Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An Open Letter


I have an acquaintance who is trying to live her life and raise her children the best she can.  In that struggle, she’s found herself in a unique circumstance.  She has proven her bravery by allowing the world in.  She’s been blogging her challenges, successes and failures at George. Jessie. Love. as she grows and parents in a situation she never expected to be in.

When you put something out there publicly you take a chance.  You are embraced by support but can also be pummeled by derision at a time when you are at your most vulnerable.  Here’s the thing about these situations. We don’t choose them, we’re just trying to live through them in the way that is best for our families.  They are infinitely more difficult if another component is to be publicly chastised.

I feel for her as I, too, have been in a situation I never expected to be in. I was also open about it, and was met with both support and criticism.  I’m in another one now that I am unable to share, I really don’t know if I would even if I could.  I don’t think I’m as brave as Julie.

Please know that we, all of us, have morals and values.  They are not specific to one religion or political party.  We all make choices based on our beliefs, morals and values, but I’ve yet to see a religious tenet that requires us to berate the choices of others whose actions don’t fall in line with ours.

Hatred and intolerance are a by-product of fear.  Those of us who are different from you:  be it our religion, color, nationality, abilities, sexual preference, physical or mental afflictions . . . we are not different out of any desire to frighten you.  As we walk our paths and make our decisions and live our lives we don’t make our choices based on a conspiracy to hurt you. 

When we are uncomfortable with someone’s life-choices, here are our choices as I see them:

*We can give in to our fear and publicly criticize those who choose a different path than the one we, although not in their situation, imagine we would choose. In my estimation, this is the ground zero of where bullying comes from.

*We can acknowledge that we imagine our choices in that situation would be different, maybe even better, but out of kindness and respect choose to keep it to ourselves.

*We can decide that even though these wouldn’t be our choices, we truly don’t know what these people are going through and compassion and support are key components to making the world a better place.  The world is full of people who are different from us.  Really, it’s OK to embrace that.

As we live our lives if we make mistakes (and we will) others can relish in that, even see it as proof that we were wrong to begin with. They can choose to kick us while we’re down or they can choose to help us back up.  Either way we will get back up and we will carry on.  With you or despite you.

This is a letter I sent to Julie back in February.  I share it, with her permission, in the hopes that we can all take a step back and rethink the purpose served by harshly judging others publicly, even those who admittedly put ourselves in the public arena of our own free will:

Julie:

Through comments of mutual FB friends I’ve seen some of your recent posts relating your experiences in going through your daughter’s journey. From the few posts I’ve seen it’s clear that you’re not na├»ve, you understand that there are people out there who will question your path.  You’ve started to construct a shield by both surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and blocking the access of those who would judge you harshly.  As you gain strength from those who support you, I recommend that you also consider the position of those who will judge you harshly. 

In terms of being judged, I can draw a lot of comparisons between your situation and the choices I made 20 years ago when I learned that the only way I had any chance of having children would be through IVF, in-vitro fertilization.  I took an uncertain path fraught with physical pain, emotional turmoil, baby steps forward and grand jetes backwards.   I, too, was open and honest about my choices, surrounded myself with the support of friends and family (which, mind you, is so much more difficult pre-FB), but I also found that you can’t escape the negativity forever.  I started IVF in a new (to me) conservative state in a locally unprecedented program headed by a doctor brought in from yet another state. This elicited editorials in the local paper making it clear that God made me infertile and by going through this process I was going against God’s will.  Let’s be clear.  You will be faced with hatred.  They are coming, with guns blazing.  They will aim a baseball bat at your head and chances are that bat will have God’s name on it. 

If, in your own private moments, you let those thoughts in and come to terms with exactly how you feel about them, I hope that this preparation can actually become another part of your shield.

I was pregnant 4 times with 5 children (including the twin of my older son, who I lost along with one of my tubes in emergency surgery during a tornado warning while my husband was out of town – no, not LOL – well, maybe LOL now but certainly not then).  While visiting family and pregnant with my younger son, I woke up at my mom’s house cramping and in a pool of blood.  My sister dropped everything, came to get me and stepped on my heels following me into an ultrasound kindly set up by a local gynecologist I hadn’t seen in 20 years.  We cried when we saw the heartbeat.  I had come home to name my first son in Temple and ended up sentenced to bed rest and double injections.  I was the only one not at the naming. At any point I could have (and if I’m going to be honest, did) question whether “the haters” were right.  Is God trying to tell me to stop? 

"They” say that God made me infertile, and changing that “goes against God’s will.”  Really?   I’m that powerful?  Or does God give us all challenges?  I ended up far from home at the same time that an amazing doctor ended up in that same place.  The time, the place, the doctor, these are all tools given to me by that same God.  No matter how difficult life gets, I cannot believe that God did not want these kids to exist, that it was a battle between God and I and I won.  Absurd.   I now have 2 sons, ages 16 and 17.  My 17 year old is currently putting me through all kinds of hell but I still do not question what I went through to get him here.  “The haters” forced me to look at my path through theireyes and the resulting strengthened conviction is a gift.

Ultimately you have to decide which of God’s children you think provide him/her with the most pride:  Those who ACT with BRAVERY based in LOVE, or those who JUDGE with HATRED based in COWARDICE?    

The haters say “how COULD you?”  We say “how could we NOT?” 

Those haters, invite them in Julie, then kick their ass!

Karen

*A final note:
There is a 35 acre plot of land in the midwest purchased by a Jewish Temple, an Episcopal Church, and a Mosque.  All three are building there together.  There will also be a fourth building, a Tri-Faith Center.
Those holy places are being built together because a large group of open-minded people committed to respect, even embrace, difference.  These people have the compassion and the courage of conviction to see that as a society we will be healthier and we will be stronger if we are able to be different . . . together.


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27 comments:

  1. We all go through life doing the best we can. I say God may have made you infertile, but than God also gave you the doctors along the way to help with having the babies that you wanted and the ones God would want to have. I don't think that you were going against God's wishes at all. And for your son putting you through hell right now, I had a daughter that was a tough one at that age, she will be 22 in a couple of months and she has grown up and we have a great relationship, so hang in there.

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    1. You have no idea welcome your kind words are.

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    2. I'm sorry if I sound arrogant (or whatever the word is) but you (plural) just pay too much attention at what others say or think. It's none of anybody's business what you do, decide to do or will do. If they ("the haters") are not affected then why do they judge you, who gave them that right (did you?) and why do you care so much?!!! Don't allow them to have the pleasure of hurting you, troubling you or misleading you. Your choices, your consequencies NOT their business. Yes, one has to become obnoxious to such people. And the thing you mentioned about God, well, I don't think God is vicious and revengeful and wants to punish people. How could you stand and listen to that 'crap' about God wanting you infertile and you going against his will! Only an illiterate would utter such words. Were these people religious, "God fearing" people cause then they should apply all (not selectively) of God's lessons: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned"!
      P.S. Excuse the tone of my voice but I've had my share of such "incidents" that have hardened me up and I tend to become more snappish than I usually am.

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    3. If we all spent less time judging and condemning the world would be a much better place, but unfortunately we aren't there yet. Although we all try not to give too much credence to those who are judgemental, it does still sting...then, hopefully we get over it and move on. Thank you for your meaningful comments.

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  2. The first thing that came to my mind towards all those haters was "Judge not lest ye be judged". :) It's God's job to do the judging, not us humanoids. :) If I had had the financial means, I totally would have done IVF, because when I had a brush with cervical cancer at the age of 26, I was informed by my doctor after several surgeries to eliminate the cancer, that I would not be able to conceive 'normally', and that if I did, it would most likely be a tubal pregnancy or a pregnancy that wouldn't result in an actual birth. 4 miscarriages later pretty much solidified that. Until Princess Nagger came along, that is. Through the 'normal' route. She's my Miracle Baby - but even if I had been able to afford the IVF route, any babies that resulted in that method I would have considered blessings from God.

    So in short, my response to your post? AMEN! :)

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    1. Your comments gave me goose bumps, you have quite a story yourself. I was in a highly unusual circumstance as my older son's twin was a tubal pregnancy, the doctor had to take the tube AND try to save the viable pregnancy. You and I are both very lucky, we both have Miracle Children.

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  3. Your posts are so well written and raw and truthful I'm really enjoying being a follower

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    1. I appreciate the fact that this isn't my normal post and am so glad to see that people are not just accepting the deviation, but embracing it. Thank you so much, Michelle, for the support.

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  4. I am one who believes that God is always on time. Your children were born to you exactly as they should have been. I will never understand haters. Haven't we ALL had our times of crisis? I love the statement of not looking down on someone unless you are willing to give them a hand up. We teach it in Kindergarten, for Pete's sake. I had a miscarriage and was told that it was probably best, since I wasn't married at the time. Boy, that sure made everything better. We don't have to agree with anything someone does...but we can still support them as humans. Sending you and your friend some love this morning..

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Michele, it's very brave of you. You're so right about the simplicity of the lesson, and that we should all have learned it in Kindergarten. Some of us may need a Kindergarten refresher course. Thanks for the love, appreciated!

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  5. Tolerance is very hard, for everyone. Look at the definition, it is allowing for something you disapprove of. I can't who you are, that is truly hard. So, those of us always preaching tolerance might want to ask ourselves what we are not tolerant of? Where do we draw our lines in the sand and then claim moral ground or say it is because we are more tolerant? What I am trying to say is Tolerance is not as easy as we try to spout off and we need to learn to be a little easier with each other all the way around and remember tolerance is not an easy task.

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    1. Tolerance can be difficult, but necessary if we care about making the world a better place. Criticizing people is more a reflection of the critic than the criticized.

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  6. Great post! I actually have a couple of blogs about my special needs children, but due to some really negative, and uncalled for comments, I decided to put them on private and i'm so glad I did. People can be really judgmental and critical, but I also realized that I didn't want to share such intimate details about my children's medical issues. Sometimes even an innocent post can turn on you or people twist your words around. It's tough to know what to share and what not to share sometimes.

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    1. I get where you're coming from, that's why I moderate comments. It's also why I talk about my experiences with IVF, but don't talk about the issues I'm facing now. Although they affect me profoundly, they aren't mine to put out there. I'm hoping that with this kind of dialogue we're moving towards a world where we can share what we want without fear of judgemental comments.

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  7. Hi Karen,

    I'm visiting after connecting on Twitter. I was cheering you on as I was reading this post. I really don't understand why people would publicly judge and criticize people they don't even know. I challenge those same people to stand and face the person they are judging and say the same things to their face. Why can't they just move on and go read someone else's blog.

    I agree with what you say about fear - it is such a huge motivator. I always teach my kids that if someone is behaving in a way that is hurtful toward someone else, it's largely because they are either filled with fear or they don't feel good about themselves or their situation. One of the things I'm really trying to teach my children is compassion. We really don't know what is behind people's actions and words and we just need to be thoughtful as to how our own words and actions will be received. Why cause pain and hurt? What exactly is the purpose? It feels so much better when we can bring joy, even for a brief moment, in someone's life.

    And here I thought I was coming to a "foodie" blog! But instead I'm finding a clearly articulated post on a topic I feel passionately about as well. I'm now following you via GFC and G+.

    Hope you can come visit us too! Cheers,

    Renee @ http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com

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    1. Teaching you kids to be thoughtful about how their words and actions are recieved is the primary way to impact this issue, so thank you for that and also for cheering me on. I will certainly visit your blog. right now!

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  8. AMEN!!! Life is hard enough without people being ugly about someone else's choices... Not sure why some people feel they have to voice their hatred.... I guess they are just miserable in their own lives and want to drag others down with them.
    HUGS to you and your friend!!! I will be praying for you both!!!

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    1. Hugs gratefully received. Thanks for the support.

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  9. Yes! and Yes! and Yes! again! NOone should judge another, whose life they do not lead and whose circumstances they don't share. Frankly, I am far too busy trying to keep to my own path to have the interest or energy to judge another's -- and then assume them to be not just wrong but deserving of ridicule? I know how hard it is to ignore the haters, and those who are agressive in their ignorance and determination to be ugly. But that is part of the struggle to keep to your path and live it the best you can. I applaud your courage and the kindness and comfort you extend to your Friend. I don't know what your current struggle is, and I have no right to know. But I do know that whether you share it with others or not is your choice, and not based in fear or lack of being brave.
    This is an amazing post, and I thasnk you for it.
    I want to visit that 35 acre plot in Omaha!

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    1. Thank you, and Thank you and Thank you! It's comments like this that makes it all worthwhile. Support carries far more weight than angry criticism.

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    2. Whatever you do - don't let the haters and the willfully ignorant get you down! It's the old "consider the source" thing... I try to consider the source's source. Where is it coming from? From love and an attempt (though perhaps misguided) to help? Or from hate and a desire to hurt? If the intent is to lash out and hurt someone -- I have no respect for that. Would that it were so easy not to be hurt by that which we know we don't respect... You are doing great! Hold onto that.

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  10. Karen, IVF has been such a blessing to so many people round the world - including one of my sisters. I can't see it as anything but good - even though it is horrible to go through. take care and kick back a little.

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    1. I agree, I can't see it as anything but good either.

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  11. I wish i could hug you...i can't even understand how someone could say those things or that God made you infertile...it makes me so sick. Children are the ultimate gift and blessing, nomatter how you get them- ivf, adoption, a "whoops" after a bottle of wine (hi there, little #5) - my heart breaks that anyone tried to make you feel like this, obviously, you are crazy strong and are stronger for it but i know it had to hurt...any freaking way you have a child of your own, they are a blessing. I mean...don't grab them off the street though. We lost a baby in 2007, i will never forget him or her, and i don't think for a second God was punishing me or decided i didn't deserve a baby... understand the loss, but not all you went through of course, don't pretend to. You are amazing, strong, and awesome. I just wish i could apologize on behalf of those who said hurtful things.

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    1. We all want the world to be a better place for our children and when I hear from people like you it gives me hope...

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  12. I just found this post and realize it was written over 2 years ago. I did not know you then and glad to have met you this past year. I have been judged, ridiculed and abused by many people who arrogantly believed they had the right to do just that. First of all, they do not -- just as many of your comments here confirmed. Secondly, and most importantly...God cannot lie. It is one thing that is impossible for him to do. His Word tells us dozens of times, that He does not inflict us with disease or illness. Anyone who says that is ignorant of the Bible and certainly does not have a loving relationship with God. Stand strong Karen.

    I am so glad that out of all the suffering you went through, you have your beautiful sons - who are truly a gift. God only gives good gifts.

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    1. Thank you, Carol. I think that whatever we believe about G-d, we don't have the right to judge others in his name.

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