You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

Bill Cosby, in the interest of helping men understand the agony of giving birth, likened it to “taking your lower lip, and pulling it up over your head.”  I’m not sure how close a match that would be, but I know it is closer than  this:

Rachel was in the hospital the day after giving birth to our son Liam.  I had gone down to the first floor for something and got onto the elevator to return to the Labor and Delivery section.  I rode with a man and a woman, who I quickly identified as a father and grandmother of a newborn.

The man mentioned that his back was hurting. He had not slept well on the pseudo-bed the hospital provided for partners of those giving birth.  Then he said this, “my back hurts so much I know how my wife must feel.”  (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)

No, sir, you don’t.  You can’t

My own wife had, the day before, gone through a rather brief labor.  She delivered Liam without any pain medication, in less than 3 hours.  I think I would rather pull my lower lip over my head.

His wife, he explained, had endured 36 hours of labor and then had a C-section.  I don’t care what kind of mattress he slept or tossed-and-turned on; it didn’t match what the mother of his child had just done.

I know we are wired to make comparisons.  Sometimes, when motivated by empathy and compassion, such comparisons may be helpful.

I don’t think this man’s was.

There are things men don’t know, and can’t know, about being a woman – including giving birth.  Even if you (or a comedian) offers us an analogy, we will not and cannot really grasp it.

There are also things women don’t know, and can’t know, about being a man.

Categories are now flooding my mind of all the possibilities of limits on comparison here.  We are all humans, but not a single one of us is *just* a human.  Every one of us is identified in multiple other ways, too, that limit the ability of some to really grasp everything about us.

And vice-versa.

However many hyphens this adds to your self-description, I believe it is incredibly helpful for us to humbly acknowledge not only what we *all* have in common, but how very much we don’t.

 

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