Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friendships: online and off

A few months ago, a friend who is struggling with IF said something negative about IF blogs during lunch. I can't say I fully understand the context in which she said this, so I won't elaborate too much. But the comment niggled at me for a while. It went something like "When you follow IF blogs, other women get pregnant before you and it hurts."

It rolled around my head like a marble in a tupperware. Why did it bug me so much?

A) Some of it has to do with where that particular friendship was at at the time the comment was made (really, English grammar, are you going to let me get away with a double preposition?). My dear friend, struggling with her own infertility was keeping her distance from me in my new role as mother*. Also, because she is so big hearted, she was keeping her distance so as to protect me from the drudgery of IF now that I have a delicious baby to kiss. And I, having spent waaaaayyyyy more time being infertile than being a mother, am still an active member of the IF club (and a hesitant member of the mothers' club at best, having skipped the pregnant club entirely since, you know, I hardly believed it was going to result in a baby), was baffled by the irony of the distance, the CHASM between my friend and I at a time when I REALLY knew something about how awful she felt. So our friendship was rocky. And the comment just pushed my I-want-to-support-you-but-you-won't-let-me button.**

B) It made me think about what happened for me when you all got pregnant. It was definitely not as difficult to handle as when women around me got pregnant. By orders of magnitude. I remember at times feeling left out when all of a sudden many women were successful in their treatments or adopted, but mostly, I was just relieved that they were finally out of the painful awful place I knew too well. It was a lot easier to displace my rage about my situation onto women I didn't know very well but with whom I was in direct contact. I despised pregnant women at work. Very secretly despised them. And this of course, confirmed my fears that I was a rotten person inside. But I cried tears of joy and relief when your babies were born. In a way, it was a chance for me to experience the normal part of being a woman in my 30s, and feeling happy for others who become mothers. It was easier to do with all of you.

C) I (mis)heard the comment as "IF blogs blow." That is not what my friend said and not what she meant. But there was already all that stuff described above and I bristled. I feel super protective of the friendships I have made here in blogland, and of the online IF community as a whole. I didn't know anyone going through IF when I started treatments and after the TERRIBLE day of October 1, 2009, I was gutted and alone. I did have some extraordinary beings in my life who supported me (including the the above mentioned friend), but very, very few who were in the same awful soup of infertility***

Blogging is not everyone's cup of tea. There is this whole putting yourself out there for anyone to find. There is the part about suspecting that you have an overinflated sense of self because you describe the minutia of your sorrows to an audience. There is the part about writing, and whether that's something you dig or not. There is a part about not knowing at first whether this will be a way to receive support or not. There is also a part about how everyone's situation is so much worse than yours, how can you even be entitled to your own sorrow, let alone spread it out like Christmas dinner for everyone to see.

When I started writing this blog, I did it because that's what I do when I'm lost: I write. Writing helped me turn the ugly pain into (somewhat) less ugly posts.  But as I started following other blogs and as you started following mine and leaving comments, it transformed into writing + an experience of social support/community.

But it don't stop there, folks. Not for me.

Many of you are my friends.That is how I think of you, in the same legitimate right as my Pleasantville friends or my friends in the Commonwealth. I think I did at first make a separation between IRL and Interwebs friends, but that line faded for me. You guys know more about my experiences than many people I interact with regularly. And I know more about you than you choose to tell a lot of people in your lives. Most importantly though, you are real to me. I think of you inside of your lives, with your babies and husbands and in-laws and jobs and dreams and fears and hopes and sorrows. You are not just words to me. You do not only live inside the computer.

If that's true, then it only stands to reason that I would want to connect with you outside the interwebs.

And so, I've been doing that.

First it was Pumpkin. She and I go way back to July 1, 2011. We met in Montreal, when Pumpling was just an embryo. And then again when coming back from our first consult at SG in January 2012, when Pumpling was a month away from arriving. And then I visited the Pumpkin family in late May, which was so entirely delightful. This time, Pumpling was 15 months and AMAZING! I loved hanging out with her, her mama and her dad. That Pumpkin family is full of zest and energy, full of love and warmth. They hosted me with great generosity. As a bonus, I got to meet CGD during that trip. And she is just as lovely in person as she is/was on her (now shut down) blog. She is a genuinely caring, warm person and even though I didn't spend a lot of time with her or follow her blog for many years,  I was very touched that I got to meet her. And also, it meant a lot to me that she was willing to hold Gummy Girl, given that she has not yet become a mother. I have this great photo of Pumpkin, Pumpling, CGD and Gummy together.

And then, I'm getting goose bumps, THEN.... I met Bunny.

And meeting Bunny was magical. Truly.**** In trying to process how wonderful I've felt our visit was, I've described it to myself as entering inside my favourite book and spending time with all the characters. Except that they weren't characters, they were real, delightful humans. Bun Bun was just So. Much. Fun. and Bunlet was a beautiful, contemplative little boy. And Mr. Bunny was kind and easy to talk to and so gentle with gummy girl. But I must say folks, sitting on Bunny's kitchen floor with her while feeding gummy a bottle and sharing together in our experiences as mothers, infertiles, daughters, wives, bloggers, women....well, that was priceless. It was like we had known each other for years. Because we have. I've harboured such great admiration for Bunny (which I realize left me so intimidated at first, I realize now that I read her blog for months without commenting), and meeting her in person only made that admiration grow. She is wonderful. And beautiful. And genuine. And warm. And such an amazing mother to those two Buns.


This meandering post has a point. Or several:

1) I love my friend even if her comment about IF blogs upset me. Also, we needed to work on our friendship. We did. It's better now.
2) IF blogs saved me from shrivelling up like a lonely, desiccated raisin.
3) Meeting blog friends = a gift I recommend you all put on your Christmas wish list.
4) Friendship in general is a pretty beautiful thing.


*which is entirely healthy and acceptable in my books, and which I have had to do in my awful years in IF hell.

**And in my own awful narcissism, if I can't support you, how do I validate my own existence. right? Shrinks have issues, people. Believe it.

***(except you, dear S from the East, if you are reading).  

**** So for all those who are jealous of me because I met Bunny in person, YOU HAVE REASON TO BE JEALOUS. Now, go meet her too.

17 comments:

  1. Jealous. Very. But thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I have met internet friends, though not any of those made through my IF blog -- but it was a great experience, and if I ever come near where you live I'll certainly ask if you have time :)

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    1. Barring cataclysms, I WILL have time to see you. That would be fabulous!

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  2. I relate so much to this post. Thank you for sharing this. I have no idea how'd I'd have made it through these past several years without the love and support of women I've never even met. The chance to take these relationships a step further and welcome these true friendships into my everyday world would be a gift.

    (I love that you met CGD...I think of her often and always wonder how she's doing)

    OH!!! 3 month wait--not 6!!!!

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    1. YEAH! So glad that it's 3 and not 6 months of waiting

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  3. Very well written and thought through, as always. The support is amazing with IF blogs and although I sometimes had a slight disconnect of jealousy there was always a much stronger and definite cheering for every success read. Glad to hear your experiences have been so positive.

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    1. Thanks for the compliment, Michelle.

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  4. I was in the middle of emailing you yesterday, and got distracted enough to find an open, unfinished draft on my computer at the end of the day. I echo all if the above. The few bloggers I have met in person have been just like old friends. Jealous of meeting bunny, for sure. I treasure and remember her first comment on my blog.

    I must make the trip north. Once all this madness settles. I have never been on this side of Canada. I hear it is exotic in its frenchness. Well, and exotic in lovely occupants of gummy family as well.

    I did want to add a hallelujah to the non pregnant pregnant experience. That was exactly it. I don't even remember being pregnant anymore, and thought I was the only one.

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    1. You get yourself, the Mr and that darling girl up here, if you can. We will charm you to bits. Promise.

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  5. I would love to meet any of you! I am usually too shy to say it and would be shy in person as well but I agree that I feel as connected to a few of you as I do to my non web friends. I think about you and check in on you and wish the best for you. I also agree with your comments about not being jealous or angry about bloggy pregnancies. It makes me feel as good as you say, to be happy about pregnancy and birth of my blogworld friends even though at work(and at the OB office) I am totally jealous and angry about the same thing and also feeling very badly about myself for that anger and jealousy in the process. Thank you for saying that.

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    1. I found that such a SOUL SUCKING part of infertility: the shame and confusion over my strong feelings of anger at everyone. It was just this constant management of my inner dialogue and it drained me. I don't think you're a bad person for feeling jealous and angry, Jennifer. And looking back on my story, I don't think I was a bad person either. Infertility is just so damn hard.

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  6. I love, love, love the idea of you and bunny in the same place. Just knowing it happened makes me smile. Yay!

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    1. We talked about you, G&L, and both expressed our wish to know that you are doing well. And we celebrated that you are a mother now. :) Sending hugs, dear woman.

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  7. Oh man, I get all teary reading about it, and then I'm like...I WAS THERE! I WAS THERE! It WAS magical! And I'm glad you repaired your friendship with your local friend, and I am eternally grateful to you for helping me lose my Internet Friend virginity!

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    1. I'll just be counting the days until we hang out next, dear Bunny.

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    1. I hope to, Roccie. It's on our list of cities to visit and when we do go, I'll be knocking on your door.

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