This is the 32nd installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.
Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday-ish. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.
I started my blog in the midst of dealing w/ infertility and TTC. It was my 2nd blog while on this journey b/c the first one turned out to be a vent-fest and I realized that's not what I wanted to have out there. I wanted a blog / place where I could be honest and others could read and maybe relate and we'd be a support for one another. Somewhere along the way I found you! And it was set, I had this blog community that understood me and my desire to be a mother. I got very into reading other blogs and being a support for those cycling, pregnant and parenting.
After years of TTC, surgery and ART, I got pregnant. And even though I knew my online buddies and community would be happy for me, I had a hard time dealing w/ the pregnancy and w/ those IF'ers still waiting for their BFP. I didn't know how to be excited for myself and not hurt someone's feelings. I think we all know that mix feeling we get when we're still cycling and someone we know gets pregnant. I didn't blog or write into my boardgroup as much as before for these reasons. My infertility was and will be a big part of me and and my life. I don't know how to balance the fact - and my blog - that I overcame 'primary' IF and now have my boys and be supportive to the IF community. How do YOU do it? Just b/c I have kiddies now, I don't want to or can "just forget" about my IF and my friends that are still going through it.
I think your sensitivity and the fact that you notice this and want to do something about it is the most important part of it. Without that impulse, I don't think that balance can ever be obtained. But you have solid ground from which to step forward.
If I could boil it down to a formula, it would make it a lot easier. What you're essentially asking is how you seamlessly move from blogging about primary infertility to blogging about parenting after infertility. It may seem as though others stepped into the role without effort just as I'm sure it appears as if some parents have stepped into parenting without effort. I know when I was in those first weeks and had wondered what I had gotten myself into and hadn't showered and felt like crap and was snapping at everyone and crying at the drop of a hat...well, I wondered how others did it so easily. What did they know that I didn't? I was certainly grateful that the twins were here, but it wasn't easy. It was really rocky and it took a long time for us to find our groove.
But we did find it.
Even though we still go through stages where I snap at everyone and cry at the drop of a hat.
But I have to guess that most people experience waves whether it is with parenting or blogging. Even those who have moved from primary to parenting seemingly without effort in their writing, keeping their audience mostly intact--I would hazard a guess that they would weigh in here and admit that it wasn't easy, they sometimes felt like they had nothing to say, and they even went through periods of light posting where they desperately wanted to connect to people and yet couldn't find a way to sum up their world that was palatable to the people they knew were reading--in other words, their friends.
Because, as you say, you know your audience and you know what you wouldn't want to hear when you were in the throes of primary infertility. And that, of course, can be your starting point. If you always wished that people had put a heads up at the top of the post saying "children mentioned," do so. If it helps you to feel like you have a better grasp on circumspection, hold every post for a few hours and then revisit it before posting, trying to see it through the eyes of someone going through primary infertility. Is it sensitive? Thoughtful?
The best solid advice I can give you is to observe the rule of 3/4ths. I just made up this rule, by the way, just in case you're scratching your head and thinking, "but I've never heard of the rule of 3/4ths." This rule--to be adhered to loosely and without stunting your own writing impulses--is to stick to your main topic 3/4ths of the time. Write the truth about what it is like to parent after infertility. How your experience beforehand has affected your world now. About your children and interesting anecdotes. The other 1/4th of the time is whatever else interests you. By which I mean a recap of your favourite television show, a rant about PR pitches, or musings on your dream house.
This, of course, gives you a frame and it gives you breathing space. It's sort of like fixed form poetry--it gives you room to think because you know your expectations. And it helps you connect with an audience because they can predict whether you're writing about something that would be of interest to them. No one expects you to stick to one topic every single post, and it would be a little boring if you narrowed your world so much that you only wrote about one thing. Your main topic is your frame, but you need to be able to fit your other interests onto that frame as well.
That said, I'm going to give you two analogies because I love analogies on the same level as chocolate and orgasms. And because I can't walk away from a good analogy that pops into my head any more so than I can walk away from...chocolate or orgasms.
Sometimes people are your friends due to circumstance and location. And other times, they transcend the moment in time and enter a separate space--one that travels with you wherever you go. There are people I was friends with in college because we found ourselves in the same dorm or the same class. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but even though these people were my world while I was there, I have a hard time recalling some of their names when I'm flipping through pictures. They were so important in the moment, but for whatever reason, I didn't take them with me when I left college. A few did come with me, and those are the ones that transcend that moment. We weren't just friends because we were in the same place at the same time. We were friends because we got each other on a very deep level. And they didn't mind my incessant what ifs.
I think what you are seeing with blogs is that some people are still living here, hence why they still have the same friends (readers) and some people have moved, but are sad that they didn't bring all their friends (readers) with them. There are plenty of parenting after infertility blogs in the Land of If. They're still writing about infertility and they haven't really moved. I'm not saying this as a negative thing--my own blog is certainly still in the Land of If.
People moving is not a negative thing either. You can move and rebuild on mainland and tap into those resources and a new readership. You'll take some of your friends (readers) from here, the ones that transcended the experience and connected with your words and ideas. It may take a while to find your new groove, but you may want to reinvent as a mommyblogger, food blogger, or book blogger. New interests replace old interests and the soul of the blog changes. It all depends on whether you want to stay in this town or move somewhere new.
That said (and here is the second analogy), living in the Land of If when you're parenting after infertility is sort of like being a twenty-something in a retirement community. It makes me think of Jennifer Weiner's book In Her Shoes, where the sister goes to live in the retirement community and everyone loves her. While I loved the book and I could see why the people would connect with this particular character--especially when she was a rockin' personal shopper--I didn't find it particularly believable based on my experience with retirement communities.
The ones I've seen are happy enough to have me visit, but they certainly don't want me hanging around the pool all day. And, to be frank, I wouldn't really want to live in a retirement community day in and day out. Because we're at different places in life. I can understand why they don't want to see my perky breasts (if I had perky breasts) in a bikini (if I ever wore a bikini) just as they probably understand why I wouldn't want to walk very slowly or play Bridge.
Which is not to say that you won't find people in the retirement community who want young people around. Just as there are people in the infertility community who see burgeoning bellies, young children, or adoption finalizations with hope, there are certainly people we've met at the nursing home who are thrilled when we bring the twins and let them run around. They think they're hysterical and instead of making them depressed, they see them as a brief moment of entertainment.
But there are also plenty of people at the nursing home who don't want to see the twins at all, who are annoyed that they're in their space. Who find them grating and intolerable. Not because those people are crotchety or mean--but because we all have differing likes and dislikes. I will never hold that against them just so long as they don't hold my likes and dislikes against me. Our unique way of viewing the world adds to the whole. But to be fair, it is their space, their home. The blogosphere is a messier affair with some people wanting those parenting after infertility to stick around and some people wishing they would pack up their blog and leave. The way we exercise our opinion is to decide what we do and don't want to read. It's a two way street unlike the retirement community who can decide who gets to live there--you get to decide what you want to write and others get to decide what they want to read.
Here's the thing about the character in that book: she makes herself stand out amongst them. She lounges by the pool in her bikini and prances about. I would hope that if I had lived in a retirement community in my twenties, I would have tried a bit better to blend. Or, at the very least, be mindful that I am the one who wishes to be with the elderly people and therefore, need to play by their rules.
I wouldn't run through the hallway of a retirement community wearing nothing but a bikini and screaming about how we all need to paaaaaaaaaaaaar-tay! (Yes, I am making a lot of assumptions that elderly people do not like to rave)
And I wouldn't write long posts giving a play-by-play about nuzzling a warm baby neck if I knew my audience was comprised entirely of those still experiencing infertility.
Meaning, I wouldn't do either of those things if I wanted to still be welcome in that particular space.
If I had no care about that space or if I was trying to live in bikini-land, but the elderly were still at my elbow, asking me what I'm doing, I would write accordingly too. In other words, I match my behaviour to the space where I wish to be, not where others wish me to be. If you want to still be in the infertility world, it's a big space and I say there is room here. If you wish to be on the mainland, you should also be free to move there and build a home without anyone making you feel badly or demanding that you come back.
Your blog is your space. You get to decide what you write and how you want to run it. If you want to remain in the Land of If, remember your roots. Use the cues you would have wanted to see when you were still family building. Sit on a post for a few hours and make sure you look at it again with primary eyes. Stick to a topic (parenting after infertility) 3/4ths of the time so readers can predict whether what you're writing will be of interest to them. Don't take it personally if some people aren't in a space to keep reading. And make sure that your blog fits well with you--that it feels comfortable and home-y and not as if you're stretching to make other people happy at the expense of writing what you want to write.
Or, after reading this, you decide that you want to move, trust that you'll make new friends in your new city. By which I mean a new area of the blogosphere. By which I couldn't resist another analogy.
No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.
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