Part one here.
Our Response to Sympathy Versus Empathy
When we practice empathy we connect. When we receive empathy we feel seen, known and loved. In other words, we all feel not so alone in this huge, hard world.
Sympathy on the other hand is a sure fire way for us to all feel disconnected. When I receive sympathy, or pity, I feel like I am in this fight all by myself.
Sympathy versus empathy is at the heart of my #fertilitycompassion Survey.
Question Two on the Fertility Compassion Survey:
How did you respond? And why? (to those difficult/insensitive statements or questions in regards to your family planning).
The Difference Between Fear and Love, Despair and Hope
I was saddened and yet motivated with feeling empowered at these responses as they seemed to be almost split down the middle
About half of the responses were along the lines of responding with the truth and the other half of the responses were along the lines of dimming our light.
The Educational Truth
The truth came out mostly in one of two ways, educating being at the heart of both. However one came from a place of love and ownership and the other came from a place of anger or what I think is really fear, sadness and shame.
According to my findings, about half of the time, when asked a difficult or insensitive question about family planning we are truth tellers. We speak our truth and we educate. But, some of the time this truth telling came out in anger, I think in retaliation of wanting (or needing) to shut that person back down as we feel so shut down by their question or statement. So we make them feel stupid and we use words that cut like a knife.
After my work, for me it is in the ever upward way of just schooling the person; saying the truth and taking the opportunity to educate. For example, here's my script I've gotten used to saying as this is just a part of my life:
Stranger/Friend/Family: Do you have kids?
Me: We tried to have kids but we can't.
Stranger/Friend/Family: But you're still so young!? Well, you can always just adopt?
Me: We did IVF with a gestational surrogate and lost three babies and adoption is not for our family. So we are accepting a childfree life. IVF is very expensive and the losses are terrible and adoption is a long difficult path, we've decided to determine what is our enough and everything and accept a childfree, yet childfull, life.
Sometimes they'll keep asking more questions. Sometimes they'll have no idea what the hell to do with that and awkwardly change the subject.
Either way, I own my story. It doesn't come from a place of fear or anger anymore (after a lot of work on my part), it comes from a place of love.
We Lose Our Light
The other half of my respondents responded to these insensitive questions and statements by allowing fear, sadness and shame to dim their light, making themselves disappear.
Some changed the subject. Some faked it by brushing it off. Some took care of of the other person by minimizing how difficult it really is.
Most then left those situations in more pain, feeling more alone and ultimately feeling worse.
To Speak Our Truth
An essential message of Ever Upward is that we must speak our truth. It doesn't have to be to the whole world in a book or a blog. Still, I think, we must speak it. It is the only way to educate and it is absolutely the only way we will ever get more understanding and compassion when it comes to family planning.
I know this is hard and I know it takes great guts of bravery no matter how big or small your truth telling is but, I also believe it is the only way we will see fertility compassion grow.
I will not dim my light to take care of you, I will not dim my light because if makes you uncomfortable, I will not dim my light to make you feel better any longer. I will move and I will be ever upward.
Family planning, fertility, infertility, miscarriage, infant loss and recovery are some of the most difficult struggles and losses of our lives. And, it is something that literally impacts all of our lives at some point somehow.
Speak out, embrace it all, practice recovery and own it; own all of it.
In Part Three I will discuss the third and final question in my Fertility Compassion Survey: What we need instead; how can these questions and statements be more compassionate?
For more of Justine's writing and Ever Upward click here!