I have received an outpouring of support since our latest profile opportunity that came and went so swiftly. People have been overwhelmingly kind as we faced waiting for so long and then having a hope snatched away (that honestly there was more probability of the snatching away than clutching towards us due to the nature of the process). I am trying very hard to see the good intentions and overlook comments that are less than helpful, the Everything-Happens-For-A-Reasons and other platitudes involving plans I know nothing about. I would feel differently about those possibly if I were a religious person, but I'm not. If that is helpful to you and fits with your beliefs I mean no disrespect, it just really bothers me personally to think that there is some plan where people's suffering is required, where we have to wait 7 years so far without a child, a plan where it's necessary for people to receive cancer diagnoses and die young, where children die in horrific circumstances. I have a teacher friend who said, "you know, none of that is actually in the Bible. I am a Christian and I don't believe those sayings are actually helpful." Interesting perspectives.
You already know how I feel about offering up alternatives perhaps we haven't thought of. Strange, how no one says, "Have you thought about letting all this go and living childfree?" -- everyone who has offered support (outside the blogosphere for the most part) seems to find that option horrid and encourages me to keep the hope alive. It's as if they see that option as the worst, the one absolutely without hope -- it makes them very uncomfortable that I have increasingly been seeing that as one very real possible outcome to all this. I hope that adoption works out, but if it doesn't (because while some people might be able to do this indefinitely, I don't think we can) I have become okay with an alternate reality than the one I've worked so hard for for so long. It doesn't seem that others are, but it's not their life. It's ours.
And this is where the most annoying comment of "support" comes in. "Been there, done that." A harsher way of saying, "I've been in your shoes, I know how this will go."
You've been in YOUR shoes.
All of our shoes are, in fact, different. I don't believe that you can actually say, "I know just how you feel," or "I've been where you are," or "I've been in your shoes," or "Been there, done that" and have it be true.
All of our experiences are an accumulation of everything that came before. We have different treads. We've walked different paths to get to these particular footsteps. Our backgrounds and perceptions and actual experiences are rarely the same. They can look similar, and you can share what things felt like for you, or say "I can imagine how hard this is for you," but to say "I know exactly how you feel" or worse, "been there, done that" assumes an awful lot.
For me, this failure to make having a family happen rides on a lot of history. Very little in my life has gone the way I envisioned it -- my parents' divorce when I hit puberty, my father moving across the country, a first marriage that was not built on "to love and cherish, forsaking all others" but "to belittle and control, seeking 'comfort' elsewhere," a divorce at 30 as a new career was starting and I'd thought I'd have kids by that time (but was grateful I did not), a wonderful new chance at marriage...but then a horrifically long and as of yet incomplete journey to have a child. I was already well-versed in disappointment before we started getting negative after negative.
Everyone comes to their family building decisions from different places. Everyone tries different things. Everyone has different triggers for grief. There isn't one journey that's harder than another, but they are all very, very different. Coming to adoption after 13 IVF cycles that went awry at one point or another colors my experience. For someone else, having a miscarriage at a later date, or recurrent miscarriages, or a stillbirth could be the thing that colors their experience differently. Or they could come to the point where they are faced with IVF and decide it's just not for them for a wide variety of reasons. It's also possible to have someone who goes cycle for cycle with you, does all the same things, but because of their unique background or context or support structure or relationships, the experience is not actually the same. It's all so different. There are so many shoes.
I'm sure I have fallen prey to this at some point or another, because everyone is actually human (as far as I know). I do make a real conscious effort to not pretend that my experience is universal, though. It's not. I can speak to certain decisions that I've made that maybe you are making, but not pretend that my decision making process and yours would be the same. It's not. We come to things differently.
I feel that "been there, done that" is definitely the worst of this type of comment, because not only does it assume that your experiences are completely the same, it dismisses yours. It implies that your experience ended this way and therefore mine will, too, and there's no discussion around it. There's no acknowledgment of differences or challenges that are not actually the same. It's a conversation ender, not an empathetic beginning.
These shoes apply to so many things -- infertility, adoption, grief of many kinds, going through an illness, going through a divorce -- any challenging times. It's good to remember that while shoes look similar and we could actually buy the same pair, once we've walked in them a while they mold to our individual feet -- they take on the way we carry and shift our weight. They cease to be the same.