circumstance. And it may be that I’m still smarting from my experience w/ my former IRL friend who DID get pg w/ both her children on her first Clomid cycles. I was made out to be the horrible person when just once I wanted her to acknowledge that the hand we had been dealt SUCKED and that she was fortunate that her treatments were inexpensive, non-invasive and successful.

    Pain is pain, and it’s all relative.

    • KeAnne, can I just say how brave it was of you to admit your past bitterness? I felt the same way when we were cycling – I could not even hear about clomid and IUI cycles because it just made me so bitter that that couldn’t work for me. It was never bitterness towards the person who was successful with those treatments, it was bitterness that I couldn’t be. I would not call this the “Pain Olympics.” I would call this hurting, suffering, and mourning and leave it at that. I would also call it, “being human.”

      • Me too. It wasn’t that I was not thrilled for the, when they got pregnant it was just another slap in the face. However, I still recognized very much that they had gone through the same pain. I still think the first year was the hardest. After they there is a certain resignation about it all.

  10. I think that’s the point, infertility isnot an olympic event. Some people have to turn everything into a competition. You had 5 miscarriages? You win! But this person had 2 stillbirths, so that trumps the 5 miscarriages. What? Only a few Clomid cycles before you hit the jackpot – don’t even bother whining. It’s all so pointless. Everybody wants someone to relate to, be in a club where they can say “me, too!” There is room to be compassionate to all while keeping EVERYTHING in perspective.

  11. I saw two posts this week that got me thinking about this … and perhaps you saw the same ones. First, I agree with many commenters that we follow people whose experiences are like ours, because it’s easier to relate. But if we choose to follow other people whose experiences are unlike our own, because we choose to bear witness, then I think it’s incumbent upon us to be supportive, or to be silent if we don’t feel that we’re able to be supportive.

    On the other hand, people who blog about their personal lives because they are seeking support or community do — as I think I said in response to the previous post — take a risk … and just as happens in the real world, there are people who will make obnoxious comments. There aren’t any rules about blogging. Expectations, perhaps. But not rules.

    People are allowed to be assholes, unfortunately. It’s not against the law. It SHOULD be. This is one of those cases in which I find myself (very uncompassionately, I might add) hoping that karma, bitch that she is, comes back to bite them.

    For me, this comes back to a much larger problem: that I don’t think society is as civil as it used to be. And I don’t know if social media has made it easier to be uncivil by allowing at least the guise of anonymity. But I think that it’s something we all need to be working towards.

    • I absolutely believe that social media had made it easier for people to be uncivil. There is no question about it in my mind. I actually worry it is, or will one day, start expanding into the real world and people will feel emboldened to speak out negatively against people they meet face to face because they’ve had so much “practice” spewing vitriol anonymously online.

  12. Ditto to all the comments above. I “only” did a few rounds of clomid and three injectable/IUI cycles (after one naturally conceived stillbirth), never did IVF. And have continued to live without parenting ever since then. But I think my experience is still just as valid as someone who has done more cycles &/or had more losses. It’s not a competition and it’s certainly not about the numbers or whether you’ve managed to have a living child yet. We’ve all learned a great deal from our own personal experiences, and we all have something we can learn from each other.

    Re: representation on the podcast/Faces of ALI. I worked on our company’s newsletter for a long time… it’s a big company (currently 80,000+ employees in 55+ countries) and in each issue and over the course of the year, we managed to feature a pretty broad cross-section of domestic/international stories and, within Canada, from various provinces. We tried our darndest to be inclusive. And yet we’d hear constant complaints that “you never feature England” or “you never feature the western provinces” and so on. (Meanwhile, had they sent us any story suggestions or news leads from their area recently? — of course not.) You will never be representative enough to please everyone; someone is always going to feel left out or take offense. Just do the best you can & let the naysayers’ complaints slide off your back. : )

  13. The term pain Olympics I think was coined on Rachel’s on blog eggs in a row from a commenter and the term stuck. Depends on who is promoting the Olympics, I try to remember if it is an IF they are generally coming from a world of pain and need our support as they are hurting but I can’t stand anon bloggers, it’s just gutless to attack and then not have the balls to follow it up. At the end of the day no matter how we get here we are hurting and everyone deserves respect of their journeys to babies. And as an aside go you IVF 1 being successful with DOR in your face infertility 🙂

  14. When you put yourself out there in public, there will always be someone to criticize and given the emotional toll of infertility I’m not surprised that people lash out. Sucks when it’s directed at you though. Btw, in podcast about infertility and going thru infertility, who thinks that no one will get pregnant? Duh.

    Do you take ALI volunteers? I’m in the category of not going all the way do to speak before making a different choice. Anyhow, just putting it out there….

  15. I think at one point or another, when we all joined this community we started out as bitter and said and thought things we are ashamed of now. I started blogging because support where I live is non-existant and despite my efforts to start a support group, there was no response. I needed support and found the ALI community. When I joined this world, I had so much bitterness and hate and pain. Every single announcement ripped me apart. Then I started to calm down. We’re in this struggle almost 4 years and we are only now where most people start off after their initial diagnosis, but I’ve learned over time that if we want support, we have to give support. I had to learn that our stories are all in the same book regardless of the size and length of our story. Our end goal is the same and we all struggled to get to that goal. Some stories are a work in progress while others have moved onto the next chapter. We can’t lash out at everyone and then wonder where the support is.

    I’m still bitter sometimes when I have those dark days, but instead of lashing out, comparing pain, I find a way to process it and move on. I walk away, take a breather. I do what my mother taught me, if I can’t say anything nice, I just don’t say anything at all. So instead of pushing the Pain Olympics, I just do what I can. Provide support where I can, comment where I can, and if something happens to one of my blogging friends (a pregnancy, an adoption, a loss) I support where I can and if I feel that it could be a trigger for me, I’m honest. Sometimes it’s a simple comment of I’m so happy (or sorry) for you and what you are going through. I may not be able to comment as much as I normally do (but I’ll try!) and I’m still reading and still supporting you.

    But I think that no matter what we do, there will always be a fresh wave of new bitter infertiles walking into this community, hurt, sour and full of pain and they will need the time to realize that there is no need for attack here. But with that comes the rotation of comments like you received, people willing to lash out without doing their history check first. I don’t really know how to fix it, other than to just let the cycles roll through with gentle reminders from the rest of us that this isn’t a competition.

  16. I’ll be honest: I can’t read the women who get pregnant on the first IUI or clomid cycle. But it’s not because I don’t believe they are entitled to the frustration and pain they’ve dealt with getting to that point. Pain is pain, no matter what they’ve gone through to get to that point, you know?

    But I can’t read because of my own issues: It hurts that it’s taken us 7 IVF cycles and G-d knows how many FETs to be told Lucky is likely an only child. It’s hard on me – like Sarah said, it’s like the pain drowns out the empathy in moments. It’s my own issue, and I know it.

    But – thinking to a comment I saw recently on one of my favorite blogger’s post – I think it’s also the anonymity of the internet that makes it EASY to get aggressive with people, to make them feel badly for their own pain, when they “are blessed” yada yada. And it’s what I dislike most about social media, honestly.

    xoxo

  17. I try not to participate in the Pain Olympics, but I have to admit (since everyone has been so honest!) that the Pain Billboard Top 40 exists in my brain. I was diagnosed with POF at 25 before I had any children. It is really hard for me to relate to anyone who “got to” try clomid or IUI. I realize that those treatments are not a privilege, but I really wish they were an option for me! I mostly read and follow blogs of people who are doing IVF. These writer also have something I don’t have: a chance to have their own genetic child. To be honest, if I could exclusively follow people with POF doing DE/IVF, I would. But these just aren’t that many. And so I read other people blog and I get a lot out of them! It has helped me realize that pain is pain and we are all struggling with similar emotions, fears, anxieties, etc, even if we are at different stages of treatment. But, I can;t deny that I just relate bettter to people in the same boat as me. Thanks for addressing this issues and for all the awesome, honest commenters!

  18. The problem with the Pain Olympics is that there is no impartial all-wise judge who is elected unanimously to determine and compare pain levels. We each see ourselves as the only judge who matters. Our pain — especially when we’re in the thick of it, and being the only pain we can feel first-hand, tends to trump that of others.

    It’s a lot like solitaire. You only play against the house. And the game seems rigged against you (whether it is or not).

  19. Mel

    The term Pain Olympics has definitely been in the community since 2004, but I assume it was much earlier than that and borrowed from another community. I mean, Voltaire covered the topic thoroughly in Candide 🙂

  20. Argh,this topic. I feel, the Pain Olympics happens because most people lack self awareness. Whether the person is IF or not; if you don’t have any self awareness, you will not ever realized how your words and actions hurt others. And sadly, infertility does not cure it (throw in some girl-on-girl crime); and some people will use IF to justify behavior under the pretext of “don’t you know?! I’m IF and I deserve this!”.

  21. Mel

    Okay, I wrote up a history of the Pain Olympics in this community since it most definitely goes back waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before Eggs in a Row wrote about it: http://www.stirrup-queens.com/2013/02/the-chapter-on-the-pain-olympics-from-the-ali-community-history-books/.

  22. Pepper

    I had never heard this term before today, but I definitely understand it. I had a conversation last week with an acquaintance who is now pregnant with her second. She knows we did IVF twice to have our daughter and can’t get pregnant again. She got pregnant this second time with no intervention but the first time had to “take a pill every single day for a whole month.” She had an ovulation issue which was easily resolved. My issue with her came when she said “So that’s basically the same thing as what you did – I mean, I had to take a pill every single day. For a whole month!” I didn’t respond in the moment but later repeated it to my husband, angrily adding “A whole month?? I took a pill a day for months and months – and gave myself multiple shots a day for months and months!”

    And then it hit me – who is really being competitive here? Her? Or me? She went through the months and months of not getting pregnant, same as me. She wondered if she ever would, same as me. She went through the diagnostic procedures, same as me (to a point). So why am I minimizing what she went through? I guess because she said it was the same. But does it really matter? I don’t know.

  23. It is ironic that in the ALI community such a thing as the Pain Olympics exists. It shouldn’t, but sadly it does.

    We tend to gravitate towards people who have experienced the same struggles as us. It makes us feel as if we are part of something bigger, it makes us feel less alone, in a sense. That’s why, when I find a blog or a story that resonates with mine I feel immediately uplifted. What matters to me is that there’s someone out there who knows what it means to go through what I have gone trough. The internet is amazing that way.

    Going trough infertility or loss is something that nobody wants, it’s an undesired membership. This may cause in many people resentment. Resentment towards the experience or resentment towards someone who is going trough a similar situation, but who has had a different or “better” outcome.

    I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t felt sad or bitter. those are feelings that have been prevalent to me along this journey, because lets be real… this sucks, there’s no other way of putting it. But it doesn’t help if I start questioning another person’s feelings or experiences. There’s no need for that.

    You would think that being dealt the cards of infertility or loss and all that it entails, would be enough to make people more aware or more considerate towards someone who is also on the same boat. But that’s not always the case. Jealousy and comparisons are always going to be present no matter what, more so when it comes to such personal and intimate matters.

    Loss and infertility can shake us to the core and may blind us… many times. But it is important to be level headed and respectful of every one and each of the women and men who have walked amongst us trough this journey.

  24. pain and loss and grief are just so personal — no one is in a position to judge worthiness or magnitude except the person going through it. period.

    it’s so easy to dismiss the experience of others when we are focused on our own. but that doesn’t make either any more or less real. that said though, just because each experience is valid doesn’t mean we necessarily have to care equally about them.

    for ex., if I choose not to follow someone’s story because I’m not emotionally invested — for whatever reason — that’s OK. this may sound harsh, but you don’t have to be excited to read about someone getting pregnant on her first IUI; you don’t have to feel devastated if someone has an early miscarriage. all you need to do is respect how the person living it feels.

    I think what’s more significant is evaluating your own pain on some personal continuum, not as compared to others. sort of like when the doctor asks on a scale from 1-10, how is your pain level. sometimes it’s manageable. sometimes it may be off the charts. all that matters is what help/support you need to cope.

    although it may feel like a competition sometimes, it’s not. I was “lapped” so many times that I couldn’t even keep score (and it didn’t help anyway, so why bother?) and I mean come on, it’s not a like there’s a limited supply of pain to go around such that we need to curb the demand. loss is loss. pain is pain.

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  26. I’m pessimistic– I don’t see an end to this particular phenomenon (although, like Courtney, I’m reluctant to call everything that fits this technical definition as “pain olympics.”

    1) We’re always going to connect with the people who we relate to the best. Someone out there is always going to see that as a judgment. I read almost exclusively parenting-through-ALI blogs because I’m parenting through ALI, it’s where my head is at, and my daily experience is toddlers in my face while also having to finally make a decision about our next baby and the whens and hows of that.

    2) People will always quantify “some of us are IN the group and some of us are OUT.” Some of that is by strict definition of what infertility is. I’ve often wondered about how “I want to have a baby but my partner doesn’t want one and I feel trapped and lonely” factors into how ALI bloggers perceive otherwise fertile but childless-and-sad folks. I imagine that would feel an awful lot like infertility, but it’s not the same.

    3) This community has been divisive before, and it’s been along “Pain Olympics” lines. I haven’t yet forgotten how some of us were treated a year ago when we expressed that we wanted a set-apart, appropriate space to talk about pregnancy and parenting through ALI. There were a whole lot of people who weren’t pregnant or parenting through ALI who had a lot of very strong opinions about whether or not we should “need” that. Well, we did– and we’ve loved having it. But man, did that experience ever put a sour taste in my mouth right at the beginning of my entry into the ALI blogging world.

  27. The pain Olympics tends to surmise that there is better and worse pain and I just don’t understand that, to me, pain is pain. I never went though months of TTC naturally, my husband and I always knew that we would have to do IVF but does that mean that I can’t imagine, the frustration, fear and worry as each month goes by without a positive result? Of course, I can, I am a human being after all and I have the ability empathise. Do I think that this person is in pain? Yes. The same pain as someone who has lost a child? Yes, because for both of these people it’s probably the worst thing that has happened to them. Do I also understand why people who are going through ivf primarily follow other ivfers? Of course, we are all looking for validation or perhaps not to feel alone in our struggles.

    A really great post and some wonderful, thought provoking comments.

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  32. sifinalaska

    I don’t get it. And I am SO sorry someone would make you feel that way. It sounds so similar to those who have accused me of simply giving up and not wanting to be a mother enough, because I decided after 2 failed IVF cycles that I could not handle anymore. It cuts at me. How much more would I have had to go through in order for my decision to back away to be worthy? How much more hurt would you have to experience in order to be able to adaquately represent this community? There will ALWAYS be someone who has had it worse, so it is ridiculous to try to compare. None of our stories are the same… but isn’t that kind of the point? We learn and grow from each others stories… and the differences within.

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  35. The Pain Olympics…such a great term! I am so guilty of looking at others and saying (in my mind, never aloud) that I’ve had it so much worse. But I try to remind myself of the truth…that I have had it worse than many people, but also many others have had it way worse than me. I have a problem with envy too and I try to apply the same thought there: that there are lots of friends and people I know more casually who have it “better” than me (the friends who live in a big house in the Presido, the ones who have their Boston condo featured in a national decorating magazine), but also I’m about to buy a house and many of my friends, especially in SF, can’t do that. You can always find people better off or worse off…but in the end, what does it matter? We’re all on our own path and just because someone hasn’t had it as bad doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. For instance, my best friend just had a miscarriage, and she keeps saying it’s nothing compared to what I’ve gone through, but I don’t feel that way. A miscarriage sucks, period, you know?
    Anyway, I’m rambling but I guess my point is that it is so important to have compassion for everyone…life’s hard for everyone, everyone has things to deal with and what do you gain from being the one who has gone through the most? (Except maybe more compassion for others, which in my mind is a good thing). But it doesn’t make you better to have suffered more…

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