blogging bridges

Mel’s latest post on BlogHer asks the questions she posed at last week’s panel on infertility, loss and adoption. I’ve probably answered the first few elsewhere, but I’ll take a crack again. How about you? 

1. Why did I end up with an infertility blog? What is the overriding theme of your blog and why? 

I write what I know. I started blogging as a way to cope with my infertility journey — to reach out and connect with others who were (or had been) in a similar situation, to seek and share information, to document my attempt at treatment, to vent and process what I was going through, to express my deepest hopes and fears, and perhaps most importantly, to know I was not alone. Infertility can be such an isolating experience, casting doubt on your value as a woman and human being. Living “as an infertile in a fertile world,” as Pamela Jeanne would say, can be a very lonely experience.

I began writing as I was exploring my last chance for a baby. I was facing an uncertain future with dwindling options. I was still dealing with the loss of my only child at five months gestation, along with my prior and subsequent inability to conceive. I was wondering if, after four years of trying and failing, I would ever become a mother. I was wondering whether my lostbaby boy would be the closest I would ever come. The overriding theme of my blog has been exploring my infertility, loss and grief, and more recently, our new path to parenthood through open adoption. 

2. What do you hope to achieve personally and externally with your blog?

My blog began primarily as an outlet to process my experience and connect with others who might understand what I was going through. I did not start out hoping to achieve anything more. Ultimately, I realized I had something to offer too, that my experience might help others through their journey. Writing has incredibly therapeutic value for me. I thought if I could reach just one more person, it would be worthwhile. 

It was so affirming to hear from others who “got” what I was saying, who had been there and survived (to blog about it). I hope it has been as affirming for others to sometimes read my words and think, yes, she “gets” me too. The act of witness and affirmation can be very powerful. All of a sudden, I wasn’t alone anymore. I hoped that someone some day might feel the same. Now I love that my blog has become a voice in a broader community of support. 

3. Do you think a bridge needs to be built between communities in the larger blogosphere in order to foster understanding (in other words, between infertility blogger and mommy bloggers or two other groups)?

Any wide chasm between groups can inhibit understanding and solidarity. The difference in perspectives of those who write from opposite ends of the fertility spectrum is stark. As an infertile, I know it can be difficult to read a blog dedicated to the joys and challenges of motherhood (particularly when it may have come easily or unexpectedly), just as it must be for a fertile mom to read the blog of a woman suffering the pain of infertility (especially when bitterness or sadness is directed at the sight of a pregnant or nursing mother). Then there’s the former infertile mom, who may not wish to be reminded of the pain of infertility, since she was “lucky” enough to cross over to the other side. 

Yet just because you’ve never had the other’s experience doesn’t mean you can’t try to understand it. When I wrote about how hard it is to attend baby showers and birthdays, for example, a (fertile) mother thanked me because she had agonized over whether she should include an (infertile) friend in these activities. (The answer is yes, btw — extend the invite, but forgive her if she must decline; she may feel badly either way, but she’ll probably feel worse if you exclude her.)

Similarly, just because you’ve had a similar experience doesn’t mean you necessarily “get” where someone else is coming from. As discussed at the panel, I agree there is a gap between the sensitive and insensitive, between those who seek understanding and those who don’t. Empathy cultivates compassion. Without compassion, a bridge cannot effectively be built.   

4. How do you go about building these bridges? If we build bridges, will people cross them?

Sometimes the bridge is a person who wants to learn more and has an opportunity to do so. A dialogue can open doors and cultivate common ground for understanding.

Infertility is an invisible disease afflicting millions. In a society focused on families and children, infertiles often feel isolated, invisible, and powerless. We need to bring infertility out of the closet, so to speak — raise awareness about the real causes (i.e., it’s a disease), dispel the myths and stereotypes perpetuated by ignorance and the media (i.e., stressed out career-driven women need to “just relax,” and all those “selfish” people should “just adopt”). We need to highlight the stories of real people affected by the pain and struggle to achieve what so many do with such little effort (i.e., everyday women and men, your friends and neighbors). We need to learn how to talk about pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death as if it weren’t the plague. I’m tired of being avoided and being pitied. Until the stigma of infertility and loss is removed, there can be no broad understanding of its devastating impact. 

I don’t expect anyone to necessarily cross a bridge unless they are involved in the building. People have to want to learn more and they need time and space to engage with others to get beyond “labels” and find common ground. Unless someone endeavors to truly appreciate another’s situation, they cannot begin the understand the complexities of that person’s reality, and a divide will remain. 

5. What do you think is gained and lost by opening up a community (making it more accessible, inviting outsiders to comment, explaining the shorthand abbreviations)? If you aren’t a member of a community, would you feel comfortable crossing a bridge that was placed in front of you?

I think there is much to gain by opening up to others as you may facilitate dialogue and foster greater understanding. This can take time and requires openness and trust. People must feel safe to participate. Yet I think you also run the risk of inviting controversy or debate, which may not always be appropriate (as in a place for support). There is also a risk mis-stepping, of saying something hurtful or unintentionally offending someone because you don’t understand their situation, or you lack the relevant context to provide meaningful support.

~ by luna on July 27, 2008.

6 Responses to “blogging bridges”

  1. I loved this thought: “I don’t expect anyone to necessarily cross a bridge unless they are involved in the building” and totally agree. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same bridge you’re building; experience in one area helps you cross bridges in another. So many times, you hear in the infertility community that infertility made people more circumspect and more empathetic. In other words, more willing to cross bridges into someone else’s experience. If there sensitivity is there 🙂

  2. Brilliant writing, as always. You convey so much and so well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself in the process.

  3. I love this whole post, and especially the thoughts on the need for mutual willingness/involvement for successful bridge building. That is the part where I get stuck– it seems clear that some realities are not the cheeriest subjects, and not necessarily something others are going to be eager to understand.

  4. […] In my last post, I answered some questions posed by Mel about whether “bridges” are needed to cross the […]

  5. I learned so much from this one post. What a wonderful sentiment. I wish I could have attended the panel. I think bridging online communities in a sensitive and respectful way is an incredible idea. I’m sure it’s not new and I’m sure it’s hard at times, but there is so much to learn from each other. And, I think there are more commonalities than it sometimes appears. I guess I am a mommyblogger – I haven’t experienced infertility, but I have experienced miscarriage and I am an adoptive mom. Those connection are sometimes the start of friendships. I’m really glad to have connected with you.

  6. Thanks for the information. Me this theme too interests. I shall read still.

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