For a few months, I’ve been seeing a lot of the phenomena I call The TTTC Olympics. Here on the blogs, on lots of forums, etc. It’s like a competition to see whose trouble in trying to conceive is worse. “Well, at least you ovulate and get a period.” “Well, at least you have an actual diagnosis.” “Well, at least you can get pregnant (even if you have recurrent losses).” “Well, at least you responded to X and/or Y.” “Well, at least you have the resources to do X and/or Y.” And on and on it goes.
You know what I call? I call bullshit.
I’m not a Kumbaya kind of TTTCer. I don’t actively seek out the infertility community. I’m not touchy-feely and there are times when I know my tone and intent are completely misread. I am a snarky loner and I know it. For the most part, I embrace it because while we can all band together in the act of struggling, no one shares the exact same road. It’s called la vida. At one point or another, we diverge. And because we’re all behind computer screens? I know you’re more than ones and zeroes, but my reality is my reality and I’m selfishly focused on that for the most part.
But that reality and those lone wolf tendencies don’t preclude empathy for me, no matter how your struggle has defined itself.
Can we all agree that, in the end, it sucks to not be able to conceive? That no matter how the hand’s been dealt to us, the fact is that we’ve gone on for a long time without certainty and sometimes without hope? Can we agree that everyone’s journey is deeply personal and that we all mourn failed cycles and diagnoses and treatments in our own way? Can we agree that the perceived positives you have can actually be painful for the person experiencing them?
Holy shit, if I were to turn to someone with recurrent losses and say, “Well, at least you can get pregnant,” I would richly deserve a beat down. Their pain is not mine to minimize—just like I can’t minimize the pain of someone who can’t ovulate, someone whose IVF has failed, someone whose IUI has been cancelled. We are human and in this struggle we are constantly disappointed (and that’s what makes it so damn hard!).
My job, in that moment of disappointment for others? To offer kind words and reassure them I’m rooting for them. While I keep to myself, I do actively hope everyone gets off the TTC train and into parenthood.
But, similarly, I also have pain to deal with even though everything’s functionally fine with me. I’m also worthy of empathy, just like everyone else in this damn TTTC room (again: this room sucks, y’all).
Listen, we’ve all got to be mindful. We can’t say “Well, at least you …” to anyone because we all deal with disappointments in our own way. I may have perfect cycles, but it doesn’t lessen the disappointment of each month. For me, the accumulation of cycles is like repeated blows to the side — ow, ow, ow. It hurts. To dismiss that and say “Well, at least you …” is cruel. I get over the end of a cycle quickly, but I am allowed that moment to mourn without being told to buck up because of X or Y.
I deal with disappointment in my own way, as you deal with disappointment in your own way. We all find silver linings in our own way. I’ll be damned, though, if I try to tell you what your silver lining is. That’s not my place. That’s not the way to help someone deal with disappointment. Minimizing what a woman feel robs them of agency and personhood. My place? Is this:
I feel you. This wait is terrible. This struggle is hard. No matter how you got here, no matter what your body is doing, you’re in pain and I’m so sorry for it. I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I know you’re angry, I know you’re hurt, I know it’s unfair, I know you’re sometimes afraid to hope. I have no words of wisdom except: HUGS.
TTTC is enough of a mindfuck. Why do we play The TTTC Olympics? Why do we hurt each other with that game?
Empathy should be the game here. Empathy is the ability to put yourself is someone else’s shoes. It calls not for a comparison to your situation, but an understanding that the person you’re trying to comprehend is unique and deserves that moment of consideration.
People may not face the same challenges as you do, but their emotions and reactions are completely valid. Recognize that. You can think you have it worse than they do. You can feel it. That’s fine.
But for Christ’s sake, know you’re creating unnecessary fissures in the community if you choose to actively tell someone their experience isn’t as valid as yours. Resting on TTTC comparisons and not on empathy is a dangerous thing.