Monday, March 12, 2012

A Discussion Forum (Healing Salon) on the Topic of PAIL.

There are a mind-boggling number of blogs dealing with the topics of adoption, loss and infertility. I think the credit for the evolution of this mini-universe should largely go to one blogger, Mel, who blogs at Stirrup Queens. In organizing this virtual universe, she has created multiple 'rooms' and any blog formed can be listed  under various categories, including infertility, adoption and parenting.  A while ago, Elpheba at Yolk : A blog about Eggs and Sperm created the PAIL blogroll, the purpose of which was to allow people in the situation of parenting or pregnancy to find each others in a similar situation.  This, surprisingly (to me) kicked off a heated and sometimes ugly dialogue on various issues, which took place at the Stirrup Queens blog. After the dust settled, Mel proposed that to move forward, a rational and civil discussion of various questions be bought up by bloggers in different situations.  I volunteered because there are many points I feel strongly about. 

To introduce myself- I am a single woman, in the process of trying to conceive  my first child using donor sperm.  My journey has been complicated by 2 late first trimester miscarriages. When I first read about PAIL, it barely made an impression on me, my only thought in passing was,  Well, that is a good idea.  I thought this because I'm all for people in a certain situation to find people in the same boat, to garner readership and support.   When the PAIL debate broke out, on reading it, the following questions seem the most relevant to me. While I express strong opinions below,  I hope I have stayed respectful, civilized and rational while outlining the following points and I urge you to do the same while responding.

One of the points bought up in the debate was that a similar area already existed on the SQ website, so why create the new one?   My question: While I can see why Mel could be put out by the duplication,  what is wrong with multiple blogrolls?
    My take: Mel has taken a lot of time and effort in organizing the situation room, so I understand why she would be taken aback at another website offering the same thing. But from a comparison of the parenting room on Mel's website vs the PAIL blogroll, my impression is that the latter is much better organized, because it is newer, more up to date and has multiple categories. But this is a small issue. It can settled by civilized discussion between the two parties, with no need for all the multiple tangents people went off on. At the end of the day, my bottom line is to be able to connect with more people, and 2 blogrolls at 2 different websites  achieves that more efficiently than 1. 

    There is this general fear that something you say, may offend/hurt others because of the situation they find themselves in.  The general sentiment that people will offend others and lose readers and followers once they start taking about positive pregnancy tests/baby bumps/ parenting appears widespread.  This (correct me if I am wrong, members of PAIL), was perceived as one of the many reasons behind the formation of PAIL. My question is, do you think you should have to censor yourself, in any situation, to spare the feelings of others?
          My take: There should be no censoring. There should be no hiding of your joy in any situation or hesitancy to discuss anything, though tact is always a good idea. In life, there is always going to be somebody with something you don't have. I'm single. If I flinched or got unhappy every time I saw a married couple, or saw wedding/honeymoon facebook photos, or saw blogposts where partners support each other though infertility/loss, it would be a horrible situation.  Married folks, you have something I'd really like to have. But I do not expect you to stop talking about your happy marriages or the support you get from your partners in the rough times. The same rules should apply to infertility, should they not?

          While the fact that PAIL was an 'exclusive club' was bought up as a bone of contention by many. This sentiment seems illogical to me, because PAIL is merely a blogroll. People going through TTC cannot join the parenting blogroll on Mel's website, so why the furor when that a similarly-themed blogroll is merely created at another web address? Its just another web address, to my thinking. They are not doing it to get away from the world of IF, they just want to expand their readership.  My other question on the same theme is more philosophical and not really related to the central issue at hand, but its begs to be asked-- why get hurt/angry about an 'exclusive club'?

            My take on the latter:  I don't fit in many places, the categories are myriad- rich people's clubs, couples-only clubs, parenting clubs and PAIL-- there are so many cliques in life I am barred from, but the fact that they exist do not hurt me. My two cents is, you are really hurt at the fact that you are excluded from that club, but the members of the club are not the guilty party.  They did not form the club with the sole intention of keeping you out, they formed it because they needed something/wanted to celebrate something and both reasons are perfectly legitimate.

            Why is there the miss-assumption that the members of PAIL are going to stop participating in the world of infertility?
              My take: People can exist on multiple blogrolls. They can be listed in discussion boards, websites, there are a 1000 ways to advertize. A blogroll is merely a way to connect with others in your situation. Just because somebody's blog is listed on PAIL does not mean they are going to  forget about/stop supporting people in the infertility process- I'm  trying to understand why people might think that and also point out that is a wrong assumption.

              Summary: I've raised questions on the topics that have perplexed me and  I hope some clarity emerges from discussing them.  At the end of the day, both PAIL and the various ALI blogrolls are here to stay, and I cannot see why the same blogs should not be listed on both websites, with the writers supporting people in both TTC and parenting situations. While one cannot make everybody happy and will read a fraction of blogs out there, it should not be forgotten that we are a community with common goals and intentions. Whether we blog for comments, for support, for the cathartic act of spelling out what is bothering you, all are legitimate reasons and should be respected. This is a storm in a teacup, a mountain created out of the smallest molehill- we need to move on speedily from this, hopefully, somewhat the wiser.


              1. I've also been eyeing the debate (ok, argument really) from afar.  It wasn't a huge blip on my screen because like you, I have a pretty thick skin and do not flinch at the of most things like married couples, honeymoon stories, etc.  I think being single in this journey brings with it another layer of separation (or inclusion I suppose).  Anyway, what I found most interesting about this situation were the comments on Mel's blog.  I had been used to a mostly warm, empathetic and for the most part protective "family".  I was kind of shocked to see the claws come out.  Oh, and also kind of ticked off by comments from people who admitted to not being part of the blogging process, who had passed thru Mel's rooms at some point in their own process but now came back to tell everyone how ugly they were behaving, with one person even saying that she had been watching "our" behavior for years and scorned it.  Bah!  I guess I am rambling.  Sorry!  Thank you for your post!

              2. I agree that no one should censor themselves on their own blog.  I think that most of us do, to a point, because we are putting ourselves in our reader's shoes.  We remember how much infertility hurt, and we are cognizant enough to realize that someone may be hurt by our joy.  

                As for some of the other points, I will respectfully disagree.  I think that the issue with PAIL is not that simply another blogroll exists, but that it represents a large amount of time/volunteerism on Mel's part.  This is time that she feels could be better spent on other things if someone else is going to do it instead.  

                I also think that Mel's blogroll is different in that it encompasses ALL parts of the ALI experience -- no one is excluded from the blogroll.  They simply pick the category that best fits.  With PAIL, people are specifically excluded.  I do not think that was intentional, but it is what it is.  

                As for the assumption that members of PAIL are going to stop being a part of the ALI blogosphere, I made that assumption myself after reading some of Elphaba's explanations of PAIL.  It is my understanding that she wanted a place to feel comfortable switching her focus AWAY from infertility and toward parenting.  She specifically said that she didn't want to talk about infertility. That is, of course, completely up to her and up to anyone else who achieves the goal of parenthood.  I am not judging that choice whatsoever.  I do, however, think that is where this misconception may have stemmed from. 

              3. I'm with you, especially on the last two paragraphs. With PAIL a huge contingent of the ALI community is excluded. The mission of PAIL could be met just as effectively through more active use of Mel's parenting room.
                As for the last point, thank you! Elphaba is most definitely a mommy blogger at this point, not an infertility blogger (not that the two are mutually exclusive, you can do both). I suppose in that way PAIL is different than Mel's blogroll because with Mel's blogroll the uniting factor is still the experience of infertility whereas PAIL's uniting factor is having a child.

              4. I think that the issue of Mel's volunteerism and Elpheba's creation of the duplicate blogroll, like I stated in the first topic, should have been a discussion between the two of them. The problem is it turned into a public discussion with people going off on multiple tangents (Her Royal Highness had a post that covered this phenomenon beautifully), and that is what I've tried to address in the latter points.

                I have not read any of Elpheba's posts other than the one introducing PAIL .  But it should be pointed out that Elpheba's intentions cannot stand for everybody on the PAIL blogroll.  Sometimes the correct explanation is the simplest one, I would think that people joined for the primary reason stated------- they wanted to find more blogs in similar situations. I can only speak for myself.  If and when I become a parent,  my blogs will be listed in the both the PAIL and either the SMC/parenting blogroll on Mel's page, and if I ever see any blogpost on infertility or loss, I'm always going to speak if I have words of comfort or science-based advice. I've said this before, empathy is a powerful thing and I don't think I can ever turn away from the IF community because of that.

                But I fully agree with your latter point- if anybody wanted to 'move on' and not think about infertility and find only like blogs, then that is their prerogative and they should not be judged on that.  Nobody has a right to morally advice somebody as to how to spend their time, IMO. That is not what this debate should have been about, yet it devolved into that, and worse.

              5. I agree with most of what you have said here.

                I can't see the problem with multiple blogrolls.  Though Mel has done amazing things for the ALI community there is no reason that hers is the only blog with blogrolls for us to use.

                I agree we should not censor ourselves, infertile, pregnant or parenting or any combination thereof.

                I too wondered why everyone is worried about "exclusive" clubs.  Isn't IF in and of itself an exclusive club?  One that none of us wants to be a part of, but an exclusive club nevertheless.

                I joined PAIL and I joined because I was looking for other pregnant IFers.  The bottom line is that I can't stand reading pregnancy blogs from anyone who hasn't gone through IF or experienced a loss and PAIL came about precisely when I was on the prowl for more pregnant IFers.  I still write about infertility and how it affects my pregnancy and will continue to do so.  Perhaps Elphaba was looking to not talk about infertility anymore, but that isn't true for all of us who joined PAIL and I agree that it's a miss-assumption.

                Thanks for taking the time to host this!

              6. I'm going to try to answer these without rambling. That is not my best attribute in writing so I will apologize in advance.

                No I don't feel people should censor themselves. I did when I first started blogging and I didn't feel I got as much out of my posts as I do now just letting it all be out there. Read it or don't, I will do my best not to be offended. 

                When PAIL was suggested on a blog from Elphaba, I commented I thought it was a good idea. Elphie and I went through our pregnancies together. I thought of PAIL simply as a place to share with others in the same situation as me. I never thought of it as exclusive or what not. It simply did not occur to me as such. I joined not thinking of leaving any other blogroll. I'm a relatively "young" blogger and only joined Mel's blogroll in January. I can honestly say though I follow SQ, I never used the blogroll to connect. I don't know all the etiquette in regards to blogrolls. I will say what Mel has done is nothing less than impressive. That she does it all voluntarily is utterly amazing. 

                As a parent after IF, I write on both. Some things in my life are IF related, but the majority of what's going on in my life right now revolves around my daughter. Come this fall, things will focus again on TTC #2 and FET's and the such. I'm sure the subject matter of my blogs will change as my life changes. I didn't get the impression that PAIL was beyond IF, just a different focus. Parenting rules the subject matter for now, but I will occasionally write about IF as of now. 

                As a member of PAIL, I continue to follow all the blogs I started following back in September of 2010. I support those in the trenches, moving on to adoption and those living child-free who no longer blog about that aspect of their life. The IF world is something I feel strongly related to as I am an IFer, I just happen to have my miracle. I don't want to leave the ALI world of bloggerland. It is my support group and my therapy. I didn't think by joining PAIL I was turning my back on the ALI community. I just thought I was joining another group to connect with people more closely related to where I am right now.

                Your post covers so much in a much more thought out way. I wish I could really put into words what I'm thinking, but I seem to be at a loss, unless I ramble on for pages. Thank you for this post and for hosting. I really am getting a much different perspective on this whole thing. It's very different from my initial interpretation of PAIL and Mel's blogroll and their coexistence.

              7. You've actually managed to put my thoughts into words :) and I totally agree with your summary paragraph. I'll try and put my thoughts into my own words. I apologize if anything sounds mean/offensive; I don't intend it to be!

                Multiple blogrolls: I mentioned this in my comment to Mel's first post about PAIL I've seen several blogrolls about pregnancy, TTC, IF, parenting after, etc. They weren't as extensive or as well maintained as Mel's, but they're still out there. Unfortunately, I don't see her blogroll as something new and don't see why two blogrolls can't co-exist even if they are similar. It's the internet and there will always be blogrolls pertaining to all sorts of topics that are similar to each other. I think if someone wants to take on the responsibility of keeping the lists up to date, who are we to tell them they can't have their own blogroll?

                Censoring: I can see why bloggers would censor themselves if they have crossed over to the pregnancy/parenting side of things. My blog was intended to write about my first pregnancy, then it turned into my personal therapy sessions as I dealt with my loss, then it turned into a pregnancy after miscarriage blog, and I know it will turn into a parenting blog when my LO arrives in a few weeks. I plan on censoring to the point that I plan to keep some personal stuff private (such as names), but I don't plan on keeping the content censored just because there are others in the trenches who may come across my blog. If they come across it they don't have to read it if they aren't comfortable doing so. I'll understand. I've been in that situation myself. But my blog is my personal blog; what I write about is going to change as my life changes. Pregnancy and parenting are huge life changes and deserve to be documented if the writer wants to do so.

                "Exclusive": I totally agree with you - TTCers can't join the parenting blogroll. I can't yet either. We're certainly free to click on over and see what people are writing about there, but until we have achieved that goal, it isn't the right fit for our blogs. When the subject of being excluded was brought up, I really didn't see a difference between not being able to join Mel's pregnancy/parenting blogroll and PAIL's, except that PAIL isn't Mel's creation.

                I joined Mel's pregnancy after loss blogroll last month. A couple weeks later, as I was looking and reading various blogs I came across a post about PAIL and joined their pregnacy blogroll. I don't plan on leaving either list because, as you said above, I can conntect with others more effectively by being on two (or more) blogrolls as opposed to one. I might be pregnant and go on to have a baby, but it doesn't mean I will forget my struggles with my loss. I think I have something to offer those who are still struggling and would like to stay connected within the community in case I have the chance to offer up advice or words of wisdom for someone. My experiences in the last year have taught me that there isn't anything more comforting than someone saying, "Hey, I've been there too. I understand."

              8. Bravo Jay...both for taking the time to post about this & for articulating so well what I see as a happy balance. Very well said & one of the best posts I've read thus far on the subject. Thanks!

              9. Lovely post and well balanced :)

                I agree completely with your thoughts on the exclusive club. It is just a blogroll. I personally think what made it "exclusive" was the P and that is what gets people riled up. It is the one "club" everyone wants to join. No one wants to be in the miscarriage club (yep I am a member) or other clubs because those are the ones that remind us of our dark place.

                It really was a blogroll, a badge and once a month chatting about pregnancy / parenting.

                I have always stated I am an infertile who now happens to be pregnant. That's me in a nutshell.

                As to censoring. I do to an extent. I once wrote a post in my first trimester that asked my followers if it was ok to moan a little bit. When they said yes I still censored it. I didn't want to write that I wasn't really enjoying pregnancy because those words would have hurt me. As Kat said on my blog comments, your blog is your home but even when you invite people to your home you don't have to be rude and insensitive! I think you can marry pregnancy and infertility to still relate to other people that are still TTC.

                Great post!

              10.  Why is there the miss-assumption that the members of PAIL are going to stop participating in the world of infertility?For me this perception (which I was frustrated to see called a miss-assumption in an otherwise neutrally-worded post) came from seeing quite a few people saying that the wanted a place where they didn't have to (feel like they should) censor what they say.  Why would that feeling change unless people expected to no longer be read by infertiles in the trenches after joining PAIL?

              11. Thank you so much for hosting this.

                1. I don't think there is anything wrong with multiple blogrolls from the users point-of-view.  And as a user, I've appreciated being on multiple blogrolls at the same time.  As a blogroll keeper, I would love to step back and not do work I don't have to do.  I obviously see this situation from the point-of-view of a blogroll keeper.  It's something I love doing, but it takes a lot of work.

                2. I'm anti-censoring yourself within the confines of being considerate to other humans.  In other words, it is considerate to whisper in the library because other people are trying to think.  But within those parameters, I would say anything.  It is difficult to speak sensitively when you don't know your audience -- after all, all blogs have lurkers -- but I think that most people still manage to be thoughtful and write in the manner they would want to read.

                3. Well, everyone can join the ALI blogroll, and the blogroll is just the blogroll regardless of which category you're in.  So I'm not sure it's a straight comparison. 

              12. I think a blogroll is fine, but to me the PAIL list specifically came across as more than just a blogroll. For instance, in order to get your blog on it, you have to put a PAIL button on your blog. And it's been described more than once as being more active than the parenting rooms on Mel's list. So to me, it seems like the intention was for more than just a list, it was for a community, one that by definition is exclusive. And often exclusivity is a natural thing...we all have different needs, likes, etc, and it's natural to form groups that may seem exclusive. But for me, it's about context. Except I guess in rare instances, no one would willingly join up with an ALI support system unless they wanted to have kids. But on the other hand, many go on to have kids, so there has always been bloggers still TTC, bloggers who have kids, bloggers who have kids and are TTC, and bloggers who may not be actively TTC but still don't have kids. And even within those natural divisions, no two bloggers are ever going to be in the same place on their journey at the same time. Yet, we've always considered ourselves one community. We may have naturally gravitated towards others like us, but people in similar situations didn't formally say, hey, let's start our own community just for people in our situation. So, while a simple list to help people find other parenting bloggers may be useful, I don't necessarily get the active community part of it. 

              13. Interesting! This is the first I've heard of elphie's PAIL and of the "debate" it has obviously initiated. I'll have to check it out :)
                Saying this. I avoid parenting websites and blogs because I tend to burst into tears when I think too much about my foiled quest to be a mum. I do not however, avoid romantic movies which remind me, in equal measure, of my failure to find a life partner...but, they usually make me cry too! ;-)