Blography

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.

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16 Responses to “Blography”

  1. Mel Says:

    I also liked the bulletin boards, but loved blogging. I started on the boards, and it was great for information or quick support. But I didn’t know anything about the people talking to me. And then I found blogs. And it was information AND the person. It was the whole package.

    I don’t know why we don’t write “children mentioned” at the top anymore. All I know is that one day I noticed I was the only one still doing it, and I stopped too (a blogger who shall not be named actually wrote me to say, “Uh, Mel, you’re the only one who does that anymore.”)

    Reading about Watson and Manuela made things seem really far away. I can’t remember if I told you this or if I thought it and meant to tell you this, but I remembered suddenly that embarrassing moment story you told about the swim suit (in the lake?) and when I put together how long ago that was, I suddenly thought, “damn, I’ve read some of these people for a very long time.”

  2. Serenity Says:

    I haven’t been a great commenter either. I think that one thing this blowup has taught me is that I need to reach out and connect with my blogging sisters. Maybe just putting words into the internet isn’t enough. My way of building bridges means working harder at letting people know I’m here, around, cheering them on.

    xoxo

  3. sharah Says:

    Aw, I feel all squishy inside now 🙂 it is odd to think about how long I’ve been reading and writing.

  4. Claire Says:

    It’s funny how I have stumbled on people’s blogs – for example yours – and chosen to keep coming back to them. To me it seems a bit random. But then I now feel as if I know you a bit and I would love to sit in one of those Balkan
    Cafes and have a macchiata velika mollim vas. Sorry about the spelling!!
    I know I don’t write on my blog anywhere near as much as I would like so I forgive people for not knowing who the hell I am!

    • Elizabeth Says:

      It’s not always easy to keep current when there’s not something pressing to blog about – the cycling and pregnancy milestones and schedules sort of lend themselves to it, but other parts of life don’t as much, do they?

  5. Lori Lavender Luz Says:

    I’m so glad you expanded on BabySmiling’s post.

    I, too, have wondered about your Aside, about how people no longer do the “Childen Mentioned” thing. My kids are old enough now that I feel like since they’re not babies, maybe it’s not quite as hurtful to readers. Plus, it’s my life; they are my life. I earned my IF stripes and “graduated” before anyone in the ALI community knew me.

    I love your last line. That bonding, that connection, such a huge reason why I blog, too. That feeling of resonance between people (both the reading and the writing).

  6. babysmiling Says:

    Thanks for answering my question in such detail!

    Ah, the message boards. My biggest problem with the boards was that it was hard to follow each person’s story through scattered posts — noise is a good way to describe it. You’re right that the decoration of a blog helps you know about the person and, for me, when I was reading lots of blogs, it also helped me track who’s who.

    The other problem with the boards: baby dust and blinking icons and multiple tickers and all of the signature clutter! Even if you didn’t want to read posts from a particular poster, you couldn’t unsee their signature.

    • St. Elsewhere Says:

      I hate those blinking icons and baby dust messages….that is all clutter!

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Yeah, the unfolding of a personal story vs. the scattered posts – exactly.

      This post was percolating in my mind before you posted the Thoughtful Thursday prompt, and that was all the prompting I needed to get it out of my head and onto the Internet.

  7. St. Elsewhere Says:

    “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. ”

    That would be me too.

    I want to answer the pregnancy/children-mentioned thing, but I don’t want to offend….well, to begin with, for a large chunk of my blogging past (2007+ for the first blog), I never had to utter those words with the reference being me. I just never got habituated to using those terms in the post title. My luck changed only in 2010. And since there was no habit of doing it, it never happened for me.

    My blog has just grown like a plant. It started with the struggle, and the journey of nourishment, and the new blooms. It is obvious I think that now I would be wanting to talk of my children. I don’t want to keep adding ‘Children Mentioned’ to every title, because it is obvious that this is what I want to talk about mostly right now (and since there is no TTC happening for me). I know this may appear rude, but I did rather have things in a way that is comfortable for me.

  8. S.I.F. Says:

    I relate to so much of this. Writing is a release for me, and it’s something I have always done to some extent or another. But something about infertility drove me to want to take that all public. Probably because, like you – message boards weren’t doing it for me. And I just didn’t feel like I could talk to those in my life about any of this at all. So what did that leave for me? Blogging opened up a world where I could analyze and over-analyze my thoughts/feelings/fears in all of this on paper, and reach people who were thinking/feeling/fearing all the same things, and who in turn could reach me. It opened doors and helped me to sort through this mess as it was happening. But were I to get pregnant tomorrow and lose every reader I’ve ever had as a result? I would get that. And I would keep writing as openly and honestly as possible. Because you’re right – there is still a benefit to that, and if even one person relates, it’s worth having it all out there for the world to see.

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