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We’re Not Just All a Little Bit Racist, We’re Also a Little Bit Hateful

There was a post I edited on BlogHer today that I think brilliantly touches on a very sticky subject in the infertility community: hating on the Internet.  Oh, I think it’s fairly rare that we get the type of all out hate going in our community that she discusses in her post, in the same way that in my very liberal, East coast community we rarely get blatant racism.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get covert racism.  And I think our community gets this covert pressure, this unspoken (or kindly spoken) message that it’s not okay to be yourself after a certain point in your infertility journey.  And where that point is varies from niche to niche in the infertility community.

Like racism, I think the way through it is to speak about it bluntly.  To look it straight in the eye instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.  Because when you don’t, you get the quiet sort of racism that is prevalent in the north, or the quiet sort of hate that is prevalent on the polite Internet.  If we’re all a little bit racist, then we need to admit that deep down, no matter how kind we think we are, we’re also all just a little bit hateful.

The House Always Wins points out the way we’ve gone from hating things that deserve our disdain, to hating other people for having happy moments.  And when I say “people,” I really mean women.

Contrary to what Heller writes, in the past few years, a wide swath of the social media world has gone from criticizing the terrible shit that needs to be challenged to hating… everything. Apparently, we ran out of bad things to hate (I guess? I’m pretty sure there’s still some racism out there that we didn’t catch), so we started hating the good things, and the earnest, hopeful, without-a-trace-of-irony moments that people once felt safe sharing on social media. Those people being hated are often women, and those moments are often emotional ones. Women who just met a career goal. Women who just got engaged, or who are planning their weddings. Women who are pregnant, or whose IVF finally worked, or whose adoption finally went through. Women talking about hobbies that make them feel confident, happy, and fulfilled.

Yep, IVF success made it on the list, and it should.  IVF success is a perfect example of quiet hate, covert hate.  Rarely (if ever?) has someone started a hate blog about someone who is now finally pregnant after infertility treatments.  But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t gotten a clear message not to talk about their happiness on the Internet.  Whether directly in the form of a comment, or indirectly due to blog posts of others talking about what we shouldn’t talk about on infertility blogs.

It’s also a circular issue: bloggers who speak clearly about how they stop reading other bloggers once they achieve pregnancy then turn around to complain about how no one is reading them anyone once they become pregnant.

And still, there is — when we’re talking about an emotional topic — elements of sensitivity that come into play.  No one who is struggling wants to be reminded that they’re still struggling while someone else has moved ahead to the next leg of the journey.  No one wants to see their life choices put down.  How do we share our good news without being smug, record our pregnancy or parenting milestones without being accused of insensitivity, or move on to living child-free without it being treated as commentary on other ways to resolve infertility?

Because, frankly, I believe that pregnancy and parenting after infertility as well as living child-free after infertility has a place in the actively-treating infertility community, and I always have.  For seven years, I’ve been talking about this circular issue, and why it’s worth supporting those who now out of the trenches because they still have very understanding hands that want to reach backwards and comfort.  And yet, here we are, still discussing this quiet hating.  And perhaps hating is too strong a term, but what else do we call this tendency for women to snark on other women?  Even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it yourself, most of us have seen these types of incidents play out in our corner of the blogosphere.

The House Always Wins states that women need to stop adding an asterisk after all their happy news, but I don’t think it’s that simple in our community.  There is a sensitivity line we need to walk, and a blog that completely ignores its readership isn’t having a conversation: it’s talking at vs. talking with.  But how do we take this idea of asking women to support other women and apply it to our unique situation?

Because I don’t want people to water down their content, as The House Always Wins says.  I don’t want people to withhold their story or not talk about their happiness or present a skewed version of their life after treatments because they think it’s what other people want to hear.  Sweeping the reality of pregnancy or parenting or living child-free after infertility under the rug helps no one: it certainly doesn’t help the writer who needs to vent, and it certainly doesn’t help the reader who gets a very unrealistic picture of life after treatments or adoption.

So how do we stop apologizing for our happiness and start continuing to record life, all the while being sensitive?

It’s a hard mixture to achieve.


1 Carolyn Savage { 06.27.13 at 12:49 pm }

Dipping in…

When it comes to the IF community, I honestly think it’s less about the writer and more about the reader. There was a time in my life that I needed the asterisk or warning before reading on. It allowed me to make a decision, based on my state of mind at that moment,as to whether to proceed with reading or move on to something else. It should be in the hands of the reader.

I also think that sometimes women read other women and see different life choices as if they are a statement about their own life choices. “If she does it that way, but I’m doing it this way, apparently she thinks her way is better than mine.”

That is the attitude that women need to grow out of. A different choice or approach to life is not a manifesto about your own. It’s simply another option. Stop taking it personally.

2 Jules { 06.27.13 at 1:00 pm }

Mel, I am pleased to see you write this. I was under the impression you (and some others) felt very differently about the topic of parenting after infertility and what, and where, we should be able to share our thoughts, feelings and experiences. This made me feel a lot better. I hope a lot of other readers out there who might be on the fence about the merits of women who are pregnant or parenting after infertility and loss will reconsider this. It has been hurtful to hear that people pregnant or parenting after if & loss shouldn’t have their own space, or should expect a drop in readership, or shouldn’t indulge in the normal pregnancy experiences like comparing your fetus to fruit sizes. We all deserve to find our peace & healing, however it comes and wherever we need to find it, with the full support and respect of the greater community.

3 Jules { 06.27.13 at 1:07 pm }

Above, that should be ” merits of a space for,” not just “merits.” I certainly don’t expect us to debate the merits of women in various circumstances, haha.

4 Blanche { 06.27.13 at 1:36 pm }

My choice after finally getting pregnant after treatments (can you call it IVF if you get the meds but don’t actually do the IV?) was to act like a person who had gotten pregnant the normal way. And sometimes I did feel bad that perhaps I should be more grateful, but there’s only so many times you can be grateful for the fact of morning sickness/nausea before it wears off. So I expressed both the highs and the lows and continued to be myself in my blogging.

I’m honestly puzzled why anyone who had gotten to know my writing voice pre-pregnancy would expect me to change it. I don’t feel like getting pregnant, and ending up with a take-home baby lost me as many casual readers as my subsequent lack of posting thanks to the time suck of said baby/now toddler has. I use casual advisedly because my core group of comment leaving readers did not markedly change. If one or more of them had disappeared, I would definitely have noticed.

5 Mrs green grass { 06.27.13 at 2:33 pm }

I had a successful IVF and dealt with it by being 100% honest about how I was feeling at all times. I didn’t apologize for being successful, but I did still mention out loud how I still supported others. I think the sensitivity is all in being aware of how others will feel when reading your blog. I wanted to share my success (although I wasn’t jumping for joy because I was freaked out the entire time so that’s mostly what I shared) to inspire hope.

I always quit reading pregnancy blogs when I was still ttc. I couldn’t handle it. I prefer to read about people in the same stage as myself. But every so often, I would go to IVF success blogs and read a bunch at one time…when I could handle it. It was very hard to keep up with commenting on the ttc blogs after I was pregnant, but I tired really hard to show them that they weren’t forgotten.

Although I’ve gotten tons of Internet hate to the point of considering contacting authorities and/or quitting blogging, I never got any for sharing my IVF success. Hopefully being candid was part of the reason.

6 Hapa Hopes { 06.27.13 at 2:58 pm }

I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’m glad you wrote about it! I do struggle with what to write about and how to be sensitive. I do see it as my responsibility to be aware of the feelings of my readers. At the same time, it’s really hard to find something relevant to write about that is still sensitive to my readers now that I’m pregnant.

7 Jo { 06.27.13 at 3:03 pm }

I am a fan of protecting oneself. As I have yet to achieve success, and yet have been around the block a long time, I find that it’s hard sometimes to read ANY IF blogs. Does that mean they shouldn’t exist? Absolutely not. Writers should write, and readers should read what they can handle given their own mental state. No one should apologize for achieving success, but nor should they begrudge readers who have to look elsewhere for support. That’s my opinion, anyway.

8 a { 06.27.13 at 3:26 pm }

Ah, you can’t do anything anymore without someone getting offended. Maybe that should be everyone’s blog subheading: I don’t mean to offend you. I write only of my experiences and feelings.

Don’t apologize for your life. But don’t be an smug jerk either. I guess that’s all you can do.

9 Mina { 06.27.13 at 5:09 pm }

We’re complex, that’s what we are. Beautiful and ugly. Kind and selfish. Let’s just say ‘women’ and solve the mistery.
I have noticed that when I write about something ‘bad’, I get a lot of comments, all of them supportive. When it is all roses and unicorn farts, only the most loyal of loyal readers comment (Hi, a!), and I feel like I need to ‘asterics’ my words regardless.
Thinking about it, I feel compelled to leave a comment when the blogger complains about something or is going through a rough patch. I also rarely comment on the unicorn’s rosy farts. Why is that?! Captcha blogs excluded, when captcha freezes my tablet, I give up and don’t leave any comment, to my regret. So, why do we comment more when it is bad, but when it’s going well, not that much? Is it some sort of Gwyneth Paltrow syndrom, we hate her just because she’s married to Chris Martin and makes movies with Robert Downey and she gives us advice about how to spend loads of money of little food? Of course, she is patronizing, and too skinny for her own good, but she is not addressing the ordinary women, she has no idea what ordinary women are, how they feel and certainly not what they have to deal with in their lives. Just because she writes on her site, it does not mean she is talking to me. She talks to her own peers, the handful of women who have the life she has. But still, her haters outnumber her lovers. Because she seems to live this gilded life and have the best of everything. And who wants to be Gwynnie, eh?
I am rambling again. I think I need some sleep. 🙂

10 Em { 06.27.13 at 5:35 pm }

This is absolutely, 100% true. I love that you pointed out that women are often the victims of this type of hate. It so often comes out of jealousy and the reader’s personal pain. I’ll admit it – I’ve been a hater at times. But moreso, I fear being hated. I fear it a lot. I LABORED over my latest post about the challenges of motherhood after infertilily. I was so nervous that it would rub people the wrong way or that I’d come off looking ungrateful. After I posted it, I checked my email about every minute, just waiting for that first comment to roll in and reassure me that it was an okay post. I was so happy to get good feedback, but I’m sure that someday, I won’t. And oftentimes, I’m sure the haters are hating on me; just not posting. We women have a hard time being happy for each other. I am so incredibly guilty of this too…like every day. I know that it’s something that I really need to work on.

11 Amel { 06.27.13 at 6:23 pm }

To be honest, during TTC (before we decided to live life without kids), I was very wary about this. During TTC, I spent hours browsing over all the infertility blogs I could find and because plenty of them were emotional and honest, I was really careful in not trying to “step on landmines”. After all, I was new in the IF world and I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted, but I could feel turmoil in the air already by reading different kinds of IF blogs.

When I finally started writing my IF blog, I was mostly writing for myself, to sort out the mess in my head. I wasn’t even really commenting on other blogs even though I was still browsing and reading many different IF blogs, though after a while I finally found the courage to leave comments in different blogs. And after the decision of living life without kids, I was more inclined to visit IF bloggers in the same niche as myself.

I think it’s “tougher” on those parenting after IF to know what to do with their IF blogs than for someone like me, because after all, I don’t end up with what TTCers are striving for. I think emotions are really complex and despite the fact that many people have good intentions, it’s gonna be emotionally taxing to keep on reading someone else’s success stories when one is still in so much pain (esp. if the success stories are those that one is still craving for from the bottom of one’s heart and soul).

For instance, I’m eternally grateful that my close friend who was at first planning to TTC the same year as we did actually postpoined, because I think that would’ve ripped apart our friendship if/when she had become preggy whereas we couldn’t achieve even a single pregnancy. I find that it’s easier for me to accept her pregnancy and be happy for her now than when I was still TTC.

12 Amel { 06.27.13 at 6:33 pm }

Oh yeah, I realized that I can’t really answer your question ‘coz I’m “on the other side of the fence”, so to speak. However, due to the nature of my blogs (even my personal non-IF blog) which are like my journals, I share all my happy stuff there without really adding an asterisk, ‘coz I find it impossible to “excuse myself” for writing all those happy stuff without “offending” people. Funny thing, though, for my personal non-IF blog, I actually think my readers enjoy reading about my happy stuff. I’ve got some people who tell me how much they enjoy reading my 3BT (3 Beautiful Things) lists.

That said, I think when it comes to IF blogs, it’s a totally different thing ‘coz the readers are more “limited” and mostly they have the same goals in mind (having children) whereas for my non-IF blog, the readers are God knows who…not all of them comment on my posts, but I know there are regular readers. Thankfully though, I’ve never found any nasty comments in any of my blogs.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.27.13 at 7:04 pm }

What A said: “Don’t apologize for your life. But don’t be an smug jerk either.”

14 Guera { 06.27.13 at 8:43 pm }

ditto what Jo said.

15 Siochana { 06.27.13 at 10:01 pm }

I don’t know if there’s really any way around this: as humans we feel anger, jealousy, despair as well as happiness and fulfillment in a goal well met. Sometimes we’re going to “hate” things and perhaps people (or our projection of a person, which is not really the same thing) even if we really want to do/feel the “right thing.” IF is a trial, and sometimes trials bring out the best in people, sometimes the worst (and sometimes both at different times). I wonder: how much of the “hating” in the IF world happens because people need some kind of an outlet for the frustration and disappointment? Sometimes when there’s no clear “enemy” people go looking for an enemy, justifiably or not.

I think it’s important to accept that all feelings are real, and there’s no right or wrong or good or bad feelings, but also to try as an individual to remember 2 things:

1) practicing self-awareness and trying to understand in a non-judgmental way where emotions are coming from. In other words, trying to distance oneself from feelings a little and get perspective

2) Not abuse the relative anonymity of the internet. If you wouldn’t feel good saying it to a person’s face, don’t say it on the internet.

16 Siochana { 06.27.13 at 10:02 pm }

Oh, just a PS to the previous post: I’ve seen far more support and kindness in the IF online community than “hating.”

17 Justine { 06.27.13 at 10:53 pm }

WOW … that was a long post! But lots of food for thought, there, too. Thanks for sending us there.

I think about this in terms of two kinds of responsibility: reader responsibility, and writer responsibility. Writers can be happy without tearing down other people and without being apologetic. If we’re happy, we need to record happy. And maybe the process of not-happy that got us there, if that’s relevant. Because we can be sensitive to others if we remember where we were when we were in their shoes, in that part of our own process, and sharing the bigger picture will help them to be sensitive, too. Readers, on the other hand, need to decide for themselves how much protecting they need. And they should be able to step away, if that’s right for them, without feeling bad, AND without casting stones. I think it’s important to have bloggers with “good news” out there and available when people are ready for it. But I also think that we need to be OK with the fact that everyone deals differently with seeing others achieve what they desperately want.

18 Jamie { 06.28.13 at 12:59 am }

“Because, frankly, I believe that pregnancy and parenting after infertility as well as living child-free after infertility has a place in the actively-treating infertility community, and I always have.”

Thank you! As a person who is currently living child-free after infertility with hope of finding a partner who is open to having children as a possibility, I have felt out of place. My past life completely fell apart and while I am in a better place in moving forward and dreaming new dreams, infertility is still part of who I am even if I am not actively trying. There are days my heart still aches and sometimes I feel torn, as if I wonder if it is okay for me to still be hurting even if I am not actively trying. But there is no going back. And sometimes it almost hurts more because it is no longer on the surface, but buried deep within me. I want to find resolve, but it feels more like a distant limbo.

I appreciate my IF friends who have had children and have not forgotten me. I appreciate them looking back with an understanding heart. It is in those friends who can continue to talk with me about my life, even if we are in different stages, we can celebrate the positive in both of our lives.

19 Mommy-At-Last { 06.28.13 at 4:23 am }

Thanks for this great post. I have been through a massive internal debate about blogging post IF. And eventually I am actually embracing ‘just’ being a Mommy Blogger who once was infertile. Many of my posts still talk about infertility and the journey and the changes this wrought in me and about my friends who are still there. And interestingly I may have lost some readers, but I have picked up other readers. And many of these readers are from outside the IF community and hopefully be reading me as Mommy Blogger who talks about IF I am helping to spread the word.

I especially loved your statement about how IF survivors have “very understanding hands that want to reach backwards and comfort” it states it so beautifully. I also think that it is totally normal for us to experience IF Survivor guilt.

20 Mommy-At-Last { 06.28.13 at 4:44 am }

PS and I had more hits on my blog and comments on my blog to the news of my BFP than any other post of all time. That tells me that our community does genuinely know how to celebrate each other’s successes even if it hurts those left in the trenches.

21 Turia { 06.28.13 at 5:07 am }

This is a great great post. I have a couple of thoughts on the issue.

I feel in a lot of ways it’s the reader’s responsibility to step away from a blog if the subject matter becomes something she isn’t in a place to cope with at that time. The blogger shouldn’t have to censor herself, or put that asterisk everywhere, in order to keep her readership happy and reading.

I posted about this very issue right after getting the news we were pregnant with E. (I called it blogging APPT- after the positive pregnancy test.) I was conflicted about continuing, but my blog was my space, my journey, and moving into pregnancy and parenting was part of that journey. I still needed/wanted my readers’ support. When I was in the trenches I liked hearing the success stories of my blog friends- it gave me hope. But I did feel that guilt, that need to add the asterisk, because it was hard for me to blog at first about being terrified about the pregnancy and about how our lives would change.

The biggest reason I think blogging openly and honestly about pregnancy and parenting post-infertility (although is it really post-infertility if you know you will stay infertile? Eventually I’m going to have to figure out how to manage my PCOS once we’re all done with the clinic and trying to add to our family) is so important is infertility is a known risk factor for PPD.

I have never stopped thinking that it is SO unfair that we try and try and sacrifice so much to get pregnant, and then we finally do, and we finally have that baby, and infertility does not buy us a free pass into becoming comfortable with motherhood. We have to get there through sweat and tears just like the new mothers who got pregnant accidentally, or the new mothers who were trying for two months. We don’t get any ‘get out of jail free’ cards for our previous struggles- in fact, BECAUSE of our previous struggles we are actually much more likely to struggle with the transition to motherhood.

This is why I think it is important (no, vital) that IF bloggers keep blogging honestly about how they feel when they are pregnant/parenting. Because we, as a subset, are more likely than most to have trouble. To struggle. To need help. We absolutely need to be able to stand up in our blogs and say: “I’m finding this really hard. I hate my new life right now. I feel like I’ve made a terrible decision.”

Yes, that may look ridiculous and hurtful to their readers who are still in the trenches, but it is a cry for help that is just as important, and deserves just as many supportive and caring responses as a post about using ART and trying to get pregnant that says: “I’m finding this really hard. I hate my new life right now. I feel like I’ve made a terrible decision.”

I had a really really hard time during E.’s first four months. I think I avoided PPD by the skin of my teeth. And I think a large part of the reason why I didn’t end up clinically depressed was I was able to post about it all on my blog, and I received back nothing but love and support from my readers- whether they were parents themselves or still in the trenches. And my hope is that if one day one of my still-childless readers gets pregnant and becomes a mother and is overwhelmed by just how truly hard it is (especially in the first few months) and feels guilty that she doesn’t love every single moment of being a mum because surely she should love it since she’s tried so hard to get here and isn’t it ungrateful to not love it all the time since there are so many women (so very many) who would give anything to be in her shoes- that she can take a deep breath, remember what I wrote, and let go of the guilt and the shame, embrace her feelings, accept that sometimes motherhood really does suck, and know that it does get better, as my life did get better, as I grew into motherhood, as E. grew.

That turned into a bit of a novel, so I will leave it at that. And will say only one more thing: have you seen teachmetobraid’s BRILLIANT post on jealousy from the other side- a mum looking with envy at her still-childless friends, even the struggling infertile ones (http://teachmetobraid.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/forgetfulness.html). It is amazing. And this line: “Like a ruthless sniper, infertility took out freedom after freedom, privilege after privilege, years before my daughter was in my arms.” has stayed with me and struck deep into my core.

What a great post, Mel.

22 missohkay { 06.28.13 at 3:11 pm }

I often end up writing disclaimers in my posts. They’re equally for me and my readers. I feel compelled to remind myself to be grateful darnit! all the time. (I am very hard on myself because obviously ever moment of parenting is not the joyous wonder I assumed it would be.) And I write the reminders for my readers so they know I remember how it felt, and I AM grateful darnit!

23 Natalie { 06.28.13 at 11:53 pm }

If I struggled with this issue after having Kate I struggled IMMENSELY after getting pregnant with and giving birth to Ember. Because the emotions I felt were NOT the expected “happy happy all the time”, I had a lot of baggage to sort through, and the reactions to that were predictably emotional and unhappy. I try to always be honest and sensitive, but I really lost the blog somewhere in there. It’s great as long as what you are living and feeling are “okay”… but when you are struggling with PPD, with anxiety, with grief, all while parenting healthy children… well that is a lot to ask from infertile readers.

That article is fantastic. I want everyone on the internet to read it.

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