When inclusive becomes exclusive

First of all, thank you SO MUCH for your kind words of support and encouragement about my book. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people have read it and enjoyed it. I promise, when I’m done with the whole book, I’ll repost it for all to see. In the meantime I have taken down the link in an attempt to protect my work. If you missed the book and want to see it, please feel free to email me and I’ll send you a link.

Also, a big thanks to everyone who gave me notes on how to make my book better (I LOVE that I spelled persistent wrong! Why doesn’t Illustrator have spell check?!) I will definitely take every one of your suggestions to heart.

And now, on to the topic of today, which is – PAIL.

I’m sure you’ve heard of PAIL, the Parenting/Pregnancy After Infertility and Loss blogroll that Elphaba over at Alice in Diaperland created. In just the first week of its inception over a 100 bloggers signed up. If you scroll down my own page you can see that I joined as well.

I have to admit I’ve felt some very conflicting emotions about joining this blogroll. On the one hand I’m excited to be a part of it, to be included in a group of women who are also parenting after infertility or loss. It can be hard navigating the ALI community while parenting; this blogroll is a place where I can interact with others without worrying about causing anyone pain, where the guilt that plagues me in the ALI community is less stifling.

At the same time, I imagine the inclusiveness that I feel can seem like exclusivity to those who have not yet joined our ranks. The women still fighting in the trenches, who feel left out of so much in the real world and retreat here to feel welcome and included, well now there is a place even here, in the blogosphere where they don’t belong, where they can’t go because they aren’t yet mothers (or aren’t mothers to living children). It pains me to think that anyone would feel left out here in the blogosphere, and the reality is, how could they not?

Of course it’s no one’s intention for anyone to feel left out, but it’s bound to happen. I suppose it’s similar to what happens when IFers become pregnant or have babies – no one wants to exclude us from the online ALI community but the basic self-protection strategies of others push us away, keep us on the fringes, force us to congregate amongst ourselves. And while we know that no one is doing it on purpose, and we absolutely respect why it’s happening, it can still feel isolating. Of course we’re the ones with the babies so we mostly just suck it up because after all, we have what everyone else so desperately wants. Who are we to complain?

Is that natural separation reason enough to solidify the camaraderie that naturally occurs when those still in the trenches need to avoid us for self-preservation? Or should we just suck it up and be thankful for what we have, carefully avoiding the further alienation of those who are still trying to conceive? Am I being ridiculous in worrying that others will feel grief over the knowledge that there exists an organized group of Parenting after IF/loss bloggers that they cannot join?Joining the group doesn’t mean we have to socialize there exclusively, so maybe it doesn’t matter that it exists. I honestly don’t know.

If I were being completely honest, I would admit that there is a need for this blogroll; the enthusiasm with which so many women joined is a testament to that. At the same time, I wonder if there was a reason it didn’t exist before now. Why have we not purposefully banded together until this moment? Were we trying to spare the feelings of others? And if we were, are we ready to–well–not spare their feelings any longer?

I’m sorry this is such a jumbled discussion of a murky topic. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. Truly, I’m not even sure how I feel. On the one hand I’m excited and happy, on the other I feel intense guilt and even shame. I want a place where I belong but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive but I really don’t see how.

What are your feelings on a Parenting After Infertility & Loss blogroll? Is there a way for it to exist without hurting those who can’t join? Am I over thinking this whole thing? I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

13 responses

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s nice to find each other easily … sometimes I feel like I’m stepping on eggshells, worried that I will offend people in the ALI community, but not feeling like I belong to a “normal” parenting community, either. I also think that people feel left out whether or not there’s a formal community. Naming it doesn’t change that. But I’m sensitive to fostering another division in the community that really functions more like a diaspora, too …

  2. I actually think the whole point was the exact opposite–not to exclude those who are still in the trenches, but to be sensitive to the fact that they are. And anyone is free to join if they like–I was explicit in stating that. You don’t have to be pregnant or parenting–in fact, I’ve had several bloggers add for the code for the button even though they don’t want to join, with the hope that they too will be on the other side one day. The blogs that talk about diapers and morning sickness are still going to exist whether there is an organized group or not, but continuing to talk about these things exclusively in the ALI community just didn’t feel right to me–it never did–and I know others felt the same.

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from on this and I hope you know the point of my post was not to offend. I’m just trying to sort out my feelings on all of this. I thought that expressing my excitement at being a part of the blogroll was enough to show that I ultimately believe it is a positive development and that the possible unintended side effects (of which there may be none- or of which may only exist in my paranoid head) are worth it. Maybe I didn’t make that clear. I just don’t want anyone to feel left out or offended. Of course, as you said, maybe this will actually result in less offense on out part and if that is the case I will be very grateful. In the end I’m just trying to make sense of the complicated nature of this community and my feelings being a part of it. I apologize if I offended you in the process.

  3. I feel like the PAIL community is actually a welcome addition to the IF community as when one of us becomes pregnant they get kicked out of the IF community a little bit. Not on purpose, but IFers don’t want to listen to you whine about morning sickness and constipation when they’re in the middle of their 2WW or after a failed IVF cycle. I just happen to be pregnant and thus joined the PAIL blogroll, but looking at it from my previously unpregnant infertile self I would not have felt excluded or left out but would have been looking forward to joining someday as I know all to well how much I DO NOT belong to the regular pregnant mommy groups.

  4. Like Jessica, I think my pre-parenting IF self would have felt totally at peace with the existence of a PAIL blog roll. Even on my worst days, I knew that parenting is hard and parenting after IF or being pregnant after IF is hard. bloggers in that position should have their own safe place. It’s a necessary thing and definitely one that I would have hoped to be a part of one day.

    But not every IFer is the same – and I hope that there’s not someone out there who is hurt by the existence of the PAIL blogroll.

  5. To be honest, I think you’re over thinking this. No matter where we go in life, no matter what we do, we are always excluded from something. There’s no way to fit into every single thing or situation that we want to fit into – and that’s just life. Sure, those who are still in the trenches want desperately to fit into PAIL, but it’s not because it’s some sort of exclusive club – it’s because PAIL represents their end goal. The blogroll was created for those of us who are now naturally EXCLUDED, in a sense, from the IF community and blogroll. If we were to apply what you’re saying to the entire picture, then the ALI blogroll shouldn’t exist either because it excludes those of us who have “crossed over” but still wish to be a part of it because we don’t fit anywhere else.

    I tend to agree with you on most of your posts, but I’m not feeling it on this one 😉 Sorry!

    A note I’d like to make is that the PAIL blogroll finally got me blogging, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I never started because I just didn’t know where I fit in, but now I do. It’s not that I need a bunch of followers – but I didn’t know what angle I wanted my blog to take because I want to talk about my experiences as a mother, and I want to talk about my experiences as an IFer who’s about to start the process again for another baby. Going through just the first third of the blogs on PAIL, I’ve noticed a few other brand new bloggers. This is a good thing. People are finding their voices!

  6. Sometimes I feel like those “parenting after infertility” things don’t really apply to adoptive parents. We didn’t “beat” infertility, I never got pregnant, so I can’t even commiserate with other IF’ers that are now parenting on that stuff. I like the idea of groups of people banding together and forming communities, though, but I don’t feel necessarily like I belong.

    • Sarah, I totally disagree–I think adoptive parents absolutely belong. It’s not about “beating” infertility or anything like that, it’s about becoming a parent, because that is ultimately the goal right? And you are as much a mom as anyone that pushed a baby out of her.

  7. Pingback: I was wrong « Stumbling Gracefully

  8. I really like this idea and love that someone has taken the time to implement it as I often see blogs with tons of followers and comments dwindle to only a few once they get further along in pregnancy or into parenting.

    I do have to say that I agree with Sarah though. “Parenting after Infertility” alludes to me that the infertility journey (as described by the definition of infertile) is over as conception has been achieved. I will always be infertile in the sense that I have never/will never conceive or be pregnant.

    I would love to get in on some of the diapering or baby gear talks as we are matched and waiting to adopt a baby in just a couple of weeks, but I don’t see a category for those waiting to adopt. As much as I am happy for others that graduate to pregnancy I still don’t want to hear about morning sickness or pregnancy complaints. I know it sounds horrible to say it and for that I apologize. Some days, honesty is all I have. 😉

    Just wanted to throw my 2 cents out there as I was excited to see this new blogroll emerge, but dissapointed that I don’t yet see a place where I fit.

  9. I found this post through another blogger and I couldn’t leave without comment.. so here goes my thoughts on this.. in fact, I don’t get this at all. There is indeed such a list. If you look at the Stirrup Queens blogroll all these categories are there and you can pick and choose and connect. Even for those who are adopting. I have used this many times and found connections through it when I needed it the most over the years.
    I don’t say it’s wrong to make another list if there’s a need for it, that’s a good thing. I just don’t get why when it already exists.

  10. But the fact is that it did exist before this: http://www.stirrup-queens.com/a-whole-lot-of-blogging-brought-to-you-sorted-and-filed/general-pregnancy-and-parenting-room/

    It has existed for 6 years, and the same people have entered themselves on that list (and used it) as well.

    I have to admit — and I’m definitely biased — that I think separating out and recreating that section of the blogroll creates a division that I didn’t really want to see happen in the community. The new blogroll feels like a Sneetches moment to me. Is there a need for a list, of course. But that need should be part of the larger community rather than separate. I really had misgivings putting something I find divisive in the LFCA last night, but I ran it.

    Or, that is a question for another post — do we want to remove that section from the ALI blogroll altogether — a blogosphere secession? Is there any reason to have the same people repeated in two spaces? It would certainly shave down the blogroll if people were removed as they became pregnant. I personally would find that sad, but perhaps others would find that helpful.

    • In your space, on your blog roll, I feel like this list is different, because, like you said, it’s part of a greater whole. Recently it was asked of the PAIL participants, “what should we do if someone is pregnant or parenting and then losses their baby” what will be the protocol?Of course on your list they just get moved to another category but on this list what happens, do they just get deleted? And that is the difference right there. That is what makes it feel somewhat exclusive to me and distinct from being on a pregnant or parenting list that is part of an ALI community as a whole list.

      Having said that, I do remember that the last time I went on the parenting list (which I will admit must have been over a year ago) I kept clicking on dead links ghost blogs, spaces that hadn’t been touched sometimes in two or three years. I think parenting blogs are especially susceptible to that because many people feel their connections to the community (and the need to blog) diminish after they have kids. And of course they just have way less time. Again, that was a while ago, I’m not sure if it’s still an issue.

      The other reason I think this was created was for an ICLW like event to take place with pregnant/parenting bloggers because honestly, most bloggers who participate in ICLW are not parenting and if you are, you get very few visitors. The last few I did (which was also over a year ago but I’ve heard this still happens now from others) I only got five or six comments total. When you’re leaving 42+ comments on new blogs and only get 1/7 of that back, well, it’s just not very satisfying. I know there are tags to help people navigate the list but for some reason it’s a hard place for pregnancy/parenting blogs to get comment love. Maybe because most people on there are relatively new, trying to find readership and blogs to read, and just starting their IF/blogging journey. I honesty don’t know what causes it but it is one of the reasons I feel on the fringes of the community in a way, because I’m not accepted at ICLW and I’ve heard the same story from many other pregnant/parenting bloggers.

      Of course, none of this changes the fact that in my mind at least (though it seems I’m in the minority and most don’t understand this point of view at all) this list could be seen as exclusive. I mean, it is by definition exclusive as it is meant to give those of us who are pregnant/parenting a separate place where we won’t be rubbing our reproductive success in the faces of those still struggling, but in doing that you are still excluding them from the list. I was told that anyone could join, even I’d they aren’t yet pregnant or parenting but I don’t know what section they would be in. Still, knowing that possibility exists makes me feel better about it, even if I doubt many in the trenches would actually join.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. I appreciate hearing anyone’s view on this. I truly hope this doesn’t become a divisive presence in the community, although people’s (incredulous) sentiments on my last post lead me to believe it will not. I hope so.

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