september 2013 monthly theme – why we blog

When I started my blog, it was a place to post pictures and hilarious anecdotes about my kid because I had quit Facebook.  I had been secretly reading IF blogs when I was pregnant with him, hoping to find someone mirroring the difficult emotions I was feeling not only being pregnant after experiencing infertility and miscarriages, but also how to cope when you are pregnant and your infertile friend is not. I found a few people that today I call my friends. These people saved my life.

And then… then I starting to write about my journey on my very public, very NOT anonymous blog. I needed to get some of that agonizing weight off my chest. I needed the people in my life to see it. I needed to be recognized. I needed to come out of the shadows. When the PAIL blogroll was first started, I added the button so quickly you would think my life had depended on it. Which honestly, at the time, it did. Even through all of the difficulty in getting this niche space together, I felt very strongly that this space had VALUE. I still do. I always will.

Each of us here at PAIL has a different interpretation of our mission statement. Mine has always been “Just keep talking.” Just keep talking. Or don’t. Or just listen. Or close up shop and move on in a different way. Every path to resolution is valid, as is every path we take with our blogs. You need to do what you need to do to process, to move forward, to heal from this. When I say “just keep talking” I suppose what I mean is that I think it is a disservice to the community as a whole to not talk about what it feels like, IS like, when the baby comes home.  We need to be able to find people further down the path to follow, to lead us through the tough spots, to hold our hands, to cheer us on, to understand.

I am not one to blog about blogging. To be honest, I usually skip posts about it. Ah, but then I entered Blog Identity Crisis #187346 and started to really, genuinely think about my space and what I want to do with it now that I am (99%) sure that family building is behind me. It’s a tricky place to be in, when you feel resolved in your heart, but you aren’t sure how to let go. But I’ll write more about that on my own blog in my submission for this month’s theme.

Suggested Writing Prompts

  • Did you start blogging before, during, or after your journey though infertility/loss/adoption? 
  • Why did you start blogging? What has kept you blogging?
  • When you became a parent did you transition your blog or start a new space? What were your reasons for doing so? How do you feel about your decision now?
  • Have you ever felt pressure to blog about certain things and not others? What influences your writing, if anything?
  • What did you hope to achieve by blogging? Do you feel that you have done this?
  • Why is blogging important to you NOW?
  • What value do you see in blogging the “after”? 

As always, these questions are just a guide. Please feel free to write anything and everything you would like to on this topic in whichever way suits you best. If you have previously written on this topic, feel free to link away in your post, or submit any previous post on the topic as you see fit. And of course, if you do not have a blog of your own, we are happy to hear your thoughts in the comments and will link to your comment in the full post list for all to read.

Entries for this month’s theme are due Thursday, September 26th at midnight, EST. The full list of links will go live on Friday, September 27th.

Please submit your posts using this form:

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featured post: “my pregnancy & my truths” by bohemian transplant

This is the first post I read by Brittany at Bohemian Transplant. I “met” her last week on Twitter and became acquainted with her story through this post. She was hesitant to post it, and after reading it I could see why. Many bloggers struggle with the fine balance of trying to be sensitive to their friends “in the trenches” and celebrating their own joys. It hurts when people move on and you are left behind. It hurts when others get what you want. And it hurts when others lash out at you because of it.

Brittany’s post touches on a lot of things I struggle with in the ALI community. The desire to be as sensitive as possible to those still in the throes of TTC. The need to be true to yourself and your feelings. The guilt that you were successful and those you care about haven’t been yet. The way we censor ourselves trying not to be insensitive or inadvertently hurtful. The way some folks lash out at others, using their own pain as an excuse or justification.

Recently, Brittany announced that she is currently expecting her second child:

We are incredibly excited, although a little nervous about having two children (just one babe in there, we checked!) but excited none the less. The post has since been removed because, well, it was kind of depressing. As excited as we are, it was a tough pill to swallow, knowing that I have hurt some people that I love who are still very much in the trenches of infertility.

And then I got no response. Not even one congrats. Which, you know, is fine. It’s not about that. But I poured my heart out in that post as well, about the guilt I was feeling, and I didn’t even receive any thoughts on that, either.

When I broke the news on twitter, as gently as I could, it was mostly positive responses. But there were a few. Some harsh words were spoken. Words that hurt. Words, honestly, I can’t get past. They are in the throws. The very ugly throws of infertility. They hurt. They are in pain. I understand this. But it sucks, mostly, when I have been so supportive of others, through good news and bad, no matter how hard it has been to me in the past, to not receive that support in return.

What really struck me about this, was how heartbreaking it is when this happens. I think we can all agree that a BFP, no matter who it is from, can hurt like a bitch. But I would wish we could all agree that it is not okay to be an asshole about it. If you need to step away, step away. But if you need to say something shitty, step away.

Brittany’s post, however, spoke to me on another level. She makes some astute and insightful points about the give and take of support, URL to IRL friendship, how our circumstances change, and the conditional nature of support:

Whether some like it or not, there is this mentality in the infertility community (not among everybody, but among some) that your struggle does not count if it is not the same as their struggle. Many seem to forget that pain is pain, no matter what form it comes in, but if it’s not the same level of pain, if you haven’t gone through the same treatments, then sympathy or support is not required. It’s expected to be received, but not given. It’s also unfortunate.

And as somebody on the bottom rung of the infertility treatment, I fall often into the category of having to give, but never receive. As somebody who has gone out of my way to send love, strength, hope, care packages, gifts, cards, words of encouragement and all the hugs the virtual world can offer (and sometimes in real life) sometimes I want that back when I am feeling down.

These are tough things to write, to read, to acknowledge, and to work on. This post stirred up a lot of my irritation and discomfort with the “just be grateful” attitude in this community, but it also reminded me that I can always be doing better to be supportive. It is a reminder to us all that support, sensitivity, and understanding are needed on every step of the journey. To give what you can, when you can. To treat each other as we would wish to be treated.

I’m still thinking a lot about this post. If I am being honest, I have a lot of things I am thinking and feeling about the points Brittany is making, but I find myself afraid to say them too. Maybe that is the point. That we shouldn’t be afraid. And as much as I say “just keep talking” I keep mum on things too. Let’s keep working on that, one post at a time.

Please head over to Bohemian Transplant to read Brittany’s post “My Pregnancy & My Truths” and leave your thoughts with her.

*****

Brittany in her own words:

I am 31 years old and a born and raised Seattle girl, although currently living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I work in the public relations field to pay the bills, while moonlighting as an aspiring photographer, designer and wanna be chef to help keep my creativity afloat. On top of that, I am a full-time mom to a baby boy and three awesome pooches, a military wife to a loving husband and a woman who is continually trying to find her place in this world… But then we started trying to have a baby, a process that turned out to be not so easy for us. After a miscarriage in January of 2009, just two months into my husbands second year-long deployment, suddenly talking about sperm counts and ovulation didn’t seem so appropriate for all the people that I knew in my real life. Our miscarriage was followed by another year of trying to on our own before starting fertility treatments, we were blessed with our extremely handsome baby boy via IUI. Our infertility journey was simple compared to most, something that we are incredibly grateful for.

Ironically enough, I have been on two sides to the infertility journey. In 2004, I donated my eggs to a family member who was unable to conceive on her own, resulting in two beautiful twin girls that just started first grade. The irony comes from us having our own struggles years down the road, but we are still blessed with what we have. I love my infertility community and will do what I can to help promote the amazing things that comes from it.

*****

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guest post: the reality of breastfeeding?

A few days ago, I stumbled across some articles about breastfeeding. They weren’t the usual uber-positive articles I was used to encountering. The first article purported to be a no-holds-barred account of the difficulties one can encounter when breastfeeding.  The second article, while a few months older, was more extreme about the pain a mother can encounter while breastfeeding.

OK. True confession time. I didn’t breastfeed my son. Hell, I didn’t even carry him. He came to us via gestational surrogacy, and I decided not to attempt to induce lactation. Our awesome gestational carrier did pump breast milk for him for almost 6 months.

It may seem like I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do because I’m a woman and a mother.  The prevailing message about breastfeeding is that it is best and if you don’t do it, you’re denying your baby his/her natural food. It’s also irreplaceable bonding time. Not breastfeeding might damage maternal-child attachment.  Not breastfeeding might doom your child to a variety of poor outcomes. Not breastfeeding may even doom you, the mother, to serious breast or ovarian cancer.

I’ve watched what the pressure to breastfeed has instigated. I’ve had too many friends both offline and online berate themselves if breastfeeding doesn’t work out or even when they decide to stop pumping.  Wondering what is wrong with them if their breastfeeding journey is more of a struggle than they thought it would be. They feel as if they’ve failed their child and failed as a woman. At the very least, they feel disappointed in themselves and their experience with breastfeeding. Add in infertility, and a failure to breastfeed or less time breastfeeding than one wishes becomes yet another way in which our body has betrayed us.

And I don’t want any woman to feel that way about herself and her body ever. Ever. I’m not trying to start a debate about breastfeeding. Truly. But I am adamant about the power of mommy blogging. I credit mothers blogging with helping to pull back the curtain on motherhood and demonstrate the reality of what motherhood is like. It has major highs and lows, and mothers are not one-dimensional characters. It can be both awesome and suck at the same time.  These are messages society has not been used to seeing, but they are necessary.

I’d like to see the same attention given to how we feed our babies. How you fed your baby is part of the lingua franca of motherhood, meaning that you can’t join a mommy’s group or meet a group of mothers without method of sustenance becoming practically an ice breaker. And source of judgment.

I’m not against breastfeeding. Far from it.  What I appreciate about these articles is that they bring scrutiny and awareness to the reality of breastfeeding. For some women, it is hard. For some women, it doesn’t work. It isn’t a bed of roses for every woman, and while breastfeeding is laudable, it should not be held up as the only acceptable way and only positive, easy stories portrayed. If your nipples are falling off, for God’s sake, find a different way to feed your baby!

I support every woman and whatever choices she makes, but I don’t want any woman to feel compelled to pursue a certain direction because of peer pressure and one-sided media representations.

What do you think? Do you think articles like these provoke fear or do you think they are a needed reality check?

What kinds of articles about feeding your baby would you like to see the media and blogs tackle?

*****

Keanne of Family Building With a Twist in her own words: I’m KeAnne (like LeeAnne w/ a “K”). Mommy to 1. Wife to someone who knows how my mind works. Scary (you should see what goes on in my mind). Owned by 3 cats. I work full time and don’t craft or DIY (you’re welcome). I like books, conspiracy theories, Downton Abbey and cooking. I dislike chocolate, zinfandel, carpet beetles and experts. Expect over-thinking, the occasional rant, strong opinions and the occasional (OK, often) piece of useless knowledge.

news item: “study finds genetic prediction of postpartum depression”

I don’t discuss it much, but I went through a Very Bad Time after my first son was born. When he was about 4 months old, my husband realized that I was no longer doing things like leaving the house, showering, eating, sleeping, etc. He took me to the emergency room. A psychiatrist, social worker, mental health nurse doing home visits, support groups, and months of medication later and I was semi-human again.

Postpartum depression is FOR REAL. It is not the “baby blues” nor is it “regular” depression, something I have struggled with as well. Without going into much detail (as this is something I still struggle greatly with sharing) I was not myself. And on top of it all, I was debilitated with guilt and shame. How could I feel this way when I just won the lottery?

In hindsight, I had many risk factors for PPD all lined up neatly in a row. A history of anxiety and depression, suffering back to back miscarriages, infertility, an extremely stressful pregnancy, traumatic birth experience, lack of support after birth, and so on. However something I had never considered was whether I was genetically predisposed to it. Yesterday on Twitter I came across an article (thanks KeAnne, you re-tweeter you) that has me thinking…

Study Finds Genetic Prediction of Postpartum Depression

It is not clear what causes postpartum depression, a condition marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety that begins within four weeks of childbirth and can last weeks, several months or up to a year. An estimated 10 to 18 percent of all new mothers develop the condition, and the rate rises to 30 to 35 percent among women with previously diagnosed mood disorders.

The researchers later confirmed their findings in humans by looking for epigenetic changes to thousands of genes in blood samples from 52 pregnant women with mood disorders. The women were followed both during and after pregnancy to see who developed postpartum depression.

The researchers noticed that women who developed postpartum depression exhibited stronger epigenetic changes in those genes that are most responsive to estrogen, suggesting that these women are more sensitive to the hormone’s effects. Specifically, two genes were most highly correlated with the development of postpartum depression. TTC9B and HP1BP3 predicted with 85 percent certainty which women became ill.

“We were pretty surprised by how well the genes were correlated with postpartum depression,” Kaminsky says. “With more research, this could prove to be a powerful tool.”

Without going off on a tangent about study size, sample population, and commentary on methodology, I will say that this study is very interesting. It is general assumed (even by mental health professionals) that PPD can be attributed to “wacky hormones being all out of whack.”  More specifically, that a drop in estrogen levels affects mood significantly in some women, but not others. Although, that reason doesn’t answer the question of why this woman and not that one?

This study suggests that certain woman are more sensitive to changes in estrogen. What is interesting about this research is that it could potentially lead to a blood test performed in the third trimester to determine whether these changes are taking place and raise a potential red flag for the woman, her family, and her healthcare provider.  The lead researcher, Zachary Kaminsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins, hopes that this could help HCPs and mothers make informed decisions about treatment for depression during and after pregnancy, including the appropriate use of medication when weighed against other risks. In other words, if you knew you higher risk, you could better prepare for the possibility that it might be more likely to happen.

I have been chewing on this all morning, and will likely continue to for a while. I felt that I had no choice but to go on medication or risk not being able to parent my child. Curiously, I have not remotely had the same experience after the birth of my second son, despite life (and life events) being more stressful now. I attribute this to a a different pregnancy, and empowering birth, and experience as a mother, but also to being on the lookout for The Very Bad Time – Part 2. I have written here before that I lied to my HCP about feeling depressed during pregnancy. So as I read this over and over this morning, I can’t help thinking that normalizing mental health issues before and after pregnancy is a good thing. Yes, a blood test like this raises moral and ethical questions and could be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes. But what if it is used for good?

I’m chewing on it.

*****

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, an excellent resource is Postpartum Progress. Click on GET HELP for more information.

*****

What do you make of this research? Can you see this being added to the battery of available pregnancy testing?

If this test were available, would you choose to take it? Why or why not?

Prior to giving birth did you discuss mental health issues (relating to pregnancy and the postpartum period) with your healthcare provider? 

Did you have adequate emotional support (or access to resources) after bringing your child home? 

*****

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SRBSarah is a former high school teacher, turned medical writer, turned SAHM to two boys. She enjoys beer, knitting, gardening, and cheese, and is striving to raise boys who can will do their own laundry and cooking. This urban mama parents with an ever-evolving mix of natural, attachment and RIE principles with a dash of by-the-seat-of-her-pants for good measure. She blogs about her life at a sausage party at Little Chicken Nuggets.

Reminder! april 2013 – monthly theme: NIAW

Just a friendly reminder from everyone here at PAIL – don’t forget to “JOIN THE MOVEMENT” and write a post to submit to Resolve for National Infertility Awareness Week!

While we are not officially working with RESOLVE, we highly encourage you to participate in this very important blog challenge. One of our core messages at PAIL, and the cornerstone of our mission statement is to “keep talking” through this part of the ALI journey. Your story, your journey, and your path to healing matters. Writing on the suggested prompts above from your current place on the journey lends an important perspective and new avenues on how to Join the Movement.

For full details on how to participate in the Bloggers Unite Challenge (including how to submit your posts and formatting) please click here.

Your post must be submitted directly to RESOLVE by tomorrow, April 27, to enter the challenge. If you would like to link your post up to us as well, please fill out the form at the bottom of this post, but remember, you must submit your post to RESOLVE first if you want them to also include your entry. We will post links to the full list from RESOLVE as well as your posts for all to read and get inspired!

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