community

I have Thoughts on What Went Down at Stirrup Queens last week.*

(Background here, here, and here.)

My thoughts are lengthy.  They are rambling and sometimes navel-gazing.  And I am well aware that I am stepping into a situation that seems to have nothing to do with me.  But here I go anyway, because I care about this community and I think some very important issues have been raised.**  I am coming from a place of love and compassion and while I know that Intent Is Not Magic, I do hope that my intent comes through here.  Metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha.

Lived Experience; my house is my house

I have to start from this place, from what I know for sure:  No one gets to tell another person that her lived experience is wrong.  My life is my life, and if it doesn’t line up with someone else’s ideas or with statistics or with whatever fairy tale the media is pumping out at us, that doesn’t make it any less my life.

Another thing I know for sure:  Your rights end where mine begin.  And vice versa.  This blog is my house, and I have the right to conduct myself here as I see fit.  Your blog is your house, and you get to run it however you choose.  I think that means no one should feel pressured to censor herself on her own blog, particularly in this community where so many of us come to get away from the constant self-censorship of the rest of our lives.  If we can’t speak freely in the one place we have created for that express purpose, what do we have?

These two points are, I think, my best way in to understand the people who joined PAIL because they weren’t getting what they needed from the existing ALI community.

Lived Experience.  There are so many comments at Stirrup Queens about people finding their readership drop after becoming pregnant or giving birth, and about people who are pregnant or parenting signing up for ICLW in particular and not getting the support they needed to get out of that experience.  People feeling alone inside this community, which was often the one place they really belonged and could be totally honest.  That is a real, lived experience:  ALI bloggers feeling isolated from the ALI community after becoming pregnant or giving birth.

Obviously I have never done either of those things, but I know some of my readers have and I would love to know if your experience has been similar.  Did your readership drop when you got your BFP?  When you gave birth?  Did it matter to you?  Would you notice?

Your rights end where mine begin.  Many of the PAIL bloggers (and can I say how much I appreciate the strength it took to say these things “out loud?”) also talked about self-censoring.  Feeling uncomfortable writing about pregnancy, or childbirth, or parenting because they remember the pain of reading about those topics after a BFN or an adoption that didn’t go through or just another long slog up this fucking neverending mountain.  It’s an empathetic position: remembering what it feels like to read that stuff, they don’t want to write about it and cause people pain.  But the situation there spirals down — because, again, the lived experience of these bloggers is that readership drops.  (Some of) the people who can’t handle pregnancy or parenting posts have already gone away.  So you have a blogger who is trying to be sensitive to the needs of her readers, self-censoring in the process, and the readers still go away.

The blogger is no longer getting her or his needs met: not only is she not getting the support she still needs, she is not even able to use her own blog to share her real thoughts and feelings.  The ALI community is no longer a safe space for her.

If anyone’s reading who is pregnant or parenting, did/do you feel this way?  Do you censor your blog to spare readers’ feelings?  Do you feel you can be honest in this community?

safe space

Not only is one person’s lived experience her absolute truth; not only do one person’s rights end where another’s begin; on top of those things, something I know for sure is that privilege exists.  And that is why safe spaces are needed.

The ALI community is a needed, loved, and vital safe space for people who can’t say things in the rest of the world.  We are marginalized; we are “not normal;” we are “subverting God’s will,” or proving that “feminism has failed,” or “selfish,” or too stupid to know that we could “just adopt.”  We need a place where we don’t always have to smile, where we don’t always have to start at the beginning, where no one will ask us when we’re going to have kids, where someone knows what we mean by “Anyone get a BFP 5dp5dt?”  This is that place.

It’s been that place for the bloggers who got pregnant, who had babies, and some of whom no longer feel welcome.  And that’s why I totally understand why PAIL is so attractive.  Everyone deserves a safe space; for people who have come through this crucible, regular mommy blogs aren’t going to do it.  And if this community is no longer functioning as a safe space for some bloggers, it makes sense that they would need a new place that can do that for them.

me, me, me

I have to confess that I don’t understand the self-censorship thing.  I have only censored myself once on this blog, and after deleting the post I put it back up.  This blog?  My house.  Your blog?  Your house.  And while I would love to have lots and lots of friends over, it’s more important to me to keep my house in the way I see fit than to try to change it in the hope of keeping or increasing readership.  I guess it comes down to blogging goals, as Mel put so elegantly in one of her posts.  I think we all have to know why we’re here.

I’m here because this (and I mean this community, not just my own corner of it) is my safe space.  I can say here what I can’t say Out in the World.  I have been fortunate to meet so many amazing, strong women.  You inspire me on a daily basis.  When I fall down you are there to catch me.

I know that many times I have taken more support from this community than I have given back, and I absolutely need to do better.   I am socially awkward in real life so I suppose it’s not so strange that I’m the same way here — but really, I need to do better.

It breaks my heart to think that on the other side of those days when I’m just not up for seeing a baby update, there is an ALI blogger wondering where all of her readers have gone.

That being said, though, those bloggers with babies?  They have done it.   They have achieved what we’re all hoping for, and there is a sense for me in which forming a new community just for parents feels a little like climbing into the treehouse and then pulling the ladder up after them while the rest of us are still on the ground.  That’s an ugly sentiment and I’m not proud of myself for feeling it, even for one minute.  I have to respect these bloggers’ need for safe space just as much as my own, and as I said above if some people are not getting their needs met here they have every right to go elsewhere.

What this means for me is that I need to work harder to make sure the bloggers I care about, who inspire me and whose journeys are giving me hope, are appreciated and feel welcome here (small-here as in gingerandlime and big-here as in ALI), no matter what part of the mountain they’ve gotten to.

* It is also, of course, What Went Down at Elphaba’s blog (formerly Yolk, now Alice in Diaperland).  But I experienced it at first through the Stirrup Queens posts, which is how it filters in my head, so that’s how I’m presenting it here.  I don’t mean in any way to privilege Mel’s experience of the situation over Elphaba’s, but it would be disingenuous of me to present this as though I have a complete understanding of what went into creating PAIL.

** I’m not going to talk about the uglier things that were said, except to say that we are all starting from a place of profound pain.  I hope that we can be gentle with ourselves and with others.

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12 responses to “community

  1. Well put. I clung desperately to blogs where someone suffered what I was going through and was now firmly on the other side. Loads of bloggers who have been off the TTC trail in parent land have kept up with me and lent support in amazing ways. My blog. My house. I don’t write for readership or popularity. This PAIL thing had me puzzled. This is a very thoughtful post. Thanks for putting this out there for intelligent discussion.

  2. Extremely well said. The tree house metaphor is the same way I feel… only I don’t feel badly for thinking that way. I like to see the blogs of the people who have “made it” to the other side, and I don’t think it’s fair of them to bring up the ladder so to speak. Do I identify with them once they’ve given birth and am I always in a place where I want to read about breastfeeding and playdates? Of course not. People who have had babies need to remember what it was like to be in the trenches and respect our right to not read anymore if we don’t feel up to it. There’s no censoring that can fix that and no censoring should be done. They are where they are in their journeys. If there is anything I’ve learned on my journey, it’s to be better at empathy and I think some of the comments on SQ showed that many have lost sight of that. I’d like to see the PAIL people stay a part of this community, uncensored, and for our community to help them find a way to find each other more easily.

  3. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. I have yet to fully wrap my head around this whole situation. I still feel like I’m so far from getting pregnant or parenting that I don’t have a stake in what happens with PAIL. But it’s my community, too. And my opinions should matter. I just have to figure out what they are.

  4. Chunkbee@yahoo.com

    As usual, a thoughtful, articulate post that I can really relate to.
    I have been watching the controversy from the side lines, I’m not quite sure what I think of it all. It is unfortunate that something that seemed well intentioned if not short sited has caused such divisiveness. I am not terribly surprised because I do think despite our fabulous community there are some pretty substantial differences whether or not they are honestly acknowledged. Pain Olympics anyone?
    I always felt like misery loves company in the blog world, no judgement on the sentiment, in fact I get it. I lost a few readers when I got a bfp and I gained a few. Commenting is down but I guess I ultimately blog to keep a record for my own reflection. I don’t think too much about lost readers, I too stopped following pg. bloggers at various points. I tend to keep a smattering of well loved blogs who are at various places in the slog. My tendencies are more about whether I connect with a blogger vs. where they are at.
    Initially, I felt I should censor but I am more comfortable in my current shoes and like the sentiment of it being my house.

  5. It’s a fascinating discussion, isn’t it. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    I’m very much hoping you are about to experience “the other side” for yourself. I am surprised that there are people who feel the need to set up a separate space, because I guess my attitude is: say what you want, and hope your people will find you. Of course, the truth is, I don’t always say what I want. But I try. I figure it’s up to other people to decide whether or not to read. And yeah, when I got pregnant a lot of people vanished, but I didn’t mind. The people I feel “close” to largely stuck around. And yeah, there are things I just can’t write about because I’m hyper-aware of my readership. For example, I’ve written very little about this second pregnancy (what it feels like, what my fears are, etc.), because I just can’t get over feeling like a pariah.

    Here’s the hardest part for me. I’m shy and socially awkward, too, and I worry about not being welcome in the comment box of a woman who is still fighting the fight. The only way to be sure you’re welcome is a reciprocal commenting relationship. But you sure don’t want someone to feel obligated to comment on a breastfeeding post when she’s recovering from a miscarriage. What to do? If someone stops commenting, does it mean you’re supposed to stop commenting? Does every comment from you just remind the person that you’re a baby hoarder? I don’t read many blogs, but there are a few I read and never comment on, because of that fear.

    Anyway, for me it’s about relationships with people, and just like IRL relationships, there online ones are complicated. That’s part of what makes it such a real community.

  6. I haven’t noticed a decline in readership/comments, but then again I don’t really check my stats, just comments, which varies from post to post.

    I’m in an odd place right now. I have one twin at home and the other in the NICU (still, 6 weeks tomorrow…). I don’t particularly relate to other moms of multiples because my struggles really aren’t about managing two babies at once–they’re about managing two babies in different places and the impossibility of being there for both of them at once. But I don’t relate to parents of singleton newborns either, again because, while only one baby wakes me up with his reflux, there is another baby that I would *LOVE* to have wake me up.

    One of my favorite ALI people, who may or may not even read my blog right now, found out at 36 weeks that one of her twins had died. We were due at the same time. I do feel like I censor myself on her behalf in particular, because as hard as having one twin in the NICU may be, I *do* have both my twins.

    I also didn’t complain much during my pregnancy, despite having hyperemesis and being HUGE (I’ve lost over 50 pounds since delivering…). Part of that was out of respect for non=pregnant bloggers, and part of it was a sort of self-imposed “you asked for this, now be grateful” mentality.

    I dunno. I haven’t joined PAIL and don’t know how much I’ll continue blogging. It’s not about not having readers, though, so much as not wanting to throw my kids’ medical details all over the internet, and privacy concerns for them when they are older (as the internet is forever).

  7. This is a great post Gingerandlime. You have put your thoughts together with great clarity, and I believe this brings the Grand discussion about PAIL and ALI one step closer. I especially resonate with the concept of “My blog is my house, and your blog is your house.” I personally don’t care too much about readership; I just need a place to express myself openly. The women who read my blog and those who comment are a wonderful bonus, but I think I migth still write if I wasn’t getting any comments. I guess this comes back to goals of blogging.
    Thanks again for this great post.

  8. I’ve always questioned where I fit in in the community. Yes, I have PCOS but it took me less than a year to get pregnant. I was very lucky. I don’t censor myself on my blog but I have avoided commenting on blogs that I read where people are struggling with TTC/loss. I want to show my support but then I think of them clicking the link to my blog, seeing pictures of my daughter, and then getting upset or angry. I don’t want to subject anyone to that.

  9. I try my best not to censor myself. My readership is so tiny anyway that it’s not really necessary. Well, it’s not necessary regardless, but you know what I mean. I think of blogging as a sort of online journal so I try to be as honest as I can be. After all, I blog to release whatever is on my mind. However, the whole point of blogging as opposed to journaling is getting the feedback from others. I try to be mindful of not hurting feelings, etc. Even if this is “my house,” I want it to be a welcoming one.

  10. I think this is one of the best, thoughtful posts I have read about the issue, and I really appreciate your taking the effort to try to understand both sides. You are right that no one, regardless of status, should ever feel unsupported in the ALI community.

  11. Port of Indecision

    I read this post on my phone in the middle of the night and had to wait till I got a chance to be at the computer to comment. I saw Elphaba’s post about PAIL too, but hadn’t really jumped into the fray because I’ve had very little blogging time in the past week and a half. Let me try to organize my thoughts.

    First, as one of the now-other-side bloggers, I wouldn’t say I censor myself. My posting frequency has indeed gone down since becoming pregnant with a successful pregnancy, but that decrease was organic. What do I write about, besides being wracked with fear that this pregnancy, too, will end (badly)? So I tried to stick to blogging when I had something to blog about, and using an online PgAL group I have for the mundane stuff. I do have a couple of hindsight pregnancy posts I’m planning whenever I get the time. I fully expected reading and commenting to drop off – and it did. My main followers, the people with whom I have a back-and-forth blogging relationship, all hung around the whole time. They may not have been commenting on every post, but many of them did, and all of them commented when I posted that the alien had been born – so I know I’m still on their radars. Those who stopped following and commenting, well, that’s fine – I’ve stopped following people too, or been at a loss as to what to say. And lastly, I’ve always felt that in this community, the people who need support the most are those still in the trenches. I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they didn’t feel like following a blog with a successful and problem-free pregnancy.

    Re:PAIL, I guess I am assuming, or maybe hoping, that the intent is to make it easier for your people to find you. Not to make it an entirely separate-but-Venn-diagrammed blogosphere. But like I said, I really haven’t read all the background on it. I know that I want to continue blogging, and I hope to be able to be like jjiraffe and others who still write thoughtful, relevant blogs for any ALI’er, despite being on “the other side.”

    And lastly, yes: my blog is my house, and your blog is your house. And let the chips fall where they may, but that’s the only way to blog.

  12. Pingback: Uncensored « Still searching for our Golden Egg

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