Then and Now

Lori’s comment on Thursday’s post prompted me to pull up my Stumbling Gracefully archives and see if I had written a post on this very thing so many years ago.

It turns out that I had, indeed written such a post and I evidently felt a lot surer of myself and my ability to navigate that fine line between acceptance and action back then. Of course, my big example of navigating that line was my acceptance of myself as a bad housekeeper. While I was quite aware that berating myself for house dirty my house was wouldn’t inspire me to get off my ass and do anything about it, I clearly didn’t know how to use that acceptance to eventually spur myself to action. What I didn’t know then is that I would accept that shitty house for the next two and a half years, before I finally made the huge changes necessary to get the clutter under control.

But that post is not why I sat down to write this one.

Instead, this post is about the surprising barrage of swirling emotions I felt as I read through other posts (and the comments on those posts) from my February 2012 archives.

I wrote two pieces that month about embarking on TTC#2. Those were hard to read, especially knowing what that year would bring. Then there was a ping back on one of those posts to an October 2012 piece that revisited those initials fears after nine months of failure. In October I was admitting to myself that we might need to take next steps. I had scheduled an appointment with an RE and was revving up for the dietary overhaul that I believe helped me get pregnant with my daughter. I was feeling very defeated and incredibly unsure of what the future might bring.

As I read over those posts, I noticed a really incredible symmetry. February of 2013 is when I learned I was pregnant, despite not trying due to wonky cycles after my HSG. And of course in October of 2013 my son was born. Reading those posts in 2012 and knowing what was coming in 2013 was a strange experience. On the one had I felt sad for myself, remembering how hard that year was, and yet on the other hand, the struggle meant something different through the lens of knowing what was to come.

There were other posts in February 2012. Gutwrenchingly painful posts that I hadn’t expected to come across. Those were really hard to read.

But what really struck me from February of 2012 was the community interaction I saw taking place. I know that things have changed–have been continually changing–since I started blogging in 2009, but it’s been a long time since I went back and witnessed it from this vantage point. It was clear from my writing then that I felt I was part of a community and ot was clear from the comments that others felt that way too.

I don’t really feel that way anymore.

I still read the blogs of many of the people who commented on my posts in 2012 (and some of them still read mine) and we exchange comments–and in some cases FB messages and emails–back and forth. I feel significant connections to many of the women I read–I consider them dear and very real friends, even though we’ve never met in real life. But that feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself? That is gone.

Before the blogging community felt like a net, like I was connected to everyone, even if I only “knew” them tangentially, like the whole community would be there to catch me if I fell. Now it’s more like individual threads stretching out into the distance, disappearing into the hazy ether, almost swallowed by the gapingly empty space around them.

I will admit, I felt a pang of loss as I recognized what used to be. I had forgotten how it felt back then; while some aspects of the dissolution of our community occurred in fits and starts, much of it happened so gradually that I didn’t realize the extent of the erosion. Reading those posts was like looking back on the photo album of a certain time in my life and realizing how long it had been since I’d seen the people with me in the pictures.

Life is change. Everything changes. One of the amazing things about a blog is that it provides a record, not only of one’s thoughts but the interaction those thoughts inspired. It provides a road map of the back and forth that transpired, of the exchange of ideas and opinions, of the support given and received. In providing that record, our blogs expose the enormity of that inevitable change.

In so many ways, I’m thankful for the transformation of our community, or at least the part of it I belonged to, because that transformation was brought about by the realization of dreams. Our community was born of longing, suffering and loss, and it transformed through resolution, and in many cases, triumph and joy. We were a net ready to catch those who fell, but we disentangled ourselves as the chance of falling became less and less and the net was no longer a necessity.

Disposing of so many of the artifacts of my past has brought into sharp focus the undercurrent of change that remains the only true constant, and the sometimes shocking realization that we don’t recognize how extensive that change can be. Looking back at old albums from college, I barely recognize the person I was in my early twenties and I’m strangely unattached to that woman and her experiences. She is a part of me and I’m thankful for all she lived and learned, but I feel no need to grasp at the remnants of her life, the things that held so much importance for her. They don’t belong to me and I have no reason to keep them.

I suppose that is how I ultimately felt looking back at the February 2012 posts. The community captured in the amber of those archives doesn’t belong to me, it belonged to the woman I was when I was struggling through family building after loss. That community isn’t something I can lay claim to and mourn the loss of, but a gift which arrived exactly when I needed it, and provided precisely what I required at the time.

I hope that community still exists out there, for the women who need it now. I hope they feel so entangled with each other that their net is strong and ready to catch them if they fall, or simply need to rest. I hope they find strength there, in the understanding and empathy.

I hope they find exactly what they need, just like I did not so many years ago.

How do you remember your blogging community? What does it feel like now?

16 Comments

  1. The blogging community still feels the same way to me. Is it larger and therefore there are people that I don’t know? Of course. I mean, I remember back when the blogroll hit 100 blogs and we all said, “I can’t believe there are now 100 bloggers!” It’s easy to know and keep up with 100, it’s much harder to do that with tens of thousands. But I still feel that while the net has grown, the piece of the net that I’ve always been holding has stayed the same net.

    1. It’s so interesting to me that the blogging community feels the same to you, when you’ve been here for so long. Surely tons of people that you originally read have stopped writing. Do you feel as connected to the newer people in the community now, as you felt to the people who were here when you originally started writing? I wonder if it feels the same to you because you are at the center of so much of what goes on–through your incredible and inclusive community building projects. Or maybe you just have a different outlook on it than I do.

      I think it feels different for me because my cohort (as I’ve been thinking about them in my head–the women who were trying when I was trying and who are now parenting while I am parenting) has largely stopped blogging. Many of the threads that made up the part of the net that I was holding disappeared. And while I have found new threads to hold on to, I don’t feel like they are entangled in such a way as to create the same kind of net that I remember from my earlier days of blogging. Before it felt like everyone that I read knew everyone else. We were all commenting on each other’s blog posts, having conversations in each other spaces. There is still some of that now, but so many people have moved away. The net just feels different, less substantial.

      And I am a part of that pulling away. I’ve done it myself. I left my original blog. Heck, I even gave myself a new name. The texture and strength of my own thread in this community is entirely different. I’m not writing about my own journey through family building any more, because that journey is (thankfully) over. The women from my original cohort who are still writing are largely not writing about their family building journeys because theirs are also (thankfully) over as well. And so the texture and strength of the threads that tie us together change. I believe that is a good thing, because those textures and strengths are forged of pain and loss, and their weakening is a sign of moving on. And isn’t that ultimately what we all want?

  2. “Reading those posts in 2012 and knowing what was coming in 2013 was a strange experience.” — This is such a small part of your post but it is the part that speaks to me (as I don’t consider myself part of the “community” as I’m not a blogger). I first found your blog when you were pregnant with your son, so – even though I started with your first post and worked my way forward in time – I knew how things were ultimately going to work out for you. It was such a surreal experience for me. So often I wanted to comment on the posts I was reading but realized I was months or years behind the posting and whatever I had to say would no longer make sense. So often my heart would be breaking for you as I felt the anguish and despair in your posts and I would think to myself, “if only she knew how her life was going to turn out!” I internalized that lesson and it is one of the few things that made my 2.5 year infertility/three early losses journey bearable. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “if you can just survive this now, at some point in the future you will be looking back on this time with your baby in your arms.” When I was nearly hopeless, that thought kept me moving forward. And – though I’m not completely out of the woods yet – I am now 12 1/2 weeks pregnant with what I believe will be my take-home baby. I say all of this because I think it’s important that you realize that although your “outreach” group may have changed, your work here is still greatly impacting others, often those of us “newbies” who are just starting out and have no where else to turn. And although it’s nice to have people who are at the same stage of struggle as you are, for me at least, it was more important to have examples of people who lived through the struggle and came out successfully on the other side.

    I’m not a writer. My words here are inadequate to describe the appreciation I feel for you. You will never understand what a positive difference you made in my life…

    1. First of all–CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I hope with all my heart that this pregnancy brings you your take-home baby. I’m so excited for you.

      And I’m glad reading through my story, and knowing how it was going to end, helped give you hope. I will admit that the perspective time brings is helping me as well. I don’t grasp at the future as much as I used to (it helps to have so much of what I always wanted 😉 and I remind myself that someday the uncertainty that plagues me will be resolved (and some other form of uncertainty will be bothering me.) Looking back really does help me deal with the future. And for that I’m grateful.

      I’m also thankful to know that my words help others, even if the community they helped sew together has changed. Thank you for that.

  3. I was just going to say the same thing – I agree with you that it no longer feels like much of a community to me, but maybe that’s because of my particular place in it now and that fact that so many of our cohorts stopped blogging like you said? I know that when I started blogging in 2009 it felt like an entirely different place, and I sure hope that people newly embarking on TTC/ALI journeys still have that place to call home and I’m just no longer in that circle.

    1. I also hoping the people embarking on TTC/ALI journeys have that place to call home. It was so, so important to me in my journey, I cannot fathom who I would be without it. I really hope the women who need that kind of community now, have found it somewhere within the community as a whole.

      1. In think there is still a very present community out there. In trying for #2 and searching out new blogs I found new subsets that I didn’t fit into. I do think it’s a natural progression and for many of us they angst that drove us to write is no longer there. In saying they I’ve been holding back my TTC2 post (again) because my infertility feels like a broken record

  4. So interesting that the community feels the same to Mel! I feel like I’m watching the ALI blogosphere’s slow demise, like the final days of the Roman Empire or something (okay, that was a ridiculous analogy). I used to get up on Monday mornings and find 5 new posts in my reader. Now it’s not uncommon for me to find none at all. I used to check my reader multiple times a day. I don’t post as often, and most of the bloggers I read don’t post as much either. LFCA used to be posted several times a week, then once a week, now once every few weeks, and it’s mostly empty. I remember when I used to read it through, looking for people I knew. They weren’t necessarily blogs I followed, but maybe ones I’d stopped by a few times, clicking through a comment on someone else’s blog.

    So yes, for me it’s a combination of the people whose blogs I used to read not posting as often, and the community being large enough that some of the blogs I read do not share any readers with my blog at all. And all of us being at different stages. I’m reluctant to completely give up my blog, and I’ll probably never make any formal announcement. But I’m not stressing when I go 2 weeks without posting anymore. I write when I have time and when I have something to say. But it makes me sad.

    1. I’m also reluctant to give up my blog, but I find I’m less and less sure of why I am writing, and I’m also forgiving of longer and longer spaces between posts. It makes me sad too, but I’m trying not to grasp at it, to accept this change, along with all the others.

      1. I feel very similar. Reluctant to give it up, but also accepting of the fact that I can’t really devote the same energy & time to it.

  5. Yeah, things have definitely changed. People are writing less and commenting less (myself included). For me, I don’t think it’s the busyness of parenting, but maybe the relative stability of my life right now. For so long I was in crisis mode- which I know infertility sufferers can relate to- but now, there’s more monotony than crisis, and I find it very difficult to write in that monotony. Even with the crazy rate my daughter is changing and the fact that she amazes me every day, how much can you really write about toddler shenanigans? I really, really want to get back to writing, especially thoughtful, introspective posts, but am just finding it more and more difficult. But then, like you, I go back and read old posts (I always read the ones that show up in TimeHop and about half the time, I have no recollection of writing that specific post) and am always grateful that I have those and that I did take the time to write. So I know I should write now, so a year from now I will have that record. I don’t know what the answer is, or if it’s a good or bad thing that things seem to have changed so much from just a few years ago, but I do agree that they have.

  6. When I think about the blogging community in 2007 when I started, I have to remember that it’s a morphing thing and I’m a morphing thing What’s that saying? “You can’t step into the same river twice?”

    So yes, it’s changed. Some have stopped blogging, some have switched focus, heck everyone one is now closing in on a decade older an are in a different stage of life.

    Including me. The story of how I became a mom isn’t as prominent as it was; instead, parenting teenagers is (how did that happen!? Oh yeah, 8 years.) The things that were weighty for me then have evaporated, and new pressures have moved in.

    I re-read your post back then and it was really good 🙂

  7. Recently through a quirk of technology, a bunch of old blogs that I subscribed to in my reader and filed under “defunct” showed up as having new posts. I was fooled three times (and excited each time!) only to find out that the “new” posts were really from early 2012. Many of my co-horts are gone too, but I was lucky enough to find another group of them with kid(s) about the same age as mine. And now they’re mostly gone too. I am connected to many on FB or twitter which is nice but not the same as reading a good meaty blog post from them. I feel the web of support most keenly in twitter because people are always coming and going there and oscillating between needing support and giving support, but that’s also where I feel the most fracture from in-fighting. This is a very rambling comment so I will stop now 🙂

  8. You describe this perfectly. I feel the same way. What a great net we had, and I’m so grateful for it, and hope others have it now who need it. Just today, I called my IRL friend who had her egg retrieval this morning and she said, “you are the only person I know who gets it. I am so appreciative of that.”. We all need a net, even if that net is only woven with one solitary thread. I will never forget the net that was there for me!

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