Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Next Level

For years, I have praised the amazing and supportive relationships in the infertility community found on twitter. Truly, the friends I have found there have helped me to get through some of the most difficult moments of my life and I am forever grateful. Many of us have known each other for 3 or 4 years now. We have been there for each other through BFNs, miscarriages, homestudies, natural cycles, medicated cycles, surgeries, successes, joys and heartbreaks. As more than one person has put it, we were there in the trenches together. When the outside world couldn't understand our pain, our hurt, when we couldn't tolerate yet another happy birth announcement or cute kid story on Facebook, we had Twitter and each other to turn to for support. 

But over the past year or so I have witnessed an ever increasing divide between those of us who have been blessed with the children we have dreamed, hoped and cried for and those in our community who are still in those trenches with empty arms. Naturally, those who have crossed over into motherhood (myself included) have been tweeting and blogging about their new roles in life - their challenges in pregnancy, adoption finalizations and ultimately parenthood. And many amazing women who were there to support us in our journey to parenthood are forced to watch their support system shrink as their timelines fill with more and more tweets about breastfeeding and cranky toddlers. I have blogged in the past about infertility survivor's guilt and I experience it almost every time I am on twitter when I see the hurt and isolation in many of my beloved friend's tweets. Which is why I wasn't surprised when I recently learned that many of my favorite twitter pals have decided to deactivate their accounts or begin trimming down who they follow to focus solely on those who are still in shoes they can relate to. I completely understand and support their decision to move on from that aspect of the community because it is no longer fulfilling their needs. We are not the same community we were when we started. Of course I am overjoyed for those of us who are now mothers, but I am also heartbroken for those who are feeling left behind. I want so badly to be able to give the same love and support I once did, but I know that while I can represent hope I can't be back in their shoes and that is something people need. I know I did. 

When I went through my miscarriage in 2010, Twitter was a source of so much support and love, but it was also a source of tremendous pain. My BFP came on the heels of a couple of others and was followed by quite a few more. All of their pregnancies continued on after mine ended, and for the longest time I had to skip over tweets from many of those women. I just couldn't bear to be reminded of where my pregnancy would be by reading what was happening in theirs. Now that I have had my successful pregnancy, I carry that feeling with me and know it's not personal when someone pulls away or un-follows me online. I know that as much as I don't want to, I have the potential to be that painful reminder to someone else and it kills me. I love this community so much and hate to think I could cause anyone to hurt. Infertility does not define me but it certainly has become a part of me and while I can't serve the same role in this community as I did when I started, I can still find ways to advocate for support, understanding and awareness. 

Before my life was consumed by the infertility battle, I worked as a Victim Advocate, primarily providing support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. I loved my job and was beyond passionate about victim rights. It was demanding work however, and I made the decision to step away so that I could focus on building my family. It has been over 3 years since then and now that I am contemplating my return to a career, I have realized that my experiences have caused my focus to shift and I want more than anything to incorporate advocacy for infertility into what I do next. So for a long time, I contemplated how I could do that. I spoke with friends both in and out of the community, chewed my husbands ear off with pro/con lists, researched into all hours of the night, met with professionals working in career paths I might pursue and did a great deal of thoughtful lot of soul-searching. 

And I think I have found the path that will help me incorporate all of my passions into my future and hopefully educate others on the issues that matter to me. I recently enrolled in a course to obtain needed prerequisites for a graduate studies program in Sociology. Yes, I know this isn't a degree with a huge likelihood of high paying career, but luckily I am not in it for the money. I am hoping to focus my Master's of Sociology on women and gender studies so that I can teach these topics at the community college level. My dream is to be able to create a course that examines the role of motherhood in women's lives and what happens when women don't become mothers in the way society expects them to. I want to explore and analyze the effects of infertility and child loss on women's rights, on gender roles, on the family, on society. Even more, I want to educate future generations on these things that impact so many members of our society but are too seldom discussed outside of the people that are experiencing them. Most of all I want to try to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I know I can't be everything to everyone, but I hope that if I can follow my passion and be true to myself and my experiences, I can still be a voice and a supporter for those who need one.


Dead Cow Girl said...

Awesome!! Such an amazing goal!

Tillie said...

Awwwww I am so excited for you!!!! I want you to know that your love and support over the years has helped get me through my darkest times. I may not be TTC any longer but I'll always be here for you.

I can't wait to follow this new journey of yours :)

Tillie said...

Blogger ate
My comment. :(

Just know I'm excited for you!!!! And I can't tell you how much your love and support means to me. Even though I'm no longer TTC I will never not follow you and your life. You are more important to me than that. I am bummed that others cant do the same but everyone needs to take care of themselves.

Maria said...


My name is Knoll Maria and I am a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University Information Science Department in Israel. For my final project, I am examining anonymity and self-disclosure in infertility blogs. The target population of the study are women bloggers who were or are going through infertility treatments and also blog about their experience. I am kindly inviting you to participate in this research study by completing the attached survey.

The following questionnaire will require approximately 5 minutes to complete. Your response is very important to me. Your informed consent to participate in this survey is assumed by completing the survey and by submitting it. Participation is strictly voluntary and you may refuse to participate at any time. A copy of the results will be sent to you, if you choose so.

Thank you for taking the time to assist me in my educational endeavors. If you require additional information or have questions, please contact by email.
Click here to fill out the survey:

FirstTimeMom said...

I think that is wonderful :) I too feel shuned by the infertile community now that I'm a mom. While infertility doesn't define me, it will forever be a part of me. Good luck with the degree!!

Stephanie said...

I didn't realize there was such an IF community on Twitter. I think your idea is amazing!! We have a gender studies course at the university I work at but I've never looked at the course description. I'll have to see what they discuss, but I think you will be great on your new journey! How exciting!

AL said...

wonderful post, Holly! I am saddened that twitter is no longer a supportive place for those still in the trenches and I feel personally responsible for that and wish I could do better; but I know it's just the situation. And it just sucks. I fully support their need to step away and find new support networks.

Best of luck to you in this new goal and phase of your life! Amazing!