February 13, 2006

The Strength of Others

I've come to realize an important lesson in life over the past 18 months. Plain and simple, everyone has their own trials and tribulations and none of them should be belittled or looked upon as unimportant or miniscule. We all have a certain set of problems in our own lives and to us they seem incredibly paramount; you might even say some of them are life-changing. Often times we look at the struggles of others and compare what we're going through to what they are facing. I know that I've done this myself and secretly thought, "my problems are so much worse than theirs, what do they have to complain about?". I've realized though that I can't make that kind of comparison. No matter what problems you may be facing at the moment, the most pressing one will always seem huge compared to everything else. My huge may be drastically different in scope than someone else's huge, but they're both huge none the less. Make sense?

There are many days that I struggle to remember this. For instance, when I hear an announcement of a friend who is finally pregnant after 3 months of trying. To her, this four months was the longest 3 months that she has ever endured. It was a struggle for her. To me, that 3 months seems like a drop in the bucket. I look at what C and I have gone through in the last 18 months and I consider my struggle to be significantly more difficult, worth some sort of sympathy/empathy from people. But then I look at the struggles that others have had to endure and I'm humbled quickly.

I'll give examples of two very close friends. Two people who are a huge inspiration to me. They are friends from very different times in my life, but each extremely special to me. Strangely enough they have the same given name although spelled slightly different.

Friend #1 -- We've been friends since about the 6th grade, with a lapse of a couple of years in early college (which I blame myself entirely for--stupid boyfriends). This friend struggled for about six months to get pregnant, finding out they had been successful shortly after my miscarriage last May. She had a great pregnancy and was incredibly considerate of my feelings. Early November she started having back and abdominal pain and things slid downhill from there. The middle of the month she was officially diagnosed as having gone into pre-term labor--serious medications, hospital stays and bedrest ensued shortly thereafter. Her beautiful baby girl made her entrance into the world on December 9th (my due date from the miscarriage in May) and spent close to 8 weeks in the NICU. This friend didn't quite feel right after delivery but wasn't sure what to expect, considering she had just given birth. The week after Christmas it was discovered that she had massive infection in her abdomen that destroyed her ovaries, uterus, appendix and almost her colon. Surgery removed everything infected but the colon. Everyone agrees that her baby truly is a miracle, that by being born early she saved both her own and her mom's life. Not once throughout this whole ordeal (starting with the pre-term labor) has this friend ever complained or said how "unfair" it was. Undoubtedly she has been a source of strength for me.

Friend #2 -- We've known each other for considerably less time and have never actually met face-to-face. We became friends through a website a little over a year ago and it's amazing how close we've become through e-mails, phone calls and posts on our forum. This friend has been trying to conceive longer than I have and is dealing with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), insulin resistance and low sperm count. She's undergone rounds and rounds of medication and inseminations, all that have been unsuccessful. Now she's moved on to invitro and has even taken the extra step to donate her eggs to help other couples in their journey. Not once since I've know her has she allowed this struggle to get the best of her. She continues to stay positive and push forward, never giving in to that demon that forces you to crawl into bed and pull the covers up tightly over your head. This amazingly strong person also puts many of her needs aside as she helps to raise her sister's 3 young children. Undoubtedly she has also been a source of strength for me.

There are days that I feel sorry for myself. Days where I'm jealous of others whose struggles seem "easier" than mine; days where that demon tries to grab hold of me and force me under. Those are the days where I look at what others endure so stoically and I find strength in them.


Kristen said...

Mandy - What you have written here is amazing. Just don't discount the unbelievable amount of joy, laughter and strength you give to the people around you. Your strenth is my strength... and for that I love you very much.

KrisAndRod said...

Manna~It truly has been too long since our daily conversations slowed. Your post reminded me how absolutely eloquent, intelligent, insightful you are. I don't need to be reminded, though, of what an amazing woman you are - I've always known that about you!

For the record, I did go through the "it's not fair" stage for two weeks after I had Victoria... then someone (God?) decided Dec. 27th to show me why what happened happened. My only wish is that it could be made as clear to you why you've had to endure everything you have for the past 18 months.

I love you, sweetie.