Further to my previous post, "Why I blog," and stemming from the upheaval in the ALI community this past week, Melissa has suggested we hold a series of "Healing Salons" to hash out some of the issues that were raised this week.
Pamela has generously volunteered to host the salon for those of us living childless/free on her old Coming2Terms blog. Please join in the discussion over there.
Not surprisingly for anyone who knows me (I was always the kid to turn in a six-page story when the teacher asked for a paragraph...), my comment on her post actually exceeded the character limit (erk!). So I am posting my full comment here. I may be back over there to comment (as well as on the other salons) as the conversation unfolds.
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At one level, I don't see a problem with people in similar situations clustering together. As Pamela points out, it's natural & kind of inevitable to gravitate to those with whom we have the most in common.
But the thing is, once you start splitting into groups and subgroups, things become very fractured. And you have to wonder where it stops?
I saw this in the real-life support group for pregnancy loss that dh & I facilitated for 10 years. I heard people who had miscarriages saying they felt guilty about their grief when they heard stories from people who had had stillbirths & neonatal deaths. People who had medical terminations wished for a separate group to discuss their particular issues. People who had infertility issues wished the same, while people who didn’t have trouble conceiving said they felt guilty listening to the stories of those who did.
And on & on it went. We had to continually remind our clients that we were there to focus on loss issues – the common bond that brought us together – but it was difficult, because the loss was often tied up in so many other things. And of course, the organization had limited resources -- it was difficult enough to support the broad, generalized groups we had, let alone more specialized niches (we did have one or two specialized groups for clients who became subsequently pregnant).
Of course, the ALI blogging community is a lot larger than the group I belonged to, & there are a lot of thriving subgroups (facilitated by Melissa’s amazing blogroll). But as I said above, where does the fracturing stop? – at what point do the separate niches we’ve built for ourselves begin to
erode the sense of belonging to a broader community, and its strength? Personally, as Deathstar said in her comment to Pamela's post, I can’t quite forget about infertility & loss, and what I’ve been through to reach this point in my life. Which is why I keep reading and blogging about it.
If we can’t learn to relate to each other as members of a broader ALI community – if we keep turning inward and only hang out with and read and support the bloggers whose situations most closely match our own – how can we hope to connect to the rest of the world with our stories and gain their support and understanding for what we have been through (and continue to experience)?
Of course I love reading blogs by women who are childless/free not by choice. It is so validating to read that others have gone through similar situations – that they have struggled with the same issues and feelings – and that they are building good lives for themselves and their partners regardless. I am so heartened to see more and more of us out there. I think our voices are much needed. As some of the commenters on Pamela's post (as well as Pamela herself) have already noted, there is still such a stigma attached to this particular segment of the ALI community. People still in the trenches need to know that this IS a viable option – that (contrary to what some believe) it is possible to come through the fire, wind up without a child – and still build a good life, regardless. That is partly why I keep blogging.
But I still read blogs by people still in the trenches, by newly bereaved parents, by people who are parenting after loss and infertility, people whose children came to them through adoption, donor eggs, & surrogacy. I learn so much from them. It broadens my worldview and helps me understand & empathize better.
Obviously, if all you write about is baby, baby, baby, I won't be able to relate too well, and will probably lose interest fairly quickly. And I do know some people who became parents after infertility or loss who have moved on (or at least seem to have moved on) so completely that I sometimes wonder what the heck happened (“Did I REALLY just hear her say that? To ME??”) Most of the bloggers I read don’t necessarily write only about infertility. They have a compelling story and they tell it well. Their stories and their writing resonate with me in some way.
I am glad we are having this conversation, & even more so that the childless/free not by choice corner of the community is taking an active part. Looking forward to hearing more from others.