There has been a thing recently about a new online community. I'm feeling bad for Mel, because she's feeling hurt, but otherwise I don't feel that strongly about it. Then it struck me: maybe there needs to be a post from someone who doesn't feel too strongly about it. Isn't this exactly the type of viewpoint that usually gets left out of discussions?  

Here are the facts as I understand them:

  • there is a parenting-after-infertility blogroll
  • it is relatively small and active, at least at the present time
  • plans are to structure it not just as a blogroll, but as a whole separate community, duplicating some of the community activities that Mel currently runs (such as ICLW) in what, if we take my mother's view, is possibly the greatest form of flattery. (I had a sister who used to copy me a lot.)
  • I haven't actually visited PAIL and I don't know who runs it, what their plans and intentions are

  • Mel's parenting-after-infertility space on her blogroll is a bit too intimidatingly large for some people, and a bit too frustratingly full of dead links. This new space (PAIL) is smaller and fresher - for now.
  • People won't be surprised - in the bad kind of way - to find bloggers who have reached The Parenting Side of infertility when they are feeling sad and childless.
  • Mel could pass over some of her work in maintaining the blogroll to someone else.

Comments and questions three:

Mel's space was once small and fresh, too, but she has followed a philosophy of inclusion, even of now-abandoned blogs. There are good arguments in favour of this: we all want to hug and love each other, also, archives can be useful. If people are going to PAIL for the smallness and the freshness and if PAIL want to continue to satisfy this want, they will have to run their blogroll according to a different philosophy: one of limiting their roll to a relatively closed group of active bloggers.

Is there something wrong with Mel's philosophy? No. Gosh no. We think she does a wonderful job. We really do want to love and hug each other, and we really do find the archives of dead blogs useful. Also, the blogroll could be re-organised to provide easier navigation and flagging of active vs inactive blogs - I mean, we all know Mel is just sitting around waiting for someone to hand an extra task to her, she has so little to do /sarcasm - but it could be done. Practical ideas are probably even welcome.

Is there something wrong with PAIL's philosophy? Well here's the thing. I don't object to another community per se. There are plenty of other infertility communities out there (here's another site, created by one of our own) and people already join the one they think fits best. Some people join many, just to spread the word around, and why not? Maybe there's a limit to how big a community can get before it fragments, and maybe that's ok, because it's not about hating each other, it's about how many different people and groups you can know - or at least know of - before the part of your brain that deals with personal connections heats up under the workload and melts out through your ears. That's fine (the having a limit, not the brain melting). But.

If they're planning to do Mel's current job, they are not going to satisfy a lot of people who have just joined them for their freshness and smallness, because they're going to get big and a lot of links are going to become inactive, because people who face infertility mostly become parents sooner or later, one way or another (although not all of them keep blogging). And yes, maybe this problem could be fixed with some good organisation, much in the same way as Mel's blogroll could be fixed up with some re-organisation, thus preserving the blogroll as it is, which would be great even if it kind of defeats the purpose of jumping ship for the smaller, fresher blogroll. But if a reorganisation doesn't work, will we need another spin-off sooner or later? Because if so, all these spin-offs are going to start making me dizzy. The parenting-after-infertility category is going to get smeared across the blogosphere, and we will all be lost. LOST!

1. How is PAIL planning to maintain their blogroll? Are they planning to cull inactive blogs? Are they planning to limit their size (and if so, how?)

Here's another question. Will the existence of this community put pressure on those parenting after infertility to move out of Mel's space? There has been a comment to say that ICLW seems to work best for the childless. I don't know if this is true. If it is, it may be more about the activity level of those just starting out in blogland (more likely to be non-parents) vs older bloggers (more likely to be parents) or, alternatively, the activity level of parents vs non-parents. If there is some such reason that has nothing to do with the active avoidance, by childless bloggers, of parenting blogs in activities like ICLW, then I'm not sure how these activities are going to gain a foothold at PAIL. Perhaps people are going to feel their enthusiasm for blogging refreshed by the joining of a new community. Or perhaps what is really going on is not so much active avoidance by the childless, but self-censoring by the childfull - which I can understand. It seems funny that people are going to be embarrassed about having gained parenthood on Mel's site, being, as she is, a parent herself, and one who talks about her children from time to time, but I can believe it to be true. Perhaps some members feel they should lay low in the community after becoming parents, and remove themselves from community activities out of politeness, even though they would prefer to participate. If so, this is probably because they felt uncomfortable with parents (although presumably not with Mel? or they were tolerating Mel because either she or her community are too awesome not to?) before they became parents which puts some credence behind the idea of active avoidance by the childless (ie a little of both might therefore be true). Or maybe they were ok with it and childless members are pretty much all ok with it but those who are parents just imagine others not to be ok which is just silly, but people can be silly sometimes, so it's possible. Did I lose you?

2. If you do not have children (or have been blogging since before you had children), how do (did) you feel about those parenting after infertility participating in community events? If you are parenting after infertility, how do you feel about participating in community events now? Does it make a difference to you to have a parenting-after-infertility-specific event, or not?

Of course, the "surprise" element could be easily removed by flagging parenting blogs - another extra task I'm sure Mel would be grateful for /sarcasm - but it could be done.

General comment: It seems to me that most large communities have spin-off communities sooner or later, like little bits of space debris. Some continue on their own path, possibly in an intricate dance around the parent, but most of them hurtle completely out of the orbit of the original community, fragmenting and dissipating as they go, leaving the original community largely unbothered - it probably picks up a few asteroids here and there to balance out the inevitable losses anyway, even if it is a bit more of a shock to lose a big rock than a few bits of dust here and there. (I hope I didn't offend anyone by referring to them as "dust". All good metaphors get insulting if you carry them too far - although for Mel, being important enough to cause spin-offs could be seen as flattery indeed.) Anyway, the original body probably keeps some of the fragments in the end, especially in this sort of situation where the... atoms... can exist in two places at once, like some sort of quantum thingo. (Wow. I should have built my metaphor around something I studied in greater depth and more recently than high school. Or dropped it earlier, possibly before I insulted people by referring to them as dust.) I know Mel doesn't want wasted effort (especially on her part), but I'm not sure a speedy handover of the parenting section of the blogroll is wise at this point, for this reason alone.

3. What do you think?


Esperanza said...

I am someone who actually joined PAIL but doesn't actually feel a strong link to it so I wanted to share my 2 cents. First of all, I didn't join PAIL to be there exclusively. I just thought it might be interesting to try out something new, see what they were doing. I like meeting new people and thought this might be a way to do so. I never once considered abandoning all the many TTC and childless living blogs I follow because I joined, nor did I see it as breaking away from Mel's space. I just thought, oh bloggers I might have something in common with, okay, I'll see what I think. Since then I've done not one thing on that blog roll, except I guess try to defend myself an others for having joined it.

I have to admit. I don't really care what others say about PAIL, if they criticize it, because everything warrants some critism. Heck, I criticized it myself on my own blog, fearing it was exclusive and would be hurtful to others. Interestingly this was days before the blow up and my post was met with a lot of "you're being silly, it's fine." but what does bother me is when people imply that the women who joined PAIL did so to leave the ALI community entirely. Or to exist only in PAIL's space. I know I didn't do that and would be surprised to learn that others did.

This community is a big place and most of us just want a connection and it's easier for those in similar situations to make those connections. That doesn't mean those people want to abandon everyone else but just to meet more people who are like them and might be able to support them and let them give support.

I hope this better clarifies why one might have joined PAIL. No one saw it as leaving Mel's community, we just saw it as joining a new one as well.

Bea said...

Thanks, Esperanza. So to clarify, it sounds like you think the existence of a parenting-after-infertility community will either add to your current participation in the community, or perhaps not change it at all. (This would be in response to question two.) So you would still be wanting to keep as much presence as you currently have in the existing community, just maybe adding a few more connections.


Thalia said...

well the first time I heard about this was on facebook where Oro posted something, and I didn't have time to check it out. Then you gave me the story here.

The odd thing for me is that I never really bonded with mel and her site, as I felt she inserted herself into an existing community with not a lot of sensitivity for what had gone before (some early post of hers where she said she was writing a book and was going to use the voices of the community to do it rather pissed me off). I know she's done amazing things and is a totally nice person, but I never quite fell in love in the way many others have done.

On a less personal note, the infertility and loss community has grown so HUGE that I think there were inevitably going to be satellite communities created - almost by accident - as the network of relationships is imposssible to maintain in such a large group. I think it's a little out of order to complain that PAIL blogs were ignored on ICLW - they may well have received fewer comments but then, my experience with commenting is that it's a contact sport, if you don't comment, you don't get comments, so it's not really up to ICLW to sort that out for you.

So this seems like an inevitable fact of human nature, and while it may have been done in a graceless and disrespectful way, in the end it doesn't seem like a big deal.

(Nb I haven't read the primary articles so may be missing something).

how are you?

Jo said...

I think your summary, for someone who hasn't read a lot about it, is pretty accurate. I think that fracturing our community does more harm than good, however. While it is natural to seek out others in our situation (I do it all the time), the purpose of the community is to be inclusive to all parts/subsets of the journey.

I think the general feeling was that people who joined PAIL no longer wanted to discuss infertility. This is a direct quote from Elphaba's post announcing PAIL -- in it, she states that she want to write about parenting, not infertility.

That doesn't mean that everyone who joins PAIL does so for the same reasons, but it does explain why it was created in the first place.

I have no idea how she plans to maintain it, but I do have major issues with someone taking ICLW and the format of SQ and replicating it somewhere else. While copying may be the sincerest form of flattery, it is also plagiarism (and violates intellectual property copyright laws).

Just my two cents. Clearly, I feel a bit more passionate about it! :-)


SLES75 said...

I joined PAIL because of where I am at in my life right now. I didn't think of it as exclusive, but a way to connect with others right where I am. Pretty much how I stumbled upon the ALI community in the first place.

I have no clue how PAIL plans to maintain their blogroll. I don't understand how Mel maintains hers either. I'm both intimated and amazed at what Mel does. I'm pretty sure the 150 or so bloggers on PAIL don't even remotely compare to the 3000 on Mel's roll. I don't believe there is a limit or even an exclusion rule. Anyone can join, if you want. My understanding of PAIL is a place where the focus of my blog isn't IF, but my daughter with IF as the background. I'm not in treatment and right now the most important thing going on in my life is my daughter. I blog about everything and IF certainly influences me as I struggled with it for 4 years before getting pregnant and getting my take home baby. But right now IF and treatments aren't the focus.

I guess I just don't want to have people think I'm turing my back on the women who so willingly supported me throughout my struggle but are still struggling themselves. I haven't. I still am a loyal follower.

As far as participating in community events, this is probably the most participation I've had in an event since I started blogging in September of 2010. I have never participated in ICLW or anything like that. FOr some reason I felt the need to read up on people's feelings and get a feel for how my decision to join something I thought was harmless 3 weeks ago has or has not changed others' perceptions of my blog and it's contents.

Thanks for hosting, it is very appreciated and I'm definitely learning a LOT!

Ann Z said...

I also don't feel all that strongly about the community. I do understand feeling hurt that someone is trying to duplicate a community that Mel worked hard on, but I don't think that's really what's happening here.

Personally, I think the internet is a large and vast place, and having multiple communities that overlap is just one of those things that happens, sometimes intentionally, often times not. I see PAIL as trying to fill a need that some people felt was there, and honestly, I think it would be presumptuous for people to expect Mel to fill every need of this community. I think it's commendable that people saw a need and then decided to do something about it rather than just complain about it not existing.

Since having my second daughter, I've found myself stepping way back from the ALI community, though I still read LFCA, SQ, and the blogs of many of the people I'd originally met and connected with. I write very little right now as I'm still trying to find my personal blog's purpose, and I'm busy with my other blogs and life in general. So I've stopped commenting on new blogs because I don't want someone in the middle of IF to click over to find a mostly dead blog that talks a lot about kids.

When I saw the announcement about PAIL, I was intrigued and briefly thought it might be a great place to find my footing again. But I don't like communities where you're required to put a button on your blog to join in, so I stayed out. It had nothing to do with the group being exclusive, though.

Ann Z said...

Ooh, just realized I should clarify my first sentence. I don't feel strongly about PAIL one way of the other. I do feel strongly about the ALI community.

Pamela T. said...

Hi Bea,
Nice to reconnect. Thanks for offering your time here. I can't speak to PAIL because I don't qualify for membership. That said, I do understand why people gravitate toward those they share the most in common with. The "not-parenting-after-infertility" bloggers have a more informal network -- and most come to it reluctantly. The truth is we're so accustomed to being excluded that the PAIL brouhaha was a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

As for the question I'm best equipped to answer: If you do not have children, how do (did) you feel about those parenting after infertility participating in community events?

Answer: While I resented MABIs (mothers after battling infertility) at first, my feelings dramatically changed once I knew I would never have children. I came to realize that there was no safe place to hide online or offline -- that I had to learn to develop new coping techniques so that I could thrive once again. I grew more tolerant of different life paths because I didn't have a choice.

I also came to appreciate that even infertiles who go on to have children can demonstrate the same over-the-top mom behavior they once complained about. Talk about irony!

I have always wondered, though, if the IF outcomes had been switched how those in my tribe and those in your tribe would have behaved differently -- if at all. More food for thought...

Mali said...

Another here froom the No Kids tribe, and I feel I can only comment on your Question 2.

Whilst I don't qualify for PAIL, I guess I am a little saddened that people who joined PAIL, and particularly who participated in a PAIL only ICLW, would absent themselves from the rest of the ALI community.

When I participate in ICLW, I choose the blogs where I'm going to comment. I do that through Mel's list, and through various connections I've made. It's probably a majority of No Kidding bloggers, but also includes women who are pregnant and women without children. My ttc journey ended so long ago I find it harder to relate to those who are in the trenches now, but there are some blogs - for various reasons - that I visit where women are still ttc. And I feel my own experience can help those going through loss. Personally, I fear that I won't have that opportunity to find the parenting/pregnant women bloggers if they "split off" into a PAIL, and that they'll be so focused on each other in PAIL, they won't be interested in finding me. And I think that's a bit sad - because I think difference is important, being exposed to others' point of view is important, learning to see from different perspectives is important. I love it when women visit my blog with a different perspective. I want my world to be as open as possible, as interesting as possible.

Mina said...

Hi, Bea.

I am a fertile who miscarried. Then I got my son and now I am pregnant with another. I found my place in the ALI through Mel, and even though I lose in th Pain Olympics (which is good for me), I have found a lot of friends here. I did not join PAIL because my needs are fulfilled. I still find new blogs and add them to my blogroll, but not through any specific list, mostly through comments they leave on the blogs I already read. Maybe not the most effective, but it works for me and my time.

Before getting pregnant, I was jealous of people who were getting bfp and were parenting already. But I have never shied away from their blogs and many a very interesting posts I have bookmarked from them. That was when I had time to come back and read them again and mull over. Then I got my bfp and my son, and interestingly, the most comments I got was when I had some problems, like conforming the gestational diabetes, which seemed the end of the world at the time, and now I can hardly keep my eyes from rolling, such a silly thing, honestly. But misery loves company, and that is when the comments multiply like mushroom after the rain.

PAIL was created because some people felt the need. I refuse to think there was any malicious thought behind it, and I take the word that many had no idea about ICWL being Mel's brain child at face value. Although how can they not know about SQ is not as easy to swallow. If they needed it, and I didn't, who am I to say they are wrong? I don't honestly know how they intend to run this thing, and what are their plans, I envy their time dedicated to such an endeavour, but that is that. If the need to creat PAIL arose, how can one oppose its being here and now? Just because I do not understand that need and felt not like joining, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with me or with them, right? (Please confirm me there is nothing wrong... :-))

I guess when a community gets big enough, there will be smaller communities being created within. Some of them people want to join, like PAIL in the ALI, some of them are dreaded, like childfree/less not by choice or the Glow in the Woods one (who wants to join THAT?!). I think ALI is varied enough for all people to find their own place. Even if some groups separate and take some distance (I hope this does not happen with PAIL, but it is a possibilty).

In conclusion: we'll get through this. The ALI went through an earthquake, and while the damage is there, the good thing is that the tension was released. And now we can move on. The healing salons are helpful. People will make their own decision making things evolve accordingly and those who cannot remain civilised will be culled anyway. I loved the /sarcasm notes, reminds me of Sheldon Cooper. :-) Although you get them better than he does.

Thanks for hosting. I enjoyed this post very much.

Mina said...

Excuse typos, like conforming instead of confirming... Silly tablet. I of course am a perfect speller, except when it comes to the word "bury" which I always keep writing with double R for some reason.

May said...

I think PAIL has created such strong feelings simply BECAUSE it's where all we ALI bloggers want, or wanted, to be. As Mina pointed out, a blogging community for loss, or living child-free, is one you end up in with a broken heart that needs comfort and mending (and these communities are wonderful, wonderful places). No one minds being EXCLUDED from a loss community. Seriously, who would want to pay the price for feeling a part of Glow In The Woods or similar? Whereas a parenting one is one you long to join with the power of a 1000 suns, and if you can't, it adds an extra burden of feeling doubly excluded, both from parenting, and from this new way your old friends are going on to make new friends that have NOTHING to do with you. We all know the sorrow of seeing our BFF running off to play with another kid instead of us. We are told to disregard such 'childish' feelings and behaviours, but, we're human, and they're actually HUMAN feelings and behaviours, and all we learn is to school our faces and reactions.

And I know that's not what the PAIL bloggers meant to do, and I know they're not all planning on abandoning the ALI community now they have their babies, and I know many of them feel the ALI community can be rejecting of parents (this puzzles me. More than half of the ALI community is parenting now. IF usually results in parenting, somehow, someway, after a few years. Are they rejecting each other?)

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Hello, Bea. thanks for hosting this healing salon.

I can't answer #1, and even though I am parenting after IF, PAIL is not made for the likes of me. So I suppose this is my response to your question #3.

If I understood correctly, Mel took issue not with the fact that there was a new group (new subset groups are formed all the time), but with a duplicate group, an exclusionary group.

I am surprised/dismayed at one of the commenters here on your healing salon post, who talks about a third person as if you and she are having a private conversation.

The guidelines at L&F say, "4) Avoid scapegoating or assigning intent to a person. Only respond to the words on the screen."

And then Thalia writes about how Mel acted with "not a lot of sensitivity" when she began her community-building efforts.


I appreciate your posing the questions, Bea.

Bea said...

Ok, thanks everyone. Here is the summary I am getting so far:

- there are, obviously, different views on this. Some are passionate, but a large number of people are not too bothered about the creation of PAIL and it doesn't change much for them (this latter group includes parents and non-parents; current members and non-members of PAIL).

- a lot of people expect different communities to pop up, and people to fall in with others who are in similar situations. I agree with what a couple of people have said, that the main issue is a formalised community that people are either allowed or not allowed to join, based on whether they have achieved what those setting out in adoption/infertility/loss set out for, or not. We have had formal communities set up for other, less desired outcomes without problem.

- There was no harmful intent.

If anyone has an issue with that summary so far, speak up now!


Thalia said...

@lavender luz - i think if you read the whole comment, I don't ascribe intent to Mel, I point out how I FELT about what she did, and note that I am in a minority, and also comment on how much she does for the community.

It may not have been clear in my note, but I was drawing a parallel to how others feel about PAIL - they feel hurt, but that may well not have been the original intent.

On a final, hurt feelings note, I was commenting for a long time before L&F came along, so that does not drive my behaviours, rather it describes behaviours that I was part of creating in the first place.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Thank you so much for hosting this, Bea.

I don't know if I can answer the first two, so I'll tackle the third one :-)

I think we're a big, diverse community. I think we're never going to have perfect unity. But as long as I feel like we can all sit down at the same table and not be anxious doing so, I'm happy.

Portia P said...

Goodness I have been AWOL a long time!

Like you Bea, i have little time to blog so have ducked out of the community for a while.

I'm interested in the concept of PAIL as I felt a little uncomfortable in our old community - like, who of those still trying to find their happy ending would want to accidentally find me and my musings on my children? I would have hated that.

I've not even had time to read all the arguments but will pop over to PAIL one day soon - when i'm not rushing to do something or other - and check it out.

How are you?! It has been such long time. We're just in the midst of chickenpox so that has kept me busy. That and part-time work and 2 toddlers, that is.

Better run - bedtime. Husband is on an overnight shift tonight so i'm in sole charge and who knows what the night holds : ) xx

KDavid said...

Oh, I have so much to say, but for now, I will say, Yes. You have said much of what I feel. Other people's pregnancies are difficult for me, but some are so much harder than others. I am going through this right now.

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