Ok, so it turns out I do have something to say, although it doesn’t directly address this week’s… kerfuffle?
Baby Smiling in the Back Seat asks: Why do you blog?
Because message boards didn’t do it for me. When I first began to realize that we weren’t going to conceive quickly, when I ran out of excuses for why we hadn’t already, when I started charting and temping and realized I had a short luteal phase but didn’t know if something more might be amiss, I started looking online for information and an outlet for my worry-mongering.
Infertility was – and is – hard for me to talk about in real life with those closest to me, because I am profoundly embarrassed about sex (thanks to my evangelical upbringing, even tacitly acknowledging that I have sex with my husband feels like acknowledging that I have a closet drinking problem, or that I steal packs of gum from small children). (Um – for the record, I only do one of those three things.) An anonymous blog seemed to be the perfect place to let it all hang out, as it were, to discuss details like timed intercourse with women who were all going through the same kinds of things and were not ashamed to talk about it.
But message boards were too busy, too full of noisy chatter, and in a way too anonymous. The first infertility blog I found was Thin Pink Line, then My Dear Watson. I liked the blog format for getting a sense of the person and her journey. I think of blogs as little houses. The wallpaper, the fonts, the colors and mastheads and buttons on the sidebar all tell you something about the inhabitant. Sometimes I dislike getting updates through Reader because then I don’t see the visual space that a blogger inhabits, and I miss that sense of the person[a] that you get through the actual web page. I felt through blogs like I was able to make friends.
I stumbled on Stirrup Queens through a Google search, and found a treasure trove of centralized information on all aspects of infertility and loss – something encyclopedic in the making, but not impersonal like an ALI-wiki might be – but also a personal blog that aimed to bring together people – not just information. Through Stirrup Queens I found my blogging community. I especially used the then-monthly Virtual Lushary to “meet” bloggers through the little snippets of what’s-going-on-now that people posted in the comments. I soon built up a blogroll of blogs I visited regularly to read and comment on. And a few people started to comment on mine, too.
I’ve always been the kind of person who is most satisfied with a few close friends rather than knowing tons and tons of people. I don’t mind being a face in the crowd, as long as at some point during the week I can sit down for lunch with someone I really care about, who really knows me, and we can have an interesting conversation. I don’t jump up and join events like ICLW or initiatives like PAIL simply because I’ve already got enough bloggy stuff on my plate. I honestly don’t think I could handle reading more blogs than I do, or responding to very many more comments than I get (thoughtfully and mindfully) in the time that I have. I do have a dissertation to write, after all, and I’m like way behind schedule on that already.
I blog because I enjoy it. I enjoy writing, I enjoy getting feedback on the things I write about, and I enjoy having a little teeny-tiny corner of the Internet to call my own. I also have a public family blog that is primarily for the grandparents and extended family, in lieu of writing actual letters or e-mails. It’s been an awesome way to keep in touch with a lot of relatives and family friends. But I keep this little space apart as well because I do feel like a part of the ALI community. I feel like I have something to offer those in the trenches through sympathy and supportive comments. I’m happy with two or three comments on any given post. I’m astonished if I get more than that. Of course I’m thrilled when I get linked in Mel’s Friday Blog Roundup or some other space and I see my hits go up to like 80 or so for a given post (I think that’s the highest number of hits I’ve ever gotten in a day. My all-time number is around 15,000), but I don’t really expect my readership to grow much. I’m a small-time, small-potatoes blogger and I will never do this commercially. I’m not interested in monetizing anything. You know what thrills me more than a high number of hits or comments? Getting a comment from a specific blogger I’ve been reading, following, and have come to admire either for her personal qualities or her writing style – or both. That makes my day. When YOU comment. YOU. Getting just one comment from YOU means more to me than a dozen drive-by, one-time-only comments from people I don’t feel like I know.
Anyway, shortly after I became pregnant for the first time a family member found my blog, and I immediately went password-protected (after apologizing and explaining to my aunt why I was doing so). And I lost a ton of readers. It was hard to tell how much of that was from the BFP and how much from going PWP. Soon after that I moved to WordPress, deleted the original blog, and without much fanfare, Project Progeny became a Parenting After IF blog.
I wasn’t actually surprised to lose readers. I understood. Before my BFP, I remember being resentful of a fellow IFer who got pregnant. I was happy for her, but I was also bitter and jealous. What I remember is that my feelings were so mixed and jumbled, as they would have been for a RL friend in the same situation. When she lost that pregnancy I felt sooooo guilty for the currents of jealousy and resentment I had felt. I didn’t stop reading or commenting, but at that stage in my journey I wasn’t likely to START reading or following a blog if the blogger was already a parent (Stirrup Queens was an exception because of the afore-mentioned encyclopedic and community-oriented nature of her blog).
But eventually, all but two or three of the women on my blogroll got pregnant and went on to have living babies. And I did too. So now my community is nearly all parenting after infertility and loss.
A couple years ago I volunteered to be a Clicker for the LFCA, and was assigned the Secondary IF category. That’s been an interesting journey in itself as I can’t pick and choose whom to follow based on personal affinity. I admit that there was one blog that I had a hard time reading because the religious point of view raised issues for me from my upbringing. But I’ve enjoyed getting to “know” a whole slew of bloggers through this category that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And being in the Parenting After IF category makes it easier for me to click for this category than someone would who’s still in the trenches, since by definition all these bloggers have living children, and it doesn’t hurt me to read about or see pictures of their kids.
[Aside: There used to be a time when a lot of ALI bloggers would routinely write “Children Mentioned” at the top of a post where children were mentioned. Why don’t we do this anymore?]
Do I edit or censor myself? I try not to, actually. I’ve blogged about conflicts with my husband (one of my most popular posts ever, actually), and I’ve blogged about negative feelings I’ve had about motherhood and parenting. I know it’s a bit taboo when parenting post-IF to say anything negative about your children or about the experience of parenting, but I think in order to keep an authentic voice and to process what I need to process online, I will go ahead and violate that taboo.
Yes, I treasure my children dearly; they are precious human beings and I am stunned with gratitude (and scared shitless that I’m totally screwing it up) for the opportunity to parent them. This whole journey has been immeasurably enriched for me through the experience of blogging. I don’t keep a paper journal anymore. I tried, but it’s not the same as having the opportunity for nearly-instant feedback, for knowing that my words might be seen by eyes scattered across the globe. Even one reader to whom I feel close makes the whole experience worthwhile. For one reader – for you – I will continue blogging.