I have to be honest with you, I was pretty nervous posting that last entry. The response put my mind at ease so I thank you for taking the time to email or comment.
A point I think I never made well in that last post was that I also believe that our ability to give support to another person waxes and wanes depending on where we are in our cycle or where we are in our journey. And we have to be understanding of that. The same thing occurs in our real life--we sometimes can't support our friends because we have limited emotional reserves and we need to use them on ourselves. I think the difference is whether the separation is temporary or permanent--tied to our own situation (which should be a temporary cessation of reading or commenting) or based on the fact that they are now pregnant or simply not infertile enough (which would bring a more permanent departure).
And, as DD pointed out, the other factor is how vested you are in the online friendship. Again, similar to real life, we sometimes pull away from acquaintances as they become pregnant--especially if they don't exercise some sensitivity in sharing their pregnancy--but our real friends usually bump through their nine months with us, understanding that there are times when we simply have to use limited emotional reserves on mourning a BFN or a loss. We always come back when we can. But with acquaintances or even blog acquaintances, there does need to be a balance. At what point are you spending more energy on the emotions of other people than on yourself?
It wasn't really the loss of readership I was worried about. It was the loss of community that made me anxious--the what-happens-next aspect to trying. You succeed and if you have a blog that is entirely your own story, you move along to pregnancy and then parenting. I've never seen my blog as entirely my own story. I think of it as this community space that I use to explore my emotional responses to infertility and loss. I continued to have those feelings after I had the twins and I continued to have those feelings as we started trying again. I knew that the blog wouldn't change if I became pregnant again. But I wasn't sure if other people would understand that it wasn't going to change. And if I would be still infertile in my own head, but standing in an empty room wondering where everyone went.
A few years ago, I had a student whose father bought a storefront and tried to create a living room. "Is it a store?" I asked him, a bit confused. "What is it going to sell?"
"Nothing," he told me. "It's just a living room. You can come in, hang out, watch television with other people, read the newspaper, drink a cup of coffee. Anything you want. It's a living room, except it's public. Because too many people hang out in their living room at home all alone and need a space to be with other people."
It was a great idea. Unfortunately, it was closed as a health violation. Apparently, when you have a store that brings in no money, you don't have the ability to get the space up to code. There was no money for running water hence no bathroom. But it's suffice to say that people hanging out in a living room still need to use facilities when they are consuming the cups of coffee they brought with them. It turns out that the city doesn't love the idea of a crap bucket. But I digress.
This place--this blog--is my public living room. Where I come and hang out and talk about what is happening with me emotionally and hear what is happening with you emotionally. And having this space gives me a place to go mentally when I'm stuck in the real world between two women on a sofa springing their pregnancy announcements on me. I hope you feel like you can mentally jump here too in addition to your own blog when you are in a shitty situation. It has made the journey manageable this time. It utilizes the best parts of what I heard in my student's father's idea--without the crap bucket.
What I'm trying to say is that I'm glad you're all sitting in this living room.
The second part of this post mixes with the third part of this post (by the way--the stuff above, that was the first part of this post). Larisa raised an interesting point: "I wish I had an answer. Yes, your friend needs support. But I don't know that I am strong enough to give it. I volunteer with RESOLVE as well, and I try to give support - but it's hard when I need so much support at the same time." And it's true--when you're struggling, you can sometimes help someone else who is struggling beside you simultaneously. Think Titanic going down and you help someone to put on a life vest as you put on your own. But when you're treading water and someone floats by you, shivering on their plank of wood, you might feel badly for them as well, but at the same time, the jealousy of seeing them out of the water, getting by even if they are cold and in the middle of the sea, is sometimes too much to bear.
The question I have is if pregnant-after-infertility bloggers extended the same circumspection on their blogs that they extend to fellow stirrup queens in real life (breaking the news of a pregnancy carefully, giving people an out to their baby shower, not being offended if friends would prefer to not talk about the pregnancy while they're still in the middle of a cycle), would it make a difference?
I obviously have children and I mention them from time to time--it's impossible not to because they exist and are a huge part of my world. But I try not to go on and on about them. The reason is two-fold: (1) I feel a bit squeamish about putting too many personal things about them out there on the Web. It's my choice to blog; it's not their choice. When they're older, they can put their own stories out on the Internet about how much I messed up their life. (2) I know when I was in the throes of primary infertility, I wanted to read success stories but I didn't want them rubbed in my face--much in the same way I wanted to hang out with friends who had been through the same clinic and had been successful, but I didn't want to spend all day listening to stories about their children.
I try to exercise the same restraint on my blog that I practice in real life with other people (since you don't always know who is trying to conceive and having trouble). If they ask, I tell. If they don't ask, the twins still come up somewhat because they are a huge part of my life and I can't talk about myself without mentioning them. But I keep stories to a minimum. There are always the friends and family members that I know want to hear about the twins nonstop so I tell them the stories. For everyone else, they get a pu-pu platter of our life: a little infertility, a little book update, a little bit about the twins. And that's sort of what happens naturally on the blog.
I think there are two types of blogs with a third category that blends the two. The first is written entirely for the writer. It's their space to process their thoughts and they don't care if anyone reads it. They would love to get feedback and answers to their questions, but if no one ever read it, they would still write it. To be honest, I have another blog like this where I record all the stories about the twins. It is really a record for them, and no one reads it but myself. It is really on the far end of this first category--I not only don't have any readers but I currently don't want any readers.
On the other end are blogs that tell stories and present slices of a person's life. And they are written with an audience in mind. And if they had no audience at all, they probably wouldn't continue. They speak directly to people--either passing along information or collecting information. Or they're humourous accounts that are meant to be read. They are a space for storytelling more than processing. They may not have started as this type of blog, but they've certainly grown into this type of blog. And these bloggers sometimes have smaller blogs that are more intimate, more for themselves.
The third category is a blending of these two extremes. I think most blogs bridge these two categories. They are written for the blogger--a space to process emotions, get feedback on situations, gather information, and connect with others for emotional support during difficult times. But at the same time, they are written with the hope that someone else will respond. Blogs are interactive. You receive that feedback in the comments section. You need other people to be reading and responding in order to gather that information. Few people like the idea of shouting out their emotions to the blogosphere and hearing a tinny echo in return. When people need the response and aren't receiving the response, they tend to stop writing.
This blog is firmly in that third category. I write it because I need to write it. But if everyone stopped reading...well...I don't know if I would dedicate this level of time. Because the purpose of my blog has always been to build the community and garner the support I didn't have the first time around. I was really lost the first time around. I didn't have the energy to drag myself to a support meeting, but I definitely needed one. I used the bulletin boards religiously, but I never felt connected to those people because you only knew their stats. They posted their negatives and they posted their positives. But no one spoke about the waits or their fears that their sister-in-law would announce a pregnancy at Thanksgiving or how much they distrust their RE. I didn't get that sense of the world until I started reading blogs and then I started my own. The reality, for me, is that I don't usually need the stat-like information anymore. I may once we return to treatments, but right now, it feels like I know more about my body and what should happen than my body apparently does. But I need the emotional side. I need to talk about anger and I need to talk about depression and I need to talk about moments of peace.
Which brings us back to Larisa's question and my own: if pregnant-after-infertility bloggers used the same tactics on their blog as they use when interacting in real life with other stirrup queens, would you be more likely to keep reading. Or is it the fact that regardless of frequency, the pregnancy stories are going to pop up from time to time?
If you blog fits firmly in category one, it shouldn't matter if people keep reading. Therefore, this question doesn't really apply. But for categories two or three, I think of it in the same way I think of all writing that is geared towards an audience--I keep the audience in mind and it imposes certain limits. My private journal is my space for limitless writing. Everything else has limits whether I'd like to admit it or not.
And if the audience that you wished to maintain was an infertile audience, would you be able to interact in your blog in the same way you interact with stirrup queens in real life? Or are those limits too restrictive and step over the line of who controls the blog?
It's an interesting question about ownership since blogs are both written by a single person and added to by many. I've read complaints about bloggers who delete comments from old posts due to storage space and how those comments are part of the piece of writing and how we're all part of the process. What do we owe our readers? What do we owe each other? Where is the line between where my blog ends and our blog begins (and this question is aimed at everyone's blog since most of us have our comments section open)? If I'm trying to practice this sensitivity in maintaining a pu-pu platter approach, can I control (and is it my place to control) what is written in the comments section insofar as other people discussing their pregnancies?
I am well aware that these questions are too huge to answer in one fell swoop and they comprise many of the ethical dilemmas that are affecting all blogs--not just infertility blogs.
And here is the third part to this post: All communities have a tendency to set their boundaries of who may be included and at the same time, look for ways to differentiate all the members and create "us" and "thems" within the same group. Josh recently told me about this fractioning of those who lived through the Holocaust. All survivors bond together with shared emotions--the fear, the sadness, the anxiety, the loss. But then there are the people who went through the camps who tell the people who were hidden in a cellar for two years, "you didn't really experience the Holocaust. You didn't really know what it was like."
While there are some people who can firmly be placed outside the category of survivor--for instance, someone Jewish who was living in America at the time or even people who were living in Europe and perhaps thought they would be taken into a camp at some point but were never really a targeted group--what survivors who fraction the group are forgetting is that within all groups, the experiences are each unique. Two people can both be in a camp, but one has their mother in the same camp and the other had both parents killed in front of them. At what point does the fractioning stop when it's based in experience? It can't. And when you're fractioning based on experience, you tend to create an imagined, subjective hierarchy that affects whether people feel they belong to the group.
Every Jew during that time suffered through loss. They may have been sent to the camps and lived in fear and horrible conditions. Or they may have been hidden by a sympathetic Christian family and lived in fear and horrible conditions. They all suffered losses, they all suffered delayed dreams, they all had their world turned upside down.
Sometimes the limitations are imposed from those who were in the camps: you didn't know how shitty it truly was or how fearful a person can get. Sometimes the limitations are imposed from those who were hidden: I feel guilty that I was only hidden and didn't experience seeing the atrocities first-hand. Yes, I lost everyone I loved, but I was never raped and tortured while I was hidden therefore I didn't suffer enough.
You see the point I'm trying to make.
I know there are going to be people who disagree with me, but I think groups that are based in a crisis should create insiders and outsiders with set criteria (such as trying for over a year or an infertility diagnosis or the necessity to use ART) and understand that all insiders share the same emotions though not the same experiences.
We are a group that fractions ourselves as well while drawing in members. If you've received a diagnosis of infertile, you're part of the group. You're a stirrup queen. But then there are the ones who have been successful with treatments and the ones who haven't. The ones who became pregnant naturally after four years of trying to conceive and the ones who became pregnant on their first round of IVF. The ones who have the money for IVF, and the ones who don't. And at times, we lash out at each other and point out who doesn't belong anymore, forgetting that every experience is unique and the only thing we have in common is our emotions. That at the end of the day, someone who has been trying for four years unsuccessfully and then miraculously conceives naturally has gone through many of the same emotions--the frustration, the sadness, the anger--as someone who conceives via IVF on the first try. We can never understand how easy or how hard someone else's journey is unless we walk in their shoes--have their same limits or their same experiences.
I didn't mean for this to be such a long post. But when you wish to start a public living room, you do it because you want to use it yourself. Because you don't want to be sitting in your own house alone. Now that you're all sitting here watching Grey's Anatomy with me, eating chocolate or having a French martini, and urinating in my fancy imaginary bathrooms (no crap buckets here!), I would be devastated to lose this if/when I gain parenthood again. I just needed to say again how much you all mean to me.