Passport please

I know I’m supposed to be on a self-imposed blogging hiatus. And I promise I am! But Jjiraffe just posted something very thought provoking and my comment quickly turned into a post in and of itself. (I know, I’m incredibly prolific, to a fault.) So I’ve decided to post it here. 

But first, you should go and read what she, so eloquently, said in her post, Is There An Expiration Date on ALI Blogs?

At the end of her poingnant piece, Jjiraffe poses these questions:

What do you think? Is there an expiration date for all ALI blogs? Do you want me to separate my journalism from my memoir-ish musings when they include parenting? Am I a tourist here in this community, too? Do we all need to stick together? Or are we better off in our quadrants? And I really am asking this with an open mind. I want to know what you think. Even if you think it might hurt people’s feelings.

This is what I wrote, in response:

So many good points. So many good questions.

I don’t think there is an expiration date for ALI blogs. After all, once an infertile, always an infertile, or at least that is how many people feel. I know not all people feel that way, some believe, when they’ve built the family they originally intended, that they are no longer inflicted with infertility, but from what I can tell, those people are the minority. Most people who struggled to build their family carry that struggle with them always, it colors the way they see the world and because of that they always feel a kinship with people who walked, or are currently walking, a similar path.

Of course, not everyone currently walking the path feels that same kinship with those who have finished walking – or are much farther down – the path. No one can blame a person who is still in the trenches for not wanting to read the thoughts of those who have made it to the other side (I, like you, am rarely visited when I participate in ICWL). At its most benign, it’s a matter of not having all that much in common. Most people participate in the blogging world to find others that they understand and that understand them. And while those who have walked the path can understand (to a point) what those still walking it are going through, the inverse is not necessarily true. So even if someone doesn’t mind so much reading a parenting after IF blog, they may not find it all that enlightening, as they aren’t dealing with similar issues.

You ask if we all need to stick together, or if we are better off in quadrants. I think both are equally true. We do all stick together, in that I think most IF bloggers, no matter where they are in their journey, are prepared to be there for another IF blogger if she really needs support. At the same time, I think it’s understandable that for the day in and day out reading/commenting most of us will stick with that which we know best and gravitate to people who are going through what we are going through. Again, I think that has more to do with the fact that people are drawn to those with similar experience than feeling that someone does or does not belong.

I don’t believe you are a tourist in this community and I doubt others would argue that you are. You are most definitely a citizen here, for better or worse. You have an infertility and loss passport, stamped with the years of trying, the failed IVFs and the lost pregnancies to prove that you’ve traveled the terrain, that you know this place. You’re familiar with the lingo and are aware of the etiquette; you don’t miss cultural cues or unintentionally say hurtful things because you just didn’t realize. You don’t act like a tourist because you aren’t one, not in this community. You are a native and that is probably why you feel most comfortable here, because the way people carry themselves, they way they think, the way they behave, is familiar to you. It’s your culture. It’s your home.

I really like this metaphor, that of being a tourist in the community. I think it helps me understand my own place here better than anything else has. I also didn’t start blogging until right before I became pregnant but that isn’t why I don’t feel I belong. I don’t feel I belong here because I don’t have the long years trying or the failed IVF stamps on my passport. I don’t have much of anything stamped there at all. I’m the person born with dual citizenship. My mother was a part of this community and even though I grew up elsewhere I was taught the customs and turns of phrase from an early age. And even though I’m not originally a citizen I can pass for a native if one doesn’t look too close. I barely even have an accent, but if you listen hard enough, it’s there. And while I respect and cherish this place and its culture more than I can say, I know that I don’t really belong and I’m forever hoping people won’t ask to see my credentials, lest they notice my passport is missing all the proper stamps.

I think I’m going to push my luck and take this metaphor one step further. If infertility is where we’re all from, maybe what happens is that those of us who “cross the divide” and become parents, maybe we do move away from the community in a way. Maybe we do leave our mother country to set up shop elsewhere, but like all foreigners in a foreign land, we cluster together in groups, creating the Chinatowns of parenting-after-infertility out there in the foreign country of parenthood. Maybe that is why we need our passports in the first place, to remind us, and others, of where we’re really from. (And to get back home when we need a respite from all thing fertile). Maybe that is why us parenting after IF/lossers don’t mingle much with the rest of the parenting community, or feel awkward when we do it. Despite living in close proximity we don’t know the customs or the turns of phrase; we miss the social cues, we make mistakes, we propagate misunderstandings and so we retreat, back to our little communities, hanging out mostly with those who are like us and still feeling very much at home in the mother country where everyone is struggling with that with which we struggled.

Maybe we feel like tourists when we visit our homeland of infertility because we’ve been away a bit, and like all those who reside in expats communities, we do things a bit differently than those back home. Maybe that is why we wonder if we still belong, and why we feel the need to flash our passports, so that people remember where we come from, even if we don’t live here anymore, at least not full time.

 

All of this is very interesting to consider. I think the real question is not who is or who is not a real member of this community versus who is a tourist, I think the question is what happens if someone is a member but then, somewhere along the way (probably in the transition to parenthood) starts behaving like a tourist. What happens if, instead of relocating to the InfertilityChinatown, an IF blogger sets up shop with the natives of the FertileStates. What if she starts talking like them, and thinking like them, and generally forgetting the IF culture to make space in her life for her new identity? Does that blogger owe anything to her past community members? Does she have a responsibility to the places she is from? Or is how she conducts herself her prerogative? I suppose, in the end, it’s every blogger for herself, but one can’t blame those from the IF community for not following her into that strange new world, where everything feels forced and awkward and out of place. After all, we’re most comfortable with what we know and what we understand and for most of us that is infertility and parenting after infertility. That’s who we are and who we’ll always be, no matter where we end up.

 

What do you think of my metaphor? Does it capture your experience at all? Do you have any expectations of expat IFers who’ve relocated to the land of parenting? If so, what do you do if they choose a different path?

12 responses

  1. I think this analogy explains the bond we have in the ALI community maybe better than anything I’ve read before. Because we are all ex-pats in a strange land that we don’t understand (and it doesn’t understand us either). We can try to “pass” for fertile, and maybe some are able to but our roots can’t stay silent in our brains. I imagine that being infertile is like being an immigrant in many ways. When I lived in London I gravitated towards fellow ex-pats too.

  2. I think the Chinatown analogy is spot-on. Another aspect of all of this is how our relationship with the blogger changes once their life circumstances change. I’m happy for them and continue to read their posts, but if they’re *just* blogging about mommyhood, I’ve lost some of my ability to connect and offer anything meaningful to the conversation. I don’t resent that – it just is what it is. I’ve never felt this way about, say, Mel or jjiraffe or you, because of your content.

  3. I love the chinatown analogy, too! When I started blogging I already had a 2-year-old, and to some extent I thought my infertility was behind me (as in, I thought I’d have no trouble the 2nd time around). But there was no doubt to me that this is where I belonged. Also, when I was TTC, and I’d read the blogs of others who got pregnant, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d continue to read as they wrote about pregnancy and raising children. There are some that I’ve stopped reading once they had kids, but not because they were about kids, per se. It’s just that some people write only about “here’s how my kid slept last night” and “she’s pulling up/crawling/teething” and it just gets boring. But those who wish to write thoughtfully about parenting always stayed in my reader.

    To go along with the immigrant analogy, there are some who came here for college, some who came as kids, others who came later in life. But they all stick together because they have so much in common. (that makes you first-generation!)

  4. I love your analogy! I never had a problem with people succeeding in becoming parents (on a macro level. still hurt like hell on a micro level). However, I cannot stand it when infertiles want to revoke their citizenship in the ALI community and try to pass for fertiles/”normal” mommies. I guess I’ve never approved when anyone forgets from whence they came regardless of the circumstances.

  5. Great analogy! I agree with the others above who have said it’s not necessarily the fact that you become a parent that makes them stop reading, it’s what & how you write about it.

    I have a few friends IRL who have been through loss &/or infertility, & sometimes seem to have forgotten what it was like. For example, they’ve delivered “take my child — please” type comments, with an eyeroll, to my face. I mean, seriously??! Do you remember who you’re talking to here??

  6. Fabulous post. One of your best, I think! This is exactly how I feel … like an expatriate. 🙂 I do remember where I came from, and I am still feel kinship, in a palpable way, with those in my “mother country.” I cry when they are hurt. I rejoice when they are victorious.

    I love the idea of “passing.” I wrote a great deal about Harlem Renaissance writers and “passing,” and people like Richard Rodriguez … it’s a complicated negotiation to make, because you never really “belong” to the “normal” world, and yet you don’t quite belong back home, either, even though your heart is very much rooted there.

  7. Pingback: Living As an Ex-Pat in ParentLand | Too Many Fish to Fry

  8. I completely understand. I am also in a gray area not sure where I belong. After struggling with IF for years, I have decided to stop. While I am not happy that I still don’t have a child(ren), I am also relieved to be done with treatments and schedules and everything else that was involved in TTC. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to pursue adoption or to live child-free(less). So, I am in the middle and not sure where I belong. But, I am glad to be part of the ALI community, even though I’m not a blogger.

  9. Love this post! I don’t think any of us will truly ever fit in with the regular mommy crowd. At least not during our reproductive years when people are still discussing their attempts at #2, 3 or 4, or their attempts to avoid #2, 3 or 4. So blogging, and reaching out to others in the same boat is so important!
    You may not keep the same readers when you transition to parenting after IF, but I think that is common for any IF’er – to migrate to those in similar circumstances (cycling, adopting, etc) and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  10. I *love* this metaphor of Chinatown. That is exactly it. When I think of who I regularly read, whose posts I read before anyone elses in my reader, they are those bloggers who are now parenting. I struggle to read the posts of bloggers who are cycling or who are coping with loss right now. I *want* to read these posts; I *yearn* to be a supportive presence. And, yet, I just don’t want to go back there. It feels unhealthy, and sometimes on a primal level, to go, er, “sightseeing”, if I may keep with your metaphor. I don’t want to go back and revisit those wounds. So, I stick to Chinatown. And, you know, even Chinatown can be a wounding place, I’m finding.

    I don’t think ALI blogs have an expiration date. I think they have revolving doors. People come, people go.

  11. ” I think most IF bloggers, no matter where they are in their journey, are prepared to be there for another IF blogger if she really needs support. At the same time, I think it’s understandable that for the day in and day out reading/commenting most of us will stick with that which we know best and gravitate to people who are going through what we are going through.” This is so true, E.

    I think the metaphor above is spot-on. I do feel like if someone has been a huge presence in this community moves on to be successful, that they do somewhat owe the rest of still here a remaining connection. But at the same time, it is their prerogative to do whatever they hell they want. Because honestly, once they have what we all want, maybe they have no desire to look back. Maybe it was too hard and it’s too painful to go back there. They’ve made it to the finish line and thank God that it’s over, never wanting to revisit where they came from. I can understand that. But still being in the trenches, it’s so hard to see people do that. We want to know that as hard as this experience is, that it will stick with us because it’s what got us to the finish. Because otherwise, what’s the point?

    I don’t know if that made sense, and I know I’m a bit late to this conversation, but I wanted to put my two cents in.

    I loved this post.

  12. I’m late to this, but I’ve been away. I loved this, particularly your last paragraph. Interestingly, there is a similar but different issue with those of us who leave the IF community and don’t become mothers. There are women who, no longer trying to conceive, seem to be able to ignore the fact they were ever infertile. Now, I’m not suggesting they should forever feel infertile and sad. Not at all. But I know my losses and infertility changed me, and I embrace that, it is part of who I am now, and I will never forget that. Even though I’m able to celebrate my life now.

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