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LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Bonus Barren Advice: Thirty-Two

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.

Dear Mel:

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.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


nancy said...

Wow - her question could have been written by me. In fact, I actually questioned if I sent that to you and forgot about it.

I grappled with this exact thing. In fact, I'm still grappling. My solution was different from your advice, as I simply created a second blog. I'm still trying to find my footing with 2 blogs a day, but it is working.

I definitely think your rule of 3/4ths is a fabulous idea. For my situation though, I did not want to be soley a mommy blogger. So my 3/4ths would be my normal schnarky and sarcastic ramblings about life and things related to ttc still. But I still want to share my family life and I don't think I could fit that into the 1/4th.

Simply said - I want to talk about my 2 things (general life and parenting) so much, I would need 3/4ths of time for both of them. Hence the second blog. But on my main blog, pregnancy/parenting stuff still can't be completely stayed away from, so by having another blog solely for my mommy stuff, it can stick to the 1/4th on my main one.

Whew. I am rambling. I could have summed all of that up easy by saying: "Good idea! Another idea would be having a second blog."

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting dillemma. I've fallen in love with blogging so quickly, and even though I'm NOW dealing with secondary IF, I still have such a heart for primary IF since that is what I struggled with for so many years before my son.

I made a committment with my blog to leave my son out of it for the most part...I just can't imagine reading a blog with lots of 'nuzzling' (as Mel said) mentions when I was going through primary IF.

It's easier for me to discuss the process of IF right now, though, because I'm doing the treatments again. If I get preggers, I'm not sure what will happen to my blog.

I'm waaaaay past ready to see how I could handle it though. Grrrrrr.


..soo.see.. said...

thank you mel! while you did touch on what i had been contemplating (moving to a new "land" or staying here) you helped me to put it in better perspective to help me decide how i want to continue my blog.

i love the "in her shoes" reference too. it made perfect sense for me not to prance around in my "bikini", yet it felt as if that's what i was doing, even though i was trying out a "swimsuit cover up".

the 3/4ths rule is a fantastic one! i do think i may try this and see where i go from there and even though i'm sure it still won't come as easy.

and i super appreciate your honesty about how hard it was for you at the beginning and when you said i should be honest abt parenting after If when i post.

Brenna said...

I'm going to bookmark this reply for when the day comes! I admire so many things about this community, and one of the first and foremost is the respect and sensitivity everyone seems to have toward one another. I'm sure there are exceptions out there, but for the most part I've found everyone to be extraordinarily thoughtful. I've noticed several bloggers like Nancy who've opted to set up separate households--one in the land of IF and one in the land of parenthood.

Brenna said...

PS--I hope my comment didn't make it sound as though I think that's the only or the ideal solution! I also read some blogs (such as Stirrup Queen's) that straddle that line in one blog with great finesse.

The Steadfast Warrior said...

If I'm really, really lucky, I'll get to discover this dilemna for myself this fall. But I think it may not be so much an issue for me. I started my blog long before the quest for a baby was on the radar. So it seems reasonable that my blog will continue after a baby arrives. Who reads at the point will be determined by those who still think I have something valuable to say.

But while I won't want to hide from what my life has evolved into, I definitely don't intend to be mean and rub it in people's faces.

Sassy said...

I don't know about this. I think people should blog what they want to blog and in the way that makes them comfortable. Sure, be aware and respectful of your readers, but your blog is ultimately for you, not for anyone else.

As an infertile without children, sometimes I find blogs that are not something I want to read. That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with them, just that I'm not the right reader for that blog. And while I read some blogs which are parenting after infertility, and some which are parenting without infertility, that doesn't mean that I expect those bloggers to have my feelings in mind when they blog. In fact, I'd much prefer they didn't.

Too often I see bloggers tip toeing around because they don't want to sound ungrateful or undeserving and it shits me because no one should have to apologise for their life. I'd much rather read passionate, thoughtful posts about what is really happening in someone's life than a steralised version with warning labels written to prevent hurt feelings.

In the end, people who are parenting after infertility are miles away from where they started. You may feel like you still want to be a part of the childless infertile community, and in many ways you are, but you've also got to live your own life and blog for your own needs, it's up to your readers to decide if they're comfortable following you. I also think that many people need to come to terms with the fact that they are not a childless infertile anymore.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

The whole thing, Sassy, reminded me of Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself, what am I?" I mean, if she only writes for herself, it isn't a blog. It isn't a conversation. A conversation takes into account that someone is hearing the words and could be affected by the words. It then simply becomes a journal. Right?

At the same time, if she doesn't write her life, then she isn't being true to herself or to others or putting something out there that is helpful.

But I think it is precisely because she HAS come to terms with the fact that she is not a childless infertile anymore is where this question stems.

Ellen K. said...

Very well said, Mel.

I agree with Sassy that the blog belongs to the blogger, first and foremost.

Often I would like to read more posts about how IF shapes a blogger's parenting experiences, but I'm finding firsthand that it's difficult to write about this. If your blog is shaped by a target audience and message, but your subject matter shifts, how do you go from "This (infertility) sucks" to "This (parenting) is better than I even imagined" or "Uh, this isn't quite what I expected"?

Ellen K. said...

BTW, Mel, the "In Her Shoes" analogy is useful. I'll have to remember that!

JuliaS said...

I was kind of wondering the same thing as Nancy! Wow - did I write that and forget . . . ? :0)

Excellent question and one I am glad to see addressed.

Like others have mentioned, I maintain two blogs - one that gives into the "nuzzling" and is mainly for the grandparents/extended family and the other that is less kid-centric without relevance. The reasoning is this - both aspects of my life are relevant because, well, it's my life! Out of deference however, to those who are interested in reading what I have to say, I've presented a choice. Having been on both sides of the fence it does give you varying perspectives. I don't want to forget either and really, I can't. Past experience makes up so much a part of who we are in the now! For some, I can see wanting to forget it and leave it all behind. For me though, it is the juxtaposition of those sides that make up who I am and I cannot be true to myself without the inclusion of all of it. Though, like Susy, I want to to be sensitive because I know what it felt like. The best solution for me (and probably the "lazy-easy" solution!) was to just have two blogs. I make no secret of either - my readers can choose which side they prefer to read (I have some who read only one or the other and some who read both) and I can be myself in both places. I realize of course, this was also affected by my entering into blogging after I finished working to create my family, though, I do expect to see some morphing at both blogs as time goes on.

And Mel, even though I am not in a retirement community myself (yet!), I think the sight of you bebopping around with your perky breasts in a bikini would truly annoy the heck out of me and my droopy gals. LOL

(loved the analogy - and the advice; 3/4ths, I need to use that!)

Fertilized said...

I enjoyed reading this question/comments Barrewn advice addition.

I struggle with this. I have struggled with this for about 9 months now. I feel like this is my space and I should post the reality of my days. Then other days I am ashamed of myself for the thoughts/blogs I really want to post because of the reality of my days. I tend to agree with Sassy's thought process but still find myself holding back alittle. It's a hard place to blog ..Parenting after IF. I do have alot more of those old IF feelings that I thought would lose their focus after we brought home a baby. I agree with your In Her Shoes analogy. I agree with it 100%. It's a weird, Out of place, uncomfortable footing. Like a fish out of water. Which believe it or not actually represent me much more honestly than I thought it would. Because some days I really do feel like a fish out of water. Looking for my pond to swim freely and comfortable in.

On another note: It’s hard to tell when/if you lose readers or are you really just losing commenters? I check my blog stats and it seems that most days, I haven't lost readers, I have lost commenters.

Not sure if I made any sense at all.

Anonymous said...

Jumping back into the dialogue beacause I find this so interesting and REAL. As far as Sassy's point that a blog is the writers 'own' thoughts and feelings, I know the thing that made me want to blog in the first place was to bring my experience and demented IF analysis to women currently ON this IF journey and maybe to help them see a different perspective on it.

It is for that purpose that I am careful how much I mention my son. If my blog were just a diary of my days and thoughts and hurts (which I'm not saying is wrong), then I would not feel the need to tip-toe the way I do right now.

JuliaS said...


You bring up an excellent point - the motivation for blogging is a key element, or at least for me, in content of our blogs. Who are we doing this for? What are we doing this for? Blogging can be rather self-serving by nature - though can also be an amazingly effective tool for putting forth a point of view and stamping a human footprint on a topic.

..soo.see.. said...

infertilityrocks, tip-toeing is what i feel i've done in a way during the pg and now that i want to find a way to transition the blog. and so i thought of having two blogs b/c really, to me, it just makes it easier to separate the topics and be honest abt all of what is going on and what i want to blog abt, like sassy said. yet, i'd love to be able to continue to show and blog abt how If affects our lives, childless or with child... and i guess that's where i got stuck.. i didn't know how to move into that.

Rachel said...

I agree with Sassy. I understand what Mel is saying about a blog being for her readers -- it always will be. But as Sassy says, the readers will self-select.

I generally do not read parenting blogs, except for a couple of adoptive parent blogs. I know what I can handle for myself. And I don't care how little parent bloggers do or do not talk about their children or how sensitive they are being about the fact that they have kids. I just don't read them.

There is a clear exception of this blog, but I feel this blog is much more about the community than an individual's journey. And with the warnings at the top, I know when not to read. But most people's blogs aren't this community oriented, nor should they have to be. Mel does a super-woman's job to create her blog, and most people simply aren't going to do that.

So I think people should just write what they want to write, and the people that the blog is for will find it.

Elizabeth said...

Very wise post, Mel. Great analogies (if I were forced to choose, I'd pick the analogies over chocolate, but orgasms over analogies. Especially if fingerboarding is involved. Sorry!) :-)

My solution was two blogs, one for family and one for IFers. I post less on the IF blog simply because I'm not cycling in any way right now. But my IF history absolutely flavors my experience of parenting. Even so, I'm a pretty private person and not everyone in my family (read: in-laws) knows about our infertility.

Cassandra said...

I seem to follow a 9/10 rule rather than a 3/4 rule. Even my Show and Tell offerings are almost always IF-related. Infertility Christmas card? IVF pottery? Uterus cookie? I'm obsessed, clearly.

Having gone through the entire Parenting After Infertility or Loss section of the blogroll less than a week ago, I can say that it contains both "parenting after infertility" blogs and "parenting (after infertility)" blogs. The latter seem to be more common among people who blog under their own names, because those are also blogs for people they know to update everyone on the child's life. There are true "parenting after IF" bloggers who also blog under their own names, of course, but they have a different intended audience -- IF readers more than their great aunt or college roommate.

I've always envisioned that I would create a separate non-anonymous pregnancy then baby blog (not mommy blog, because it wouldn't be about me) for faraway family to track my little one, and keep Baby Smiling as a true "parenting after infertility" blog -- or perhaps more accurately "infertility (parenting after)". As you'll recall from earlier in this comment, I'm obsessed.

My comments are so long that I have to refer to earlier paragraphs.

Piccinigirl said...

Did I write that question?? Because it just seems like EXACTLY how I feel.

Notice I post far less these days but one of the reasons (among the hundreds of others) is that I hate to talk about the babies, when IF is still such a part of my life and then when I have an IF post in my head or my drafts, I feel like such a fake. I'm no longer IF and I feel like people reading me will think that and well not read.

I will read your answer to her over and over and maybe I can find myself and a place to share what still haunts me and what is going on with the two most wonderful little boys in the whole world (Um bias :)

you as always, give such wonderful advice.

as for girl asking, you are not alone, I swear. Survivor guilt is so real and it's so hard to be happy about lots of things while so many are still struggling. Know that we, as your community, is here and we understand. *hug to you*