Sunday, March 11, 2012

Defining Community

Greetings Humble Readers... I have waffled considerably about writing this post, and while I may not be as eloquent as some, I feel it's important to speak to the issues that have arisen this past week within the ALI (adoption, loss, infertility) community. 

(In an effort to be completely transparent, yes I am parenting after battling IF and RPL.  And yes, I am currently pregnant with what will hopefully be our last Halfling.  This colours my view, just as the past four years have shaped who I am.)

For me, in this whole mess, the ultimate issue comes down, not to who's a parent and who's not, but who we are as a whole.  How do we define community?

Merriam-Webster defines community this way:

com-mu-ni-ty (noun)
  • 1: a unified body of individuals: as
    • a : state, commonwealth
    • b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself
    • c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
    • d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
    • e : a group linked by a common policy
    • f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests
    • g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society
  • 2: society at large
  • 3
    • a : joint ownership or participation
    • b : common character : likeness
    • c : social activity : fellowship
    • d : a social state or condition
(emphasis mine)

I think, whether we care to admit it or not, we all crave community.  A place we fit, a place to belong.  A place where we can find others who understand us and share our values or key parts of who we are.  Some fill this craving with diverse circle of friends, extended family, or even strangers who support the same favourite sports team.  For those of us who felt outside our culture because of our struggles to build our families, we found that online. 

As a part of our various interpersonal groups, I think we all hope that we can both give and receive support and fellowship.  Having your voice heard is just as important as hearing others.  

I don't know about you, but there have been many many times when I wish you all lived down the street or around the corner.  I wish I could physically, tangibly offer you support in your trials and celebrate with you in your joys.  I wish I could bring you dinner when I know you've had a rough time.  I wish I could wipe away your tears when you are devastated.  I wish I could share a hug with you when you are victorious. (But as an old friend often reminded me... if wishes and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.) There have been monumental occasions when this community has pulled together in the most astounding ways to provide such support, but logistically, it can't happen on an every day basis. 

So instead, as Mel so wisely says in her intro to ICLW each month... 'comments are the new hug'.  Comments are how we, within the ALI community, show our support and provide feedback to our community. 

How can we as the ALI community continue to support each other, even when our circumstances change?  Does someone choosing life without children after IF or those parenting after IF need less support than someone who is still in the trenches?  Are they in too different a place to reasonably expect that the friendships forged over months and years of cycles, treatments, losses, and hard choices can continue?  And is looking for a community within a community a bad thing?

Relationships, within any community, grow and change.  This is a universal truth.  People will inherently seek out those who are like themselves in some way.  But does that negate their previous relationships? 

How do you define community?


  1. I think community is just a group of people who honestly care about each other. In this case, I just think everyone is overthinking. We all care about each other. We try to make sure that none of us hurt anyone else accidentally, but at the same time we must live our lives and be honest with ourselves and our own feelings. I think of it like a sunburn. When you don't have a sunburn, and someone pats you on the back, you smile. But when you have a sunburn and someone does that, intentionally or not, it hurts like hell and you generally react with anger and pain.

    I think that all of us need calm down and realize that we're a bunch of sunburned ladies and almost everything is going to hurt. Time to use some aloe vera and know that nobody meant to hurt anyone else. That goes for people who were hurt by the formation of PAIL, and people who were hurt by the reaction against the formation of PAIL. All of us overreact because all of us are hurting. But I don't believe for a second that any of us are TRYING to hurt anyone else. I say we need to remember that we're in this together, that we honestly care about one another, and just try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    1. This is the best analogy I've seen all day. Bravo!
      Hear Hear!!!

  2. I obviously haven't been following this discussion closely right now, but to me I think it is about the connections you make with people. There have been people I stopped following when they "crossed over" and there will now probably be people who stop following me now that I have. But when I feel like I've made a real connection, I want to continue that even if we are no longer in the same IF space. It's the same thing in real life. We all have some "situational" friends that are fun to hang out with when you work together or go to school together, etc. But not all friends carry over to the new job or after graduation. It's not good and it's not bad. It just is.

    1. So is it wrong to seek out new connections when circumstances change? Is it wrong to seek support from different 'situational' friends?

      I'm not being flippant... it just seems to be the heart of the situation, to me.

  3. I do not think it is wrong to seek out new connections at all. I do think that Coco is correct that (a) we are a sunburned lot; and (b) people are over-thinking this.

    I myself was not offended by the formation of PAIL (in fact AFTER these discussions I decided to join it). However, I could understand why some people would be hurt by what they may perceive as an exclusion.

    My thoughts on this situation (that admittedly I was not able to follow too closely) was that perhaps the way it was announced or presented caused hurt feelings. Miss-communication seems to be at work here.

  4. Before I go a rambing, which I'm sure I'll do, I want to thank you for hosting this.

    To me, this community is the definition of community. A safe place to share my thoughts and feelings and receive positive and negative feedback. OK so the negative isn't always welcome, but it is sometimes necessary. I sought the feeling of belonging somewhere and found that within the ALI community. Now as a new mom I'm seeking a feeling of belonging with women in the same situation as me. I have posted on just about all of the salons and said similar things. I joined PAIL because the initiators of it were pregnant right along with me. As women who formed a 'friendship" as IFers struggling to get pregnant to finally getting that BFP, to the birth of our beautiful daughters, we had already developed a new community within a community with our common experiences. I saw PAIL as opening up to gather more women who had similar experiences to us.

    I hate that something I joined in my excitement of new motherhood has caused anyone to have hurt feelings. I realize being involved in a community of mostly women, mostly hormonally charge women at that, there are bound to be hurt feelings. I hope everyone has a better understanding of everything after this salon experience. I know I have learned a great deal through this experience.

  5. I agree with Missy, and after reading the other salon posts, I think that's the trend I am noticing, too. It seems as though if a true friendship is formed, as you said, over months and cycles and losses, etc. -- well, then that friendship will survive a pregnancy. And I've found that to be true. I have continued to follow into pregnancy and beyond those people whom I really "clicked" with. Those relationships that are more superficial (either because they are newer, or you just don't mesh well) and situational won't survive the transition. I have found this to be true in my case, and it appears to be true in others (from what I've been reading in others' comments).

    I think we will all be better off if 1) we can accept that losing/gaining followers is more of a sign of that person's place in life than a sign of our own worth, 2) that some friendships/connections will stand the test of time and others will not, and 3) we can't spend too much time overanalyzing and self-censoring our thoughts out of fear of hurting others. Should we be blatantly mean and hurtful? Of course not. But should those parenting or pregnant have to apologize constantly for writing about the trials and tribulations of those experiences? Absolutely not. We all understand how hard it is to get there, and how incredibly grateful each of us will be / are to find ourselves on the other side.

    Thank you for hosting this discussion!


  6. Good post Mrs G! I like the question you posed about community and wanting to fit in and belong somewhere. I think many of us (myself included) had a hard time fitting in with my friends IRL, especially after the pregnancy wagon began to lap me! We came here to seek others going through the same thing: infertility, loss, struggle, etc and then when we finally got that miracle pregnancy (achieved naturally, IUI, IVF, etc) we are inclined to want to hare this journey with similar people too. However, I still read pregnancy/mom blogs throughout my whole ordeal because I'd been reading their blogs for years ad we formed real friendships and connections, just like I will continue to support IF bloggers I read. :)

  7. To answer your question, I'd like to propose that bloggers who are looking for support simply ask for it. This may require putting yourself out there (ie, signing up for ICLW, commenting on other blogs, etc). But I mean literally, just ask. I don't always di ICLW, but the months I've done it were when I knew either something big was coming up (like starting my first IVF), and I've been feeling particularly shitty and I need a pick me up. I put myself out there more when I need more back. And I've honestly always been happy with the level I support I get. I wonder, if ever we need support and aren't getting it, could we just ask? Even a post like, "Hey guys, I'm feeling shitty about such and such, can you help me out here?" Something like that. I'm a big believer in asking for what you need because no one is a mind reader.

    1. Yes, I agree heartily, but if your post is "My twins never sleep and all I ever do is cry all day." How much help do you think you will get from the ALI community? Lately pregnant women haven't even been allowed to complain about morning sickness and asking for advice w/o at least one commenter saying "gee, I wish I had morning sickness." I feel it is a recent thing, but some of the climate in this community has turned sour. Just my opinion, of course.

    2. Thanks for your reply. I don't want to be argumentative, and I understand your point of view, and comments like "I wish I had morning sickness" are pretty shitty, but at the same time, maybe you could turn on moderating comments? Or maybe you could just throw a line in that says...I know all my ALI readers out there wish they had this to complain about. I just feel like there are things you can do before you have to completely censor yourself, which just causes frustration. I understand the hesitation absolutely...I just don't understand the complete withholding. And really, there are a lot of parenting after IF folks on the various blogrolls, including Mels, so just going of numbers there probably are plenty of bloggers in the ALI community who can support you. I'm not criticizing it, of course your feelings are valid and clearly lots of people felt this way--I just don't understand it.

  8. I think everyone needs support, or, it's the rare person who doesn't need support. So I assume people still need it once they are parenting. Because it's not about situation -- it's about being human.

    I've never stopped reading someone due to their situation changing. I have stopped reading on the rare occasion that the person on the whole changes. I can literally think of three times when that has happened, that the whole personality changed and after time, I couldn't relate to the person. But that's three times in six years, and I read a lot of blogs :-) I prefer to read people who are not exactly like me -- I learn more, I get more out of the reading. But of course I also have a bunch of Jewish vegetarians in my personal blog reader because it feels good to also be around people who see the world similarly to how you do.

    Thank you so much for hosting this!


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