I promised that I'd return to this topic, but haven't had the chance to do so. I've been thinking about this post a lot, which is a mistake because I had lots of interesting thoughts (I promise) but I didn't write them down and now they may be lost to posterity. No matter, I will do my best to recreate. Just bear in mind that there was another, much better post, written in some parallel universe.
It seems I touched a few nerves with the whole pregnant blogging thing. Poor Beth, for example, felt it was directed (at least partially) at her. So while it had the joyful effect of getting her to update us on how she was, it had the negative effect of making her feel got-at, and making me then feel guilty for having got-at her. What a fun cycle we do subject ourselves to.
My thoughts have led me to the conclusion that there are two angles to this. The angle of the pregnant after infertility blogger, and the angle of the continuing infertile blogger. And then there is the question about the combination of the two. Let's think about the newly pregnant first.
Several pregnant bloggers commented on why they slowed down or stopped once they get pregnant. The reasons seem to be:
- Guilt, often combined with Fear
- Just feeling too bloody ill to get to the computer
- All your readers go away so it's very hard to motivate yourself to post
The guilt one is the one that I do empathise with, although I don't buy it completely. I did feel guilty, and even have the post to prove it. Then my dear friend Ms Pamplemousse wrote me a 'get over it' email and I got the message. Apologising for being pregnant is not the point. None of us should apologise. Even our fertile friends shouldn't apologise. We all deserve it. Our fertile friends, I think, owe us a bit of sensitivity in how they break the news (but oh how so few of them manage that), but treating us as damaged people who cannot handle the information is so much worse - patronising and controlling. But for those of us who have struggled together, the blissful pregnancy announcement, accompanied by a picture of a peestick if appropriate, is entirely fine. You don't have to wind up to it or pitch it carefully, we've probably been reading along with breathless anticipation (although not as breathless as yours) for the last four weeks or so. And mostly, we don't wind up to it. We are not embarrassed to announce that pregnancy. It's what to say after that first post, or perhaps the first few posts, announcing rising betas, that we find hard. How can we rejoice when so many friends are left behind? Or, alternatively, how can we post about how bloody awful we are feeling when so many friends would give anything to be feeling this disastrous?
Then comes the fear. How can we rejoice when we are so scared? How can we not rejoice when others are desperate to be in our position? We're damned if we do, it feels, damned if we don't. And it's all very well saying that once we get to 13 weeks or so the fear should go away. This community has seen too many awful things happen after 13 weeks for most of us to relax, even then. And worse, we probably feel that we SHOULD be relaxing, but yet we can't. And we can't complain that we're so tense, because our friends would love to be where we are, yadda yadda yadda. So it must be incredibly hard to know how to pitch your posts. Joy/fear? Guilt/Joy? Happiness/Sadness? All so very complicated.
On the guilt and fear side, I am not going to tell anyone how to feel. The fear I think will never go away, goodness knows if I knew how to banish it I could make a million. But how about changing the guilt to empathy? You know that where you are is a great place to be, you wish all your internet friends could be here, but for now you are just going to remember how they feel, and connect with that in your writing. At a minimum, I would love it if more people felt able to write through it. Follow the advice I give a lot of my junior colleagues. Acknowledge the emotion you're feeling (I'm feeling so guilty, it's really hard to write about how happy I am), then figure out how to deal with it so it doesn't become a problem for the other person in your conversation (I wish you were all here too. I know that may never happen, but remember that I feel that way. At the same time I'm so happy for where I am/we are). So that's it for the guilt side...
The boredom one seems like a reasonable reason for struggling to write. Many of us struggle sometimes with what to post when the infertility stuff is taking a back seat for a while. So when a pregnancy gets past the 'oh wow, I'm pregnant, but I might lose it, oh wow, oh shit, oh great, oh shit' stage, and just goes on going, then I can see that it might be hard to post. Some people, like Jen, just keep posting regardless. Jen has shared about her family, how her pregnancy is progressing in great detail, and all about her preparations for the Beasties. And now she's even sharing from the labour suite! So it works for some people, but not for others. Perhaps it depends how good you were at just posting before you got pregnant. Some of us seem to be in the habit of updating regularly, regardless of whether big things are happening. Others take extended breaks from time to time. I guess writing regularly is one of those disciplines, like making time to exercise, that some of us are good at and some not. Not that I'm equating blogging with the health benefits of exercising, you understand. Oh, if only - but that's another post. So on the boredom front, just a little bit of telling us how you are will work wonders, even if you don't feel you have anything very exciting to say.
The too sick to come to the computer makes perfect sense and no one is ever going to hold that against you. Just let us know when you can how you are. That's all.
The demotivation of losing your audience is hard, too. I know that my audience has gone from about 800 a day when I was about to miscarry, to more like 350 a day now - just above where I was before this last cycle. It was hard looking at those dropping figures, but it doesn't stop me wanting to post. I understand that if you're getting down to the 1-2 comments per post level, perhaps it feels that you aren't appreciated any more. Your reading figures may be higher, but you're not getting any validation. You know why we aren't visiting as much as we did, you've been there too. And without validation, why keep posting? I'm going to come back to this point below. Hold on, another point has to come first.
Before that killer point, we need to look at things from the perspective of the infertiles left behind. As far as we are concerned, we are part of your support group. We helped you get here, emotionally. Not to mention that we are desperate to be where you are. So we are all a bit emotionally invested in you being happy, and in sharing that happiness with you. It's a little bit like when you think really carefully about a lovely present you want to give someone. Then you make the present, wrap it up, and present it, and they say: "Oh thanks." And put it to one side and get on with what they are doing.
Let's be clear we KNOW that you are incredibly grateful for the support you've gotten. But it just doesn't FEEL that way when you immediately bugger off and don't tell us how things are going. And, as described above, we KNOW there are all sorts of good reasons why you might feel bad about continuing to share. But dude, we are the ones who are left here, still infertile, no happiness to share around without your input. See how that works?
So really, what this comes down to is whether or not we have any responsibility to each other or not. This argument has been had many times before, and from what I can gether from sideways comments, there was a big furore in blogland sometime in 2004 which touched on this point. The arguments seem to be that
- A blog is your blog, and whether someone reads or not is up to them, so you say whatever you like.
- A blog, particularly one with comments enabled, is everyone's blog. Yes, you are the author, and it's up to you what you write, but you are clearly writing with at least one eye on your audience. This has the upside that you get supportive and encouraging comments, but the downside that in return for the readership and the commenting, your audience expects something from you. A certain frequency of posting, or a certain kind of post, or a certain obligation to update. You are, of course, free to ignore these obligations, and then you might irritate or even anger people. In the pregnancy case, we'll just feel hurt but probably not say anything if you stop posting. In other cases, people have had to deal with angry comments about something they've said, because they've offended community sensibilities.
This second point of view assumes that we are a community. I've seen people debate this before, so I thought I'd go and get a definition so we've got something to debate from. Here is the Wikipedia point of view:
A community is a collection of living things that share an environment, so forming a recognizable group. These living things can be plants or animals; any species, any size. Communities are characterized by interaction in many ways. The definitive aspect of community is that each subject in the mix have something in common that allows an identification. ...[In] human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of adhesion.
The word ''community'' comes from the Latin ''communis,'' meaning "common, public, shared by all or many." German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies presented a concise differentiation between the terms "community" (gemeinschaft) and "society" (gesellschaft). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that "community" is perceived to be be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in gemeinschaft.
Sounds like us - no? "A tighter and more cohesive social entity, due to the presence of a unity of will". I'm buying it. So if we are a community, doesn't that mean we have some obligations to each other? I believe that in a healthy community, there is some sense of responsibility for each other, some give and take. Perhaps in any community there will always be free riders (I'm not going to divert into economics now, don't worry), but for a community to survive, those who form it have to have some sense of its value, and of their role within it, and to continue to contribute to it, although that contribution may vary over time.
So I'm coming down on the side that says
- We are a community
- When you write your blog, you are writing mostly for yourself, but also with your audience in mind
- Your audience therefore has a vested interest in your story
- And you therefore have some - perhaps minor - obligation to your audience
- This means that when you get pregnant, we need to know how you are from time to time
I'm not entirely thrilled by where I've come out, since another way of saying the above is that you owe us something. Maybe you do. Just a little thing, the gift of sharing whatever it is you are going through, good or bad. If you are able. And you know, even if you can't or won't, we aren't going to forget you. Everyone leaves an imprint on this community. Some bigger than others. But the moment you hit 'save' on that first post, or left your first comment, you made your first step into the community. So whether you like it or not, you're part of us.