Today a photo was published on Instagram of Chrissy Teigen, and by Chrissy Teigen, of her sitting on the edge of a hospital bed and crying because she just miscarried, her son Jack. It is a picture of deep pain and mourning and it is heartbreaking. That was my first reaction.
My second reaction? It was – and might I already add – completely unfair: Why is she posting this on social media? For attention?
It was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing something intimate displayed for the public eye. I felt myself judging her for not showing shame, for not hiding her pain from the people who see her posts – and they are many.
And oh my, how my reaction was wrong. I knew it immediately.
It is that kind of thinking, thinking that we are not allowed to show anything other than ‘acceptable weaknesses’, that leads to isolation and the further spread of shame, like an oil spill that just expands until we drown in it.
‘Acceptable weaknesses’, you ask? Look around on the internet, and the social media feeds we encounter. I have a few: FB, Twitter, IG most notably. People usually either show successes and good moments, or they display a certain weakness that they know their readership will approve of – sometimes accompanied by a measure of self-deprecating humor.
(Check any ‘bad mom’ or ‘messy mom’ blog and tell me I am wrong: endless posts about how ‘bad’ a mother they are because they are glad the kids are off to school or they drink wine in the afternoon. And the crowd cheers them on and tells them they’re bad too. But nobody really thinks so.)
What we don’t see, also not in real life – because let’s face it real life is the same as social media except with people we know – is people who show when they are really struggling. When the money runs out, when the tests are positive, when the PTSD kicks in, when the baby just died.
And that is not strange. Social media in particular is like broadcasting and you cannot choose your audience all that carefully. But I see the value of Chrissy Teigen’s post, because I know how incredibly comforting it can be for everyone involved to know they’re not alone. And to know that it is okay to talk about things if they cause you pain.
Did you ever resent someone for opening up to you? Probably not, unless you mean how they make you uncomfortable with the situation, but that is not on them – but on you. (I had this happen with someone who was systematically unsympathetic, and who later accused me of not being a proper friend to her. I have to admit that this made me confused at first. And then it made me angry.)
Look. I have struggled with infertility for many years. Most of the time, I did this alone, or with my partner. I shared some of it in a closed community of friends online and that was helpful, but none of them shared my experiences. It would have helped me to know I wasn’t alone, and that it was okay to talk about it.
Because my words could have reached someone who was going through the same thing. And that would have helped them.
Which is why I am now always honest and clear about how my minions were conceived (IVF), and that it wasn’t easy (at all), and that it caused a certain amount of trauma for both me and my partner, and that this takes a long time to heal. And that is normal, and requiring support and attention, and not something to be ashamed of.
Poor Chrissy. We cry with her.
Picture is of me and my minions this summer,
swimming in the Amsterdam canal.
They are now ten years old and the light of my life.
I have survivor’s guilt but never wished
anything other then their presence in my life.