olympicsHello Lovelies,

Well, colour me happy! I begged with you all last month to send me your stories for Squawk Box, as I was running desperately low, and my call has been answered!  THANK YOU to all of those who have submitted their stories over the last little while. Your courage to speak out will help reach many people who are struggling like you. Openness in this journey is hard to do, sometimes a forum like Squawk Box makes it possible for you to vent your story to those who get it without even having to “out yourself”. Many thanks! If you have a story that you feel the infertility community, or even the wider web at large, would benefit from hearing please send them to me. I am, as always, still taking submissions: squawkbox.unpregnantchicken@gmail.com .

That takes us to today’s fabulous Squawk Box! Today’s piece comes from Jen Noonan and if you’ve been online in the community at all this week you might recognize her name. Jen is a fabulous infertility warrior and author of the recently published memoir “In Due Time”.  There’s been a lot of buzz online about her book and I know that you can win her memoir in a few places this week- check out A Hummingbird Paused if you’re interested. I have to tell you, I was given an advance copy of her book and it was an awesome read! Grab a box of Kleenex and get read to sob with her through pain and ultimately joy as she journeys her way towards motherhood. But enough about the book- which you should buy and read– and onto her Squawk Box!

Jen advocates for both primary and secondary infertility as both of her littles are works of ART. She works hard to de-stigmatize the shame and guilt that so often surrounds infertility and miscarriage and is an all around bad ass human being. She’s also a counselor in her day job and her peice today highlights why I’m sure her clients love her! |Today she’s written about something that we in the community know a lot about, the “Pain Olympics”.  The Pain Olympics is a term that is used to describe the squabbling that occurs when we compare our journey to someone else’s. The picture choice today is obvious. Are we all runners in a race? Is there a winner? A loser?

Here is Jen’s take on this all too common situation. Enjoy!



The Pain Olympics

Written By: Jen Noonan

Published with the author’s permission.

I never heard the phrase “Pain Olympics” until a fellow Tweeter enlightened me.

My Tweet: Comparing our #infertility stories to determine who has it worse is unproductive at best. All pain is valid.

Her Tweet: Yeah, no one wins the Pain Olympics.

When the Tweet arrived, I stopped what I was doing and thought, “That’s brilliant.” In one simple, straightforward phrase, she summed up what I had allowed myself to become frazzled over.

I had been agonizing over a comment someone made regarding my personal fertility journey. It was something to the effect of “Your journey seems like a walk in the park.”

But wait…no one wins the Pain Olympics, right?

I’m fairly certain she didn’t coin the phrase, and that many others have used it before and after her. But that day it didn’t matter, because she and I were speaking the same language.

I began pondering how often in general people compare their situations to others. What is the goal of this? Do we hope to either feel self-righteous, gain empathy, or to continue feeling like victims? The latter sounds odd, but being a victim is often comforting to those who have lived a life as one. The comparisons cross a variety of life circumstances such as physical limitations, socioeconomic status, relationship problems, unemployment, existential crises, delinquent children, and cancer diagnoses.

I’m speaking solely about the infertility world. We are made up of members who compare all types of situations, believing we have it worse off than someone else. For example:

She never had a miscarriage.

She only did TWO rounds of IVF.

They got pregnant after two IUI’s.

They were only trying for like, 8 months!

She already has a child. I don’t even have one! She should be grateful for the one she has!

I paid out of pocket for everything. Their insurance covered treatments!

At least he was able to have a biological child!

They got pregnant on the first IVF try, and without any miscarriages!

I know she had 4 miscarriages, but she never had to go through any infertility treatments. At least she was able to get pregnant!

Do any of these sound familiar? Each of the statements is filled with comparison. Do we need more of this in our community?

I have taken some real life situations from people I know or am acquainted with, and listed their situations below. Attempt to rank them in order of who is/was the worst off to who has/had it the best. Number them from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst off.

• Woman gives birth to boy/girl twins. She spends every day in the NICU with them. They make it to 5 months old when the boy dies. The girl survives.

• Thirty-two year old single female develops breast cancer. She can’t afford to do egg retrieval before undergoing chemotherapy. She is unable to have biological children.

• It takes a woman just under a year to conceive her first child. While trying for a second child, she has a 12 week missed miscarriage. She has multiple chemical pregnancies and a failed IVF frozen transfer before an eventual successful frozen transfer.

• A couple chooses IVF with Pre-genetic Diagnosis because the male has a heart condition that is genetic. They get pregnant with twins, and one of the twins vanishes. They accidentally get pregnant on their own and their second baby is diagnosed with the heart condition.

• A female is diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis. The couple attempts IVF multiple times and is not successful. They adopt.

• A woman is unable to become pregnant with her own eggs, and she uses donor eggs. She has no biological relationship to her baby.

• A male is diagnosed with azoospermia. He is unable to have a biological child.

• A couple spends ten years and eleven IVF’s attempting to become pregnant. They are not successful and are living child-free.

• A thirty-nine year old woman gets pregnant after 3 months of trying to conceive, and has a successful delivery. She tries to have a second child, and has three subsequent miscarriages. Her marriage is on the rocks, and probably won’t survive.

I hope that you didn’t take me seriously and just read through the scenarios instead! And if you did rank them, I’m guessing you found it challenging. The point I was trying to make is that each of these experiences is challenging in themselves, and each person reacts to them differently based on personal histories.

Let me be honest. I have been just as guilty of comparison as the next person. I will go out on a limb and say that almost everyone has. And this is okay and it is normal. But I feel strongly that it is not okay to deliberately call someone out for feeling the way they do. We never know a person’s story in its entirety, and it is unfair to assume we do.

Friends, if we feel like we’re in pain, we are. End of story. And the pain is valid, no matter what we have or have not been through. Comparing our stories only guarantees hurt feelings. And why would we want to do that? Possibly because we are in pain, we are desperate to feel better, and we feel justified when we compare. However, I can guarantee that no amount of comparing is going to lift us up.

Validating, loving, and supporting one another might not take the pain away entirely, but it will allow for a little more light in our lives, and a lot less dark. I don’t know about you, but that sounds more productive to me.

Remember, no one wins the Pain Olympics.

Be well,


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5 thoughts on “The Pain Olympics

  • September 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Well said. I think instead of comparing experiences, which will never totally match up, better to focus on feelings. There will always be commonalities in feelings, regardless of the situation.

    • September 29, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you for commenting. I agree. I just listened to a podcast where someone went through 3 rounds of medication and conceived in under a year after she started trying. She described her experience as “devastating.” Some of us might look at this and wonder how that’s possible, but everyone experiences situations differently, and her pain is just as valid as the person who did 4 IVF’s, had 2 miscarriages, etc. We need to support each other’s feelings like you mentioned!

  • September 29, 2015 at 11:07 am

    It’s funny at least for me I feel the pain Olympics in reverse in that I don’t feel like I went through enough to complain. For us we had a clear diagnosis within two months of our first RE visit. We didn’t go through any treatments and experience failure of a treatment. We didn’t go through any miscarriages or failed adoption placements.

    The most we went through were the tests which for me beyond the SA’s were two blood tests. I’m a wimp when it comes to needles but honestly it wasn’t nearly as it could have been.

    When I hear stories of others who go through so much more it makes me feel weak. It makes me wonder if I would ever been able to handle it if we didn’t have a clear diagnosis or had failed treatments. I admire those who are able to go through all of that and still stand together with their spouse.

    • September 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Greg, thanks so much for commenting. Here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter how little or how much we went through. If you have a diagnosis that basically states that the chances of having a biological child are slim to none, well, that’s devastating. And the treatment options are more than likely limited. We all have our own thresholds, and I think it’s important to know ourselves well enough to know how much we can or cannot handle. Your experience and reactions are just as valid as anyone else’s. This is so important to understand (IMO).

  • Pingback: The Pain Olympics Revisited | In Due Time

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