|Can't we all learn to get along?|
A usual tweet from a member of the infertility community looks like this, “Surprise natural pregnancy announcement on fb, ON Christmas, ultrasound included—ARG.” Then the community would rally and say things like, “Blerg,” “HUGS,” “Sending love and strength,” or “Sending wine.” There would be virtual eye rolls and immediate empathy and compassion given to whoever was faced with the post on an already difficult day. For that person still in the trenches, for that person whose pain is fresh and deep, we all would support them and say, “I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry you had to face this today on top of everything else.”
But the person who posted the ultrasound was Jay @thetwoweekwait. Jay is a beloved pillar of our community and a compassionate advocate. She works tirelessly to improve the lives of those struggling. She struggled to have her son. Against most odds and without mindfully trying, she is pregnant. She is also terrified. She is older. She is worried. She is excited. She is grateful. She is conflicted and has survivor’s guilt. Her husband posted the ultrasound picture on facebook, on Christmas, with zeal and gratitude. Jay allowed it on her timeline.
Some still in the trenches saw the post and it hurt them. I know this because I had many unsolicited private facebook messages about it and I tried to soothe the hurting feelings. Jay came to twitter to announce her pregnancy and apologize for the hurt she may have caused by announcing it. The announcement meant a lot to her husband. He wanted the ultrasound to be posted on Christmas. Advocates who have been a part of the twitter infertility community for a long time criticized Jay for allowing the ultrasound picture posted to her timeline on Christmas. Although excited for her on a personal level, from a professional perspective, they felt disappointed in Jay as an advocate. Christmas Day is hard and ultrasound pictures are notorious triggers for the infertile and for those who have suffered loss. There were other mean and hateful things said to Jay by unreasonable, horrible people whose motives could only be adding more negativity to the universe. I won’t even address these people, because they are unreasonable, illogical and hateful. They deserve an immediate block/unfollow.
What I also found hateful though, was some of the messages from members of our own community in Jay’s defense. There is a lot of talk about how the infertility community on twitter isn’t a “safe space” anymore. It sure wasn’t safe the other day. I have always seen the infertility twitter community as an extended virtual support group. In an infertility support group, you wouldn’t bring pictures of your babies unless you were specifically in a support group that addresses secondary infertility. In an infertility support group, you wouldn’t talk about pregnancy or breast feeding. In an infertility support group, you wouldn’t talk about how hard parenting is. For the most part, you aren’t true friends with people in your support group. You are tied to them by a shared experience of pain or loss. Sometimes true friendships form and blossom, but that is the exception, not the rule.
When I run my monthly RESOLVE group, my members come in and bring their pain and heartache. When they talk about how hard it is to see other women get pregnant, even other women who were once a part of the group, I don’t say to them, “Listen, if you can’t be happy for her, fuck you.” I don’t say to them, “Hater’s going to hate, stop being a hater.” I don’t say to them, “I mean she deserved to get pregnant, so be happy for her.” I don’t say to them, “You are being a fair weather friend, you love her more when she is struggling? Well, fuck you. ” Or “Stop being a bitch about it or I will show you another ultrasound picture.” I don’t tell them to, “Get OVER it and yourself.” I don’t dismiss them by saying, “Stop spreading your fucking misery and be happy for her. This isn’t about you and your pain.” Lastly, I would not lecture by saying, “I mean come on, can’t you for a second think of how much support this person who just got pregnant naturally needs?”
Now, I am supporting Jay 100%. Jay is my friend. I know she needs support right now. I am in a place where I can give her support. I think many people also adore Jay and feel protective of her. My instinct when all of the drama went down was to wrap her in a cocoon of love and protect her and her family. I know she would do the same for me. But I don’t think it is fair to criticize those who could not be supportive because they are in pain. All of the quotes above are taken directly or paraphrased from members of the community during this latest twitter war. We MAY NOT say these things to one another. This is a therapeutic community. I don’t think it is fair to criticize long time advocates who challenged Jay’s timing and the way she shared. Because if they got some of the private messages that I got, they wanted to protect their struggling friends in a cocoon of love. Jay is an advocate. As an advocate myself, I often find the lines of our personal and professional lives blur at times. It can be messy and confusing. We are making up a lot of these rules as we go and we are learning how to balance these things daily. Jay ultimately made a choice that was best for her family, a decision that was understandably challenged by some in the community. If the headline simply read “Woman gets grief from infertility community for posting ultrasound picture on facebook on Christmas,” this would not even be news. Jay will continue to do excellent work for our community. I am sure she has all the support she needs on line and off line. She has taken a needed break from twitter to take care of her physical and mental wellbeing and will hopefully come back with crazy work stories from FertilityAuthority. No ma’am, you cannot get impregnated by a unicorn even while ovulating with a good egg reserve.
I am not so much worried about Jay, as I am worried about our community. I am not sure how we move ahead as a community. Clearly, there are people who feel that it is mean and hateful not to continue to offer support to our community members who get pregnant. I might argue it is mean and hateful to talk a lot about pregnancy in an infertility community. There has to be a balance. You want an example of someone who does it right? Look at long time twitter community veteran @Pregnant_Pause. She is a master at being sensitive. Now I personally would like MORE pictures of her babies, but that is why I have her email address so I can harass her for them offline. We are friends. She is wise enough to know, not everyone o twitter wants to or can see a million pictures of her babies. While I know firsthand the stress and trauma of “being pregnant and/or parenting post infertility,” I also know there needs to be a balance in talking about these issues to not upset others. I see things in my feed about labor and breastfeeding and wonder why they are in my feed? I know these are quite triggering to various groups in our community, including adoptive parents or those who have late term losses. I know those who are not parenting after struggling with years of infertility do not even feel like they have a voice at all.
I don’t like the attitude, “Well, if they don’t like what you are saying, they should just unfollow you.” I think there is room for all of us in this community. Only growth can come from hearing each other’s stories and holding each other’s pain. We need to be aware and sensitive to triggers. Some of those who have been around here a long time have been encouraging others to be especially gentle with those who are hurting most. If you feel you can’t do that without compromising yourself, if creating a safe space for those in the trenches isn’t your first priority on twitter, then just be honest about it and put it in your profile. Feel free to put up, “I worked my ass off to get pregnant/have a baby/adopt and if people have an issue with me talking about it or can’t be happy for me, don’t follow me.” I think it would be an effective way for others to know where you stand. But certainly if you are choosing to be a part of our community still, do NOT curse out those who are down and out. Don’t make them feel bad about their feelings of envy, anger or pain in what is supposed to be a “safe space” dedicated to infertility.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Safe Space and Communities Turned Toxic
Posted by Casey at 11:13 AM