Monday, October 1, 2007

The Giving Blogger

Dear Jane:

After this last failed cycle, we are taking a break for a year. If I'm completely honest this break is just an avoidance to saying we are done. I'm more than 90% confident that is where we will be in a year and this saddens me to no end. But we've really come to the end of treatments. I think I need to let go of a board that I've posted on for over a 1 1/2 years as well as reading many blogs.

I feel so guilty for saying it, but it hurts to see so many positives. It hurts to see people come to terms with their bodies because their bodies are redeeming themselves. When mine has only failed me. It simply hurts.

These are the same people who have given me more support than I can say which I always will appreciate. It leaves me guilty in feeling this way. But, I know it is time for me to walk away. These are people who deserve much more than my slinking away into the night never to hear from me again. I wonder if you have any advice on what to do.

Or if you think these feelings are something that I need to get over? Just deal with? Part of me seriously thinks it is self preservation. But guilt is racking my brain. And I am second-guessing everything.

Looking for guidance.

Uncomfortably Reading

Dear Reading:

In Northanger Abbey, Austen writes her famous quote: "Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love" and what is a greater disappointed love than the love you've been carrying for your future children which has yet to come to fruition? Boys may come and go, but our children hold our heart forever--even the children whom we never meet though we work so hard to bring them into this world.

Jane definitely believed in self-preservation and I think she would accept your desire to bow away quietly from friends, even while imploring you to reconsider what you are leaving behind. Good friends and good support are hard to find.

That's what Jane would do.

But what should you do?

You know the story of the Giving Tree. At first, they have a mutual love affair--the boy and the tree and they need each other equally. And then the boy leaves after taking all he can from the tree. And the tree is happy...but not really. A good friend or a good community is going to be like the Giving Tree, happily giving support even when none is taken in return because a community (1) has support coming already from multiple directions so a lag in one direction is not quite so noticeable and (2) it is in the nature of blogging to continue to read and comment even when you are not receiving readers and comments (at least for a short time period). And also, the blogging community, like the tree, realizes that individual readers and writers owe the greater whole nothing. Your blog is your own--you are free to write it, delete it, or do with it as you see fit.

There are those that I know will disagree and say that a blog becomes collective property because it is essentially a group art project, with the comments taking on a similar weight to the actual post. I am not of this belief. If I ever stopped writing, I would probably leave my blog up regardless if I thought someone would be helped by my thoughts. But you own your blog just as I own my blog and we are both free to write, read other blogs, comment, or walk away.

But just because we are free to do so doesn't mean we necessarily should do so. If you are walking away from your blog, reading other blogs, or commenting on bulletin boards because it is hurting you emotionally to do so, then in the name of self-preservation, you should assuage yourself of this emotional pain by walking away. Leave an apologetic message on your blog explaining its end, leave an email address in case people want to check in on you in the future, and taper off reading and commenting on other blogs.

But here's a scenario to kick around in your head. What if you miraculously (run with it now, I said miraculously) became pregnant naturally while on your break. Would your instinct be to blog about it and gain support from the community again? Would you find yourself back on the boards or back on blogs, discussing your pregnancy out of both celebration and anxiety?

If you answer no, the statement is obvious--blogging and bulletin boards are truly a painful reminder and walking away from them is like throwing out the OPKs and Follistim pens. The goodbye is truly shutting a chapter on your life and if you were to find yourself in a new place, you'd probably find a new method for support. Perhaps you'd join an expectant mother's club in your area--something that is the complete opposite to the online support that simply reminds you of infertility.

But if you answered yes, it becomes like the boy in the Giving Tree, coming back whenever he needs something, but not sticking around to support the tree. Part of being in a community is being in that community and giving support as well as taking it. It does not need to be support given at its loudest volume, but it does need to be a quiet whisper here and there to let people know that you're still around. You're still part of the community and you'll hold their hand when they're crying. On a strong day when you're feeling up to it, you'll even celebrate with them too. Post every few weeks or whenever the mood strikes. Comment every once in a while. Read a lot on days when you're feeling up to it and walk away from the computer on days when it's too difficult to see another person's belly shot. It's a middle ground that allows you to remain in the community while taking a rest.

The IF/pg loss community is a pretty flexible, understanding community because we all get it. We all nod our head in agreement when someone mentions in a small voice how the happiness and success of others is like a dagger through the hearts of those still in the trenches. It's the age-old conundrum that defines infertility--I'm happy for you while being sad for me. No one would think less of you if you threw your hands in the air and said, "I really can't do this anymore." Sometimes people come back too, but you never know what kind of reception you'll get from those who remained in the community.

This situation is similar to the ongoing struggle most of us have with attending baby-centered events. And I think the answer is similar. You don't need to attend these events at your usual 100% of effort. You can bow out of the ones that aren't celebrating close friends or family. You can attend and leave early. You can attend and spend the majority of the time in the bathroom. But if you want people to support you in the future--whatever form that support may take from attending your baby shower or celebrating a different accomplishment--you do need to be there for them even when it hurts to be there for them. Which is to say that you have an obligation to yourself to not make more hurt for your heart. But you also have an obligation to yourself to work through some of your own emotions in order to not leave all communities behind.

Which is a long way of saying that you should do what you need to do, but before you take a step in any direction, consider your needs in the future and don't burn bridges (or even dust away paths) if you're going to need to return.

Now you (yes, you--I'm talking to you. The one reading this advice column) need to weigh in. Put yourself in Reading's shoes and employ a what would Jane do attitude to give her advice on this situation. Leave a comment for Reading elaborating or contradicting my advice--just do it in a ladylike or gentlemanly way.


LJ said...

Dear Uncomfortably,

There was a time where I was all about the bulletin board, but I outgrew it. It hurt too much to see the women struggle for all of three months and go on to a happy and healthy pregnancy. I no longer fit in, and sought out new solace.

Perhaps, take this time for yourself to explore your options. There are also bloggers out there who are considering, or have decided to walk away. There may be some resource out there beyond boards and blogs. Some women feel better walking away from the option of pregnancy, going back on the pill, or more. Some want to just not actively try or not try. I think it's the difference that only you can decide. Do you leave your blog available for later, or is it the right choice for you to close that door.

Either way, you need to be true to yourself first. Be kind to the friends that you've made, let them know your plans. Good friends will understand, if you deal with it maturely and openly.

Grad3 said...

I think that what lj said summed things up nicely.

Being apart of a bulletin board community I have seen people take different paths and I have personally walked away when it became too painful. I explained why I was leaving and they understood. I would go back every once in while to check on specific people and couple would do the same for me.

When people have walked away, I understood. I felt like they were friends and in the end, I just wanted them to be happy and satisfied with their life. After leaving some would pop back in every 6 months or so- I loved seeing their posts because I would always wonder how they were doing.

What to do with your blog is up to you and it's important that you are comfrotable with the decision. That being said, it sounds like it was a emotinal and creative outlet for you. Perhaps if/ when you are ready you could consider starting a different blog. Just a thought...

In the end, friends will understand and support you in your decision because it's what is best for you.

Ellen K. said...

As one of the ones who has taken a long break, I have chosen to cut my ties with some message boards. I didn't necessarily explain it either: I just terminated my membership. For the first 6 months after stopping treatment, I hung around. Slowly I realized that these boards, which were focused on the goal of pregnancy, had become too much of a negative place for me. Instead of acknowledging that I, too, had moved on, I felt stuck.

Was deleting membership the act of a disappointed and bitter woman? Yes. Was it a step toward resolution and health? Absolutely.

Do whatever you need to do to allow yourself to become unstuck.

Samantha said...

To a certain extent, as much as I love the support of the blogging community, I know it is not the same thing as my friends in real life. I am active in it now, but I don't expect to be here all the time for the rest of the my life, regardless of the outcome of my struggles. The community as a whole is stronger than any one of its parts, and one of the beauties is that people can come and go, rely on support and give support when they're able, and move on when they feel finished, or just take a break for a few months if they're not sure. The rest of the blogging community continues to be there as a supportive nest.

I think if someone feels like it's time to move on to other things, that's the right thing to do. I don't even feel like if you decided later you wanted to come back for more support, that it would be the equivalent of the Giving Tree scenario. I think the rest of the community will continue to thrive and flourish and has plenty to offer without becoming strained. If you do leave and come back, the relationship will be different, things may take a little while to build up again, but it could still be there.

T. said...

You really need to do what is right for you. But I agree with the advice about not burning bridges, at least until you are sure that is the right decision.