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I Don't Know How You Do It
“I don't know how you do it.” It's a well-meaning comment. My friend who has Diabetes has heard it. “Boy, you have to give yourself insulin everyday...I don't know how you do it.” My friend who has a child with Autism has heard it. “Wow, you deal with this every day...I don't know how you do it.”
And I have heard it about my miscarriages. “You're really strong, you've survived this without falling apart...I don't know how you do it.”
It's meant to be a compliment, I think. It's meant to imply that in dealing with our adversity and heartbreak we are somehow stronger or wiser than the person who hasn't experienced that adversity or heartbreak. I try to take it as it's meant; as an endorsement of my resilience but something about it nags at me too. The unstated implication is the the person saying “I don't know how you do it,” couldn't handle our grief or loss. That they themselves could never dredge up the strength or will to survive a miscarriage (or whatever). When I hear “I don't know how you do it” I always hear an unsaid “Thank God that hasn't happened to me” as well. Even a more proactive “How do you do it?” Would be preferable. The “I don't know how you do it” is almost dismissive. “I don't know how you do it, nor do I want to because that would mean I'd have to experience some of your pain.”
While I think it's a very big deal to survive a miscarriage (or miscarriages) with your heart not permanently broken, we survivors are not saints either. We didn't sign up for these losses. We didn't ask for a test of our bravery or strength. Even if she felt it made her stronger or helped her grow, I don't think there's a woman out there who wouldn't trade her miscarriage for a healthy baby in a heartbeat.
The reality is that we have to make the best of whatever hand we're dealt, to use the cliché . I don't believe our lives are completely predetermined. I believe we make choices and exercise free-will. But, in some cases we get what we get. We have to deal with life as best we can. We may get a potentially life-threatening disease, a child with a disability or a miscarriage. Every person deals with grief and loss in their own way. We're not necessarily better people just because we're coping with our particular tragedy.
I don't mind at all if someone says they can't imagine what a miscarriage is like. I wouldn't mind them saying they're proud of me for hanging in there. I would just prefer they don't say “I don't know how you do it.”
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