Not Waving, But Drowning

I’ve debated long and hard about posting this and have slept on it more than once. I’m anxious that comes across as whingy and whiny and could so easily be misconstrued. I’m in no way trying to criticise anyone else, I’m just trying to be honest about interaction online makes me feel. I’ve finally decided to post it, despite what people may think – if they read it at all!

I don’t know how to start this post. And it’s fairly obvious that the same thing has been true for the last six weeks or more. I could say it was writer’s block, but that wouldn’t be strictly honest. It’s not that I’ve a lack of things I could say. It’s more a lack of inspiration, when confronted with a blank screen, for how to say them. It’s less a lack of ideas and more of an inability to translate the confused storm of thoughts and emotions in my head in to comprehensible words and ideas on the page. And a lack of desire to do it because… well, what’s the point?

I thought for a while that I was turning a corner. We’ve got exciting plans coming up in the next twelve months and finally, for a short time at least, I felt as though our failure to have more children didn’t matter so much any more. Not that I was over it, but that I finally felt that I  could get over it. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was switched on by finding things that excited me almost as much as the idea of growing our family.

But then, almost abruptly, someone switched the light out again. And I retreated back around the corner. I suppose it was a combination of things. Many of them small and seemingly insignificant. Not least of all, though, were the births of so many babies around me. And online over and over again I came up against announcements of pregnancies. Invariably second, or more usually third, pregnancies. At least half of them seeming to have happened within mere weeks of the decision to try, or even without any planning at all.

If screaming that it’s not bloody fair makes me both pathetic and a bitch, then I’m guilty as charged.

I wanted to write about these feelings. I wanted to offload. To look for more support. To turn my silent scream to a shout for more help.

But it became stuck in my throat, unable to find its way from inside my head and my heart, out to the world at large. Or, at least, the online world. Because… well, what’s the point?

Here is the honest truth about why I stumbled: It’s because hardly anyone is listening. It’s because I don’t think that anyone wants to listen to my self pitying prose, over and over again like a stuck record – and I guess I don’t really blame them. But I also think people don’t want to listen because they simply don’t care. It’s not relevant to them, they don’t actually know me and have no desire to get to know me. And that is fine. Everyone is free to read and interact and do exactly as they choose. But it does mean, if I’m to be as honest as I’m promising, that the internet is not the shiny, happy land of help, and love and connections and support that so many people make it out to be.

The truth is, it’s exactly that for a tiny minority of people. Five percent of the people who get, probably, ninety five percent of the support. It’s a tiny minority of people who turn to online communities and are made to feel less alone as a result. And they go on to make up the vast majority of the people talking about just how great online communities are, and how much they’ve gained from them.

For the rest of us, the internet can often be just as much of a lonely place as the real world so frequently is. It can often feel like an exclusive party, to which we cannot get an invite, but it’s all there to be seen behind a glass screen.

I’m not saying that it’s the fault of the people for whom the internet provides so much and facilitates so many positive relationships. But I do need to say that it isn’t as easy as writing a few blog posts, commenting on others, joining up to forums or email lists and sending a few tweets. It’s really, really hard for some of us to get engaged, despite trying over and over again. It’s often said that you get out what you put in, but that isn’t always the whole truth. And of course, for those of struggling the most “putting in” can often be very hard to do, at least at the level that seems necessary in order for just a single tweet to get read these days. But by it’s very nature, the internet is a bit voyeristic, and it’s so easy to see all these people having a great time and forming so many positive interactions and wondering just why the hell you can’t get a piece of that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great support from a few people, and if you’re one of them, I want you to know how much it is appreciated. I have a few singular readers here, a few correspondents on Twitter. But I don’t have community.

It shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always been one of those people that doesn’t really “fit in”. Friendships don’t come naturally or easily to me. The only part of my life where I have absolutely no trouble getting people to trust and like me is in my professional sphere. I don’t understand why I find it so easy to be popular in that arena, but cannot transfer it to my personal life or online, where it’s all supposed to be so much easier.

I know that I find it hard online partly because of my career, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to online interactions, and the caution I apply for privacy reasons. However, I also find it difficult because often I’m not even sure where I am trying to fit in. I can’t fit in to the infertility community, given that we can’t pursue any more treatment and, worse, I actually have a child, so I’m concerned that I’m seen as some kind of imposter. I don’t fit in with those who write parenting focused blogs because… well, because I’m concerned I’m seen as “not a proper parent” I guess. Because I write more about infertility and my sadness than I ever do about parenting. And perhaps most of all because my blog is “just for fun”. Because I have a successful professional career and have no desire for my blog to be another.

Yeah, if I’m honest it seems these days that if you don’t treat your social media connections and online writing like a job, you simply get trampled underfoot. Or perhaps swept aside and left behind may be more apt. The internet is such a crowded place, perhaps it’s just simply that you have to be able to shout loudly and inevitably, therefore, everyone has to be a bit self centred.

But the world where I want to fit is the world where people care more about people than page views, reviews or sponsorships. I first discovered blogs more than a decade ago when I went online looking for personal stories. For people living lives like mine. I cared (and in many cases still care) about the stories of the people I discovered, finding resonance in their voices. I started my first blog nine and a half years ago because I wanted to contribute, and to get back. But gradually that aspect of blogging has been eroded. Everyone is a “professional” now, telling stories that sell a product as often as they write about what really makes them tick. And if you’re working to deadlines to briefs you don’t often have the time or the scope to share the purely personal and what really makes you tick. I know that. There have been plenty of posts from blogs I read recently describing the “pressure” they feel under. And besides, I’ve done my own fair share of freelance writing (but always – always – separate from my blogging).

Now blogs are the platform for writing anything and everything. And it’s not that I think that is wrong. I’m in no way criticising any one or what they choose to do with their online lives. It’s just all so different from where I started. And I think that where I started no longer exists. I feel like a foreigner in a strange land.

I wonder if what I think of as a “blog” needs a new name. Or if the sites that share three reviews a day under the banner of a blog need to be renamed simply “personal review sites”. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter. I believe what I desire no longer exists under any name. I don’t feel that I have a voice, or a community, or the support network that I’m so desperately seeking and no way at all to find it.

When I write I’m not waving. I’m slowly drowning.

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9 Replies to “Not Waving, But Drowning”

  1. Your post has really resonated with me-I have been following your blog for months although never posted. I don’t write a blog myself but like you, turned to the online community for help during my first IVF attempt. In many ways it felt like I was gatecrashing with my little voice often unheard. I did,however find some comfort knowing I’m not on my own (and that’s quite selfish,I admit). Our situation is different-I’ve never been pregnant but I can relate to your story and I can hear your voice.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I think perhaps part of the problem is that I’ve been looking in the wrong places. And also that really it’s the quiet voices I seek, and they are just so hard to find now. Obviously I wish this post didn’t resonate, but I’ m glad that you responded – like you say, it’s always good to know you’re not alone, despite not wishing your circumstances on others. I don’t know where in your journey you are now, but I hope things work out for you.

  2. I read this yesterday but wanted to have a little think before I came and added my tuppence! With regards to an online community, I think that there is a degree to which you get out what you put in, which means that those of us who can’t devote vast swathes of time, not to blogging so much as to marketing that blog, will always be one the fringes compared to the person with a baby that sleeps most of the day, on maternity leave and with a bit of time on their hands. I know that there are times that I feel very much on the outskirts and not quite fitting in anywhere, and other times when I feel that the random kindness of strangers on the internet has been overwhelming, it’s just a question of knowing where to look. And for the record, I very much consider you what H calls a friend by internet!!

    1. Thank you, as always, for your comment. I’ve only just seen it as for some reason I wasn’t notified it was here! You are right that it does depend a lot on knowing where to look, I guess I’m just sad that I haven’t really found it yet. It feels a bit like those who want to create a career out of blogging look more towards what each interaction can do for their own blog, and I’m not saying that’s wrong, just that it leaves those of us who want to write and read personal tales a little out of place. I’m touched that you consider me an Internet friend. You are one of the people who I refer to as I really appreciate the support you’ve offered, despite the differences in our situations. And your blog remains on my must-read list too 🙂

  3. I think you’re right that blogs do seem to be changing in many ways and for those of us who do have a career outside of it it is really hard to keep up. For that reason I am backing away from my blog for a while. Another reason for doing so is that it seems there has been an influx of second pregnancies being announced at the minute and whilst I’m happy for others, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me sad that we don’t have any news of our own to share.
    For what it’s worth I regularly pop over to see if you’ve posted, more often than not you’ve put into words all the thoughts whirling round in my head that I try to squash down. Thinking of you xxx

    1. Yes, the pregnancies thing is hard, isn’t it? It instantly means there are a whole load of posts that I just simply can’t read and comment upon. And I know too that my blog becomes irrelevant to these people as I become further removed from them as the infertile mother of an only preschooler.

      I really wish that you weren’t going through this too, but that said I still can’t get over how similar our situations are, even down to how close together our sons’ birthdays are. It is a comfort to know that someone else feels this way and understands it all. Thinking of you too. (And you don’t have to say, but did you make any decisions about your frostie, or your next steps?)

      1. Arghh, million dollar question. I think we’ve decided to leave frosty until the new year. We had the knee jerk reaction of bookng a couple of holidays when the IVF failed and I think I need some time away from it all. I don’t know if that’s the right thing or not but I’m just not ready to face it failing again.
        In the meantime I’ve got a blood test on Monday to check for thyroid antibodies and am starting reflexology on Tuesday to see if that helps. Damn unexplained infertility, so bloody frustrating! xx

  4. Sorry for my MASSIVELY delayed reading of your post. For one reason or another (mainly just feeling a bit shitty and ‘couldn’t be arsed’ attitude) I took quite a big step back from my blog, twitter, and the catching up with my feedly list over the last couple of months.

    Quite a few different topics touched upon in your post. I am the same as you described with friendships – I don’t find it easy to get new friendships off the ground. I actually find it exhausting, and more often than not, I guess I don’t try, because the disappointment in failure might be a bit too much. I know what you mean about the online world feeling a bit like a window where you can see all these friendships being played out in front of you (Instagram is terrible for this, I find). But I know for a fact that for every group of online friends, there are dozens more just flitting around on our own, happy to talk to lots of different people at blogging conferences and on twitter, etc, and quite enjoying doing things that way.

    You definitely DO fit in as a parent blogger – that is the simplest one to respond to : )

    Your last point, I think about a lot. Blogs aren’t really blogs any more. Most of the really successful ones are much more like magazines. It’s different. And there’s not as much longevity in it for those of us who like human interest and the purely personal. I’ve struggled with writing the purely personal lately, but I would really like to go back to that when I feel like it.

    I don’t know how you are feeling about everything now, but I’m really hoping that writing this post was a catharsis in some way and that you are in an OK place at the moment.

  5. Oh my, your post resonated with me. I hadn’t checked in for several months because I am completely obsessed with my own secondary infertility journey. People that have never gone through fertility treatments, or more specifically, failed multiple fertility treatments have no idea about the depression, isolation and loneliness that follows. People think that because we have one child, it can’t be that painful.

    I can be totally honest and say it consumes all my waking thoughts. Its all I can think about. I’m already an obsessive type but this has pushed me over the edge. I’m to the point that I just can’t take being around pregnant people anymore.

    I don’t know what to say because what I feel can’t be described. I’m on cycle day 5 and wondering when I’m not going to feel so down. Anyway. I hear you.

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