Sunday, March 18, 2012

Healing Salon Summaries

These summaries were written by the hosts of the healing salons.

From Les Terres Fertiles

It's tough to sum everything up, there were a lot of twists and turns in the thread. So I feel it's best to keep it seems short and sweet.

There are definitely still differences of opinion out there. But what's really inspiring to me, is that everyone expressed understanding of where the other side is coming from. Perhaps this will have an impact on our sense of community, but I think no matter what, in the end we're all still tied together by what were have in common.

Most of us who either don't understand or don't like PAIL, get where the PAIL supporters are coming from and can embrace PAIL as part of the community. And I believe those who support PAIL also understand the hurt on the other side, and want to stress that of anything PAIL was a way to try and minimize hurt.

So I think in the end this brought to light a lot of feelings that we all were probably hiding, and I think that's a good thing.


From MoJo Working (whole summary on her blog)

Thank you to everyone who commented on and participated in The Healing Salon. It was quite cathartic for me to be able to really spend some time thinking about some of the issues the rest of you raised on your posts, and I got some great responses to my questions here.

Because I'm a super-duper nerd, I constructed a spreadsheet to help me make sense of your answers. And though you can sense a theme just by reading the comments, this really helped to solidify things for me.


From Single Infertile Female

One of the things that seemed to come up on my healing salon a lot was a sense of disconnect no matter what part of their journey they were in. Most acknowledged that in their real life, there were very few people who could relate to what they were dealing with in infertility. The ALI community provided a space where others understood and got where they were coming from and what they were dealing with, and for everyone who commented that understanding and support seemed to be invaluable. But even in that, there was a sense of being left behind. For those still trying, it was difficult to watch everyone who had been trying with them at the same time moving on to the next level. For those who eventually chose to step away from treatments, there was the feeling of being the outcome nobody wants to acknowledge (out of fear) and therefore being unwanted and unwelcomed. And for those now parenting, there seemed to be a worry that others would think they had gotten it too easily, or would no longer be interested in continuing relationships because they had moved on.

In the end, it seems as though everyone just wants to be understood and supported in where they are in this now. Finding that is difficult in the real world, but so many of us have come to rely on it in the ALI community. So when that sense of being left behind does arise here, it almost seems like it is that much more painful because we don't expect it here. But everyone to comment was quick to acknowledge that there have been many who have held their hands along the way too, and they were thankful for those relationships and connections that have been formed through this community. I think for some, there is just still always going to be that sense of standing on the outside no matter what though. Something about infertility changes us, and ignoring that or pretending it isn't there is hard to do.


From Something Remarkable

What I see first and foremost, at least among those who have commented here, is a strong desire for community and fostering relationships through blogging. The parenting/pregnancy blogs that continue to be read by those still "in the trenches" are those that are well-rounded, panoramic views into people's lives, more than simply stock memes about pregnancy and new baby. For many, those are relationships that began before particular bloggers were pregnant or parenting. Many read a wide range of situational blogs, as they are reading more for the person than the situation. Likewise, while some folks write blogs to document a journey or as a sort of online journal, many are looking for a community to come out of their blogging experience.

Most people don't believe that pregnant/parenting bloggers are explicitly asked not to write about their experiences, though some folks have said that they've been criticized for doing so, which has led to a self-censoring in the community as a whole.

Finally, I want to observe that many of the commenters here don't feel part of the ALI community, even though they obviously ARE a part of that community (i.e. reading blogs about adoption/loss/infertility/childless not by choice). I wonder about that, as that seems to be the sentiment that launched PAIL. Worth adding, I suppose, that those who read here largely haven't been a part of PAIL [or they chose not to comment on it as part of this thread].


Coming to Terms

Awwkwwwward... It's one thing to be invisible in the greater society in which we all live, it's quite another to be overlooked by those who are supposed to be your "sistas." Many C2T readers were peeved about the need to remind Healing Salon participants that, ahem, there are more than two constituencies (those trying to conceive and those parenting after infertility) in the infertility community. That said....

"MABIs" (mothers after battling infertility) shared these thoughts:
- I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about the difficulties of parenting... wouldn't that be like complaining about your new boss in a forum for the unemployed?
- I feel the need to keep certain things on the down-lo. I have gained a profound respect and compassion for those who have struggled to have children, struggled to live without their children and those who struggle to just move on. (AMEN!)
- You can't make 100% of your audience happy.
- I think it's important to be with people who do not share your views/situation 100%.
- It would be boring to only read reflections of my own life, even if the person had their own unique experiences.
-What I despise are those who succeed and actively try to forget their IF struggles.
"Non-Moms" had this to say:
- Those still in the trenches don't want to acknowledge our outcome can and does happen - we didn't walk away with the prize. People who DID walk away with the prize, can't relate to us because they did walk away with the prize.
- I love that women with kids want to know what life is like without them. I love that they make the effort to read and comment. Too many don't. As someone said - "it's as if we're contagious." I can live with that, but I won't say it doesn't hurt a bit.
And those TTC observed:
- Given that parenting bloggers are the majority now in the ALI community, surely the logic of majority alone means that if anyone is being alienated it's the childless?
- Writing from the heart, about wherever you are in the journey, is the best thing any of us can do, for ourselves and for our readers.


From My Path to Insanity & Beyond

I would firstly like to say how much I enjoyed being a part of this. Not only did I get to meet some fantastic new women that were on totally different stages of their IF journey I was really warmed overall by the responses. I felt there was some really great discussion and more importantly, healing.

I deliberately didn’t address PAIL in my blog but inevitably the discussion turned to it; or more to the point, the feelings that pregnancy after infertility bring to those in the “trenches” or living a childfree life.

One of my favourite responses was from an anonymous commenter who said,

“And maybe that is what we need to accept in this community. That we are different. That we react differently to different things and may even react differently to the same thing.”

To me this really succinctly summed it up. We are different in this community even though we want the same thing. To one person a new sub community or blog roll is innocuous but to others it was offensive because of the way they reacted to it.

The other things that came out of it was that people don’t seem to mind pregnancy blogging but they have to be in the right frame of mind to read it and that IF pregnancy bloggers do watch what they are saying and to a certain extent censor because they don’t want to hurt those they still care about. I don’t think this is a bad thing. To me this demonstrates the full level of respect we do have for one another. Which is much nicer than slinging mud and participating in the Pain Olympics.

In my salon I talked about "liking" comments and I was really happy that people were honest that yes of course they like comments! Ultimately we all blog for ourselves but we also blog to share our story, spread awareness, to get things out of our heads and that people are really appreciative when they receive a comment because it is nice to meet and interact with other people. Most of us blog for the sense of community and the warmth we feel when we receive a comment on something we have blogged about.


From Remembering Funny

Our discussion focused on the primary issue of self-censorship and how that has or has not played a role in the creation of PAIL (though we did not discuss PAIL as a topic, but more the reasons why PAIL might exist). The vast majority of bloggers who commented felt that self-censoring by anyone in the ALI community can be damaging when it overrides the need for a writer to express their feelings and speak honestly. However, there was some issues with the semantics of 'self-censoring' vs. the idea of 'mindfulness' that others reading a particular topic may be affected by what and how it is said. Chickenpig summed up this balance nicely:
"I think that censorship is a fine balancing act. If you censor yourself every time you go to write a post, you are stifling your own voice, and you won’t be able to touch others. If you let everything hang out, you may turn away people who you could help, or be touched by. I think that finding the right voice and the right audience is the key."


From Stork Stalking

While the debate over PAIL pushed none of my emotional buttons, it did present intellectual questions and issues. Here are some summaries, which have helped me understand the situation better.

While everybody had no problems with the concept of multiple blogrolls on different websites, some saw PAIL as more than a blogroll, but rather a community. The other thing that was highlighted was that all members of PAIL do not have the same set of intentions. Some see it just as a place where they can meet people in a similar situation, ie, a mere blogroll. Others might want to focus more on the communal aspect of it, they might want to focus all their blogging time and energy in reading posts on mothering. Many others might continue in the same way they do now, following people in multiple situations (TTC, parenting or living child-free) –basically, in whomever they are emotionally invested in.

What really struck me from this entire discussion is how many different schools of thought there are, and how 2 people can gaze at the same picture and see very different things. Such is human nature, and that cannot be changed. We are never going to agree 100% with each other, nor can we make everybody happy.

Keeping this in mind, the moral of the story should be, IMO, live and let live. This situation arose because we tried to make it too complicated. As a virtual community, our only goal should be to be there to offer support, to whoever we can, wherever we can and accept the same from whatever source that offers it to us.


From Hobbit-ish Thoughts and Ramblings

One of the biggest things that seemed to come out of the discussion on my blog is that the ALI community is a big entity, and that there is room for all of us, no matter where we are on our journey. And that we like to share in stories from all the 'rooms' on the ALI blogroll, even though sometimes it's hard to know how to offer support to specific situations
Also, there was much acknowledgement, that whether we like it or not, we are a sensitive bunch. We have been scarred by our experiences with those who didn't have any difficulties building their families, and those scars still sting, no matter who pokes them. (One particularly apropos analogy compared ALI-ers as people with sunburns.)


Infertile Fantasies

- a lot of people expect different communities to pop up within or in parallel to the general ALI community (in fact, at least some have never seen the online ALI community, even its blogging arm, as truly and comprehensively being all under the one umbrella, although Melissa does a darn good job with Stirrup Queens of inviting anyone in who wants to group together, and of having her invitation accepted). People also accept that there can be a bias towards falling in with others who are in similar situations (although most people also like at least a bit of variety to spice up life, some to a greater extent). The main issue seems to be that PAIL is a formalised community that people are either allowed or not allowed to join based on whether they have achieved what those setting out in adoption/infertility/loss set out for, or not. We have had formal communities set up for other, less desired outcomes without problem. That said, I think generally everyone can see each other's point of view, despite what their ultimate verdict might be.

- Some are passionate, but a large number of people are actually not too bothered about the creation of PAIL and it doesn't change much for them (this latter group includes parents and non-parents; current members and non-members of PAIL). I find this quite reassuring for the long-term outlook.

From Bionic Baby Mamas

As several other blogs did, I asked people to talk about when influenced their decision to read or to keep reading a given blog, especially (given the current discussion) when a blogger becomes a parent. So many people write such insightful things in response that I hope interested parties will look at the post for themselves, as my attempts to summarize the discussion cannot possibly capture much of it.

A few people mentioned reading blogs for "situational reasons" -- this blogger got pregnant when I did; when I had X issue come up in my life, I looked for others who had faced the same -- but most cited humor, interesting writing, and a sense of "kindred spirit"-ness as reasons for sticking with a blog. Many people commented on the idea that those parenting after infertility feel some requirement not to complain about parenting challenges as a self-defeating kind of self-censorship; while some people talked about using their own blogs as journals or ways to keep track of events, most people are less interested in commenting on posts that are only about how well things are going. People cited liking to give advice and support as reasons to comment on blogs regardless of the blogger's "situation," and "reflection" as something that keeps them reading even without the level of dramatic tension that is more naturally a part of TTC stories than most parenting ones. The biggest turn-offs cited were "lecturing" the reader about the definitively best way to parent and exclusivity of the "you can't understand if you don't have children," "parenting is harder than infertility," or "X group aren't real infertiles" sort. Many of my readers are lesbians parenting or TTC, and several people talked about the value of an online community of the same, both in terms of what kind of blogs they read and look for and who they write for.

From Family Building With a Twist

The consensus was that that the ALI community is big enough to encompass all stops along the
spectrum and that those parenting after IF need to be more active in the community. While some parenting after IF bloggers have experienced cruel comments, many said it was self-imposed censorship. Those still in the trenches admitted that it was a new realization that those parenting still need support and are worth supporting. Many said they still read the blogs of those who have moved on but struggle with how to show support due to their own pain and current circumstances.

Whether parenting after IF or still in the trenches, all of the commenters blog for therapy and to
document their journey. They also blog to release anger and to find support because they have
nowhere else IRL to do so. Some also wrote that they blog to be open about IF and to let others know that it is ok to talk about it. The PAIL brouhaha led the commenters to conclude that all who blog – regardless of your circumstances – need to own your space and write what you feel or is true for you. You can’t please everyone, but please be empathetic. Those parenting after IF, please remember how you felt when you were in the trenches. For those still in the trenches, please understand that it is hard to be a parent and that infertility is forever for many people.

All the commenters have a great deal of respect for you (Mel) and what you have created and nurtured. They believe that there is room for new ideas in the ALI community but want to avoid redundancy and think that any new ideas should be discussed with you. A few commenters expressed concern that it may appear there is a hierarchy and want to change that to “thought leaders.” Interestingly, many expressed the sentiment that we are all responsible for the community and need to take a greater role.

There was a sense of disillusionment due to the PAIL brouhaha. All of my commenters were extremely upset and troubled by the personal attacks in the comments on the PAIL posts. A few said that they felt like a few bloggers’ true colors had been shown about how they really feel and some blogs had been deleted from readers. Another commenter had thought that the ALI community was generally more empathetic than others and was bothered by the discovery that we can be just as nasty and hurtful as anyone else. A few others felt that the purpose and intent of PAIL had been misunderstood and were frustrated that people seemed to have knee-jerk responses without doing any research. Many commenters also expressed concern about potential intellectual property theft of ICLW and wanted to ensure that any new ideas avoided that; in contrast, a few commenters were frustrated by the idea that someone or entity “owned” a space on the Internet.

New Ideas

A few new ideas came out from commenters:
  • Read a blog outside of your comfort zone to expand your world view
  • Maybe different focus posts for different groups that could be housed on the blogroll and open
  • for everyone to see/join then it can be supportive without being exclusive
  • Those childfree are even more segregated than parenting after ALI; they want readers to know
  • that childfree is a viable, legitimate option.
My Thoughts

I think the situation is fixable, and I am optimistic after reading the comments on my Healing Salon post. I think we all realized that regardless of status, we all need support and that we all have a greater responsibility to take part in the community to make sure everyone feels supported.


From Outlandish Notions

You can read the full wrap-up here.

Reading through all of the posts from the last few weeks, I took a step back and looked at our community and thought … what a beautiful mess we are. At our core, each of us is a deeply flawed and broken human being trying to make our way through this life in the best way that we can. And you can call me optimistic or naive or whatever, but I cannot help but think that in doing the best that we can, there are very few of us who set out to hurt someone else in the process.

That is part of what of makes this community so precious to me. We open our souls and expose the pain, the longing, and the loneliness that we feel sitting behind these screens. We throw it out into the ether and hope that some kindred spirit will find it, and by that, we’ll be a little less alone. That instead of our otherness, we’ll feel togetherness.

I think that what happened was very much like an earthquake. It may have been a sudden release that blew up on us, but the tension that was released has been a long time in the making. We are divided, whether we like it or not, by our circumstances in life. Those circumstances have the potential to drive a wedge between us if we don’t make the effort to stay empathetic and reach out outside of our own narrow worldview. But we are all connected as well, by the pain that brought us to blogosphere in the first place. With children, without children, trying, not trying — and infinite subdivisions beneath. Those subdivisions, those subcommunities — we string them together, identifying with one and then another, like pearls making up a single necklace.

It seemed from the responses to my salon questions that the self-image of “infertile” or “parent” was correlated with how closely the respondent was to TTC. Then Moxie went and dropped the “Mental Infertility” bomb on us and answered the question that I was trying to ask, even if I didn’t quite get it phrased right. If you haven’t read that, go, now. Read the comments. And then read the rest of the series.

Most of the respondents were writers who had achieved parenthood. And most of those respondents have slightly modified their blog title, added information to the “about me” section, added a PAIL badge, moved to the PAIF room in Mel’s blogroll, or in some other way tried to identify their blog as a now-parenting blog. Most do not give post-by-post disclaimers, but instead rely on the reader to be aware that they are a now-parenting blog and to thusly choose to read or to click away. I think it is interesting though — three respondents made the choice (or had the choice made for them) to stop treatments and live without children. Of those three, two chose to start entirely new blogs and the third started blogging many years after stopping. The researcher part of me now wants to go and survey the entire childless/free-after-infertility blogroll and see if that path is more common to that demographic than for writers who are now parenting-after-IF…

The respondents here were almost unanimous: a blog is the writer’s space, and the reader has the choice to be there or not. Almost all of the respondents said that they use their blog to talk about their lives, their fears, their frustrations and that if they lose readers for being honest, well, so be it. Which I really think is healthy for our community. I think that the moment we start censoring ourselves, we put ourselves back in the box of “otherness” that drove us to blogging in the first place. I think if we are blogging in order to make connections and to find our tribe, the worst thing that we can do is to put on a false face. At that point, what IS the point? The internet is a big place. The ALI community is a big place. And as writer/readers, we have a plethora of potential friendships — but you have to be true to yourself, to be authentic to pick out the ones that matter to you."

I know the whole blow-up sucked, but I have a deep conviction that it needed to happen. And I personally, have seen echoes of the fallout in posts all over since then -- it's like writers have re-discovered their convictions are are writing really good, deep, honest work, rather than fluff. I and see a lot of posts that are more inclusive to multiple communities/viewpoints than I saw from those same authors before ALIgeddon.

So, moving on now. Mischief managed!


Mrs Green Grass said...

I guess I didn't read all of the details in your initial email! I write my summary tomorrow.

Pamela T. said...

Well done on the summaries fellow ALI bloggers! In particular, I'd like to underscore Single Infertile Female's observations and conclusions.

(Note: I'm also a bit acronym challenged. In the Coming2Terms summary, MABI should have been spelled out "Mothers After Battling Infertility").

Amel said...

I REALLY REALLY LOVE these sentences:

"In the end, it seems as though everyone just wants to be understood and supported in where they are in this now. Finding that is difficult in the real world, but so many of us have come to rely on it in the ALI community. So when that sense of being left behind does arise here, it almost seems like it is that much more painful because we don't expect it here."

Single Infertile Female, you've just voiced exactly what I've been feeling lately and for that, I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!