I’m a baby killer
I’m sorry to post this while so many of you are teetering on the precarious edge of pregnancy or dealing with a loss, but hey. Salt For Your Wounds is my middle name (and yes, I get a lot of annoying questions about that…). A bit ago I was complaining about the fact that my dear friend got pregnant again immediately after her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Well, she had an ultrasound, and no heartbeat was detected. I guess my selfish thoughts killed her baby. And those thoughts now seem quite mysterious. I mean, I was bummed because I was looking forward to commiserating with her when I see her at the conference in Germany, but now I can’t even fathom why I wasn’t just focusing all my energy on desperately hoping that she’d still be pregnant. And while there is no shortage of simple explanations, naturally my mind went a crazy academic place. So here you go. Feel free to stop reading at this point–I’m sure you’ve got some split ends that need attention.
In social psychology, there’s this thing called optimal distinctiveness theory. The central idea is that humans have very strong needs both to belong to social groups, and to be distinct from others. We can manage these opposing desires by creating self-concepts that include ingroups (and therefore outgroups) that give us the right balance. The relevance to my friend’s dead baby? Since I can’t belong to the ingroup of mothers, and therefore my sense of belonging is threatened, I can hook up with a new ingroup, infertile women. This gives me the requisite sense of belonging, and also allows me to feel distinctive: I ain’t like those boring baby makers. In many ways, this community is perfect! But the downside is that membership is in flux, and this can be painful. People arrive in this hellhole, and we bond over mutual suffering. We emphasize the good aspects of the identity (We’re so compassionate! We’re so strong!). We form subgroups so that we can have even finer-grained senses of belonging and uniqueness. But the reality is, we’re all desperately trying to get the fuck out of this group, and terrified of being the last one left. So it makes sense that I felt abandoned when it looked like my friend was departing–it was a threat to my identity.
Yeah, yeah, some of you are all enlightened and shit and never have these nasty feelings. Fine. I’m too grumpy and sad to really give you the credit you deserve.
And…I should probably note that none of you need worry that I’m going to kill your baby too. I am happy to say I’ve felt nothing but joy and cautious hope for each of you. I can be all enlightened and shit, too.