I used to feel like this community was a family. We were one, big, infertile family - whether we were just starting our journey, in the midst of a pregnancy, struggling with loss, waiting to adopt, or we'd resolved our infertility in one way or another. It didn't matter. We were all here for each other. There was blog reading, commenting, encouragement. It was a good feeling for me, for many of us who couldn't necessarily turn to our own families to validate our feelings about this disease.
Somewhere along the way, something happened. I'm not sure when or how or why. But our community began to fracture. There are people we communicated with on a regular basis who all but vanished when they became parents. There are people who choose child free living who exited stage left because they didn't feel they belonged. Sub-communities and separate communities formed for people who'd been through this particular procedure or that particular "stage" in their infertility journey. Instead of this collective unit, it began to feel like a broken one.
I'm not drawing this conclusion now. I'm stating it now because it's too obvious to ignore. Like the elephant in the room, it's sucking up the clean air to the point where all I can smell is shit. I'm stating a fact that's been somewhat apparent for a while, but that no one has wanted to address. Me included.
I don't know why I didn't want to talk about it. Perhaps, in true family form, I didn't want to call attention to our "dysfunction." You know, it's like your crazy Aunt Millie who won't stop talking about inappropriate things at Thanksgiving dinner. You never want to call attention to her; instead, you accept her for who she is, and you protect her from any outsiders who might think about exposing her faults. I see the ALI community the same way: I see us as a family. We may be dysfunctional at time, but I'll always protect my family.
Except I'm at the point where I'm so disappointed in some of its members, that I don't know if I can continue to protect them anymore.
We used to be about love, acceptance, unity, empathy, and - most of all - support. And while I still see these traits exemplified in many community members, I see it missing in a good number of others. I see anger. I see frustration. I see self-centeredness. The bad things don't necessarily outnumber the good things, but they are visible enough so that it feels as though I'm watching the nightly news: the good stories are becoming overshadowed by the bad, and I'm losing faith.
Here's the thing: I don't want to lose faith. I want to see the positive, and I do. I focus on that, and that's what motivates me to stay a part of this family and to keep fighting for us. It's what's kept me silent for so long. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes or cause any more anger or frustration to boil over. However, I also don't want this to keep festering inside of me. I don't want to be surface-level with all of you. I want to be real, and these are my feelings: I feel like we've focused too much on ME and not enough on US.
Think back to when you first started this journey. Think back to when you first started blogging or attending support groups or participating in online discussion boards. Do you remember what that felt like to find (at last) a group of people who were going through the same thing? Do you remember what it was like to listen to someone else's story, to hold his or her hand, and to nod your head in agreement? Do you remember what it was like to finally realize that you weren't alone?
Let your mind settle on that moment for a second. That feeling of give and take. That feeling of empathy that you and someone else had for each other. It wasn't a feeling of just "take." It wasn't a feeling of just "give" either. It was a delicate balance: a see-saw of support.
Now, think about what your journey is like today: is it more give or is it more take? Are you constantly blogging and tweeting about your own infertility "adventures" and not taking the time for others? Are you always giving support to others but you don't have anyone who can lend you the support you need during tough times? Do you still support the people who were there for you, before you became a parent, in the same way you did before your child was born? Do you still support people who've resolved their infertility, even if you aren't at the end of your journey?
Wherever you are in your journey, however you fit, do you still try to maintain that balance?
I realize that this is easier said than done. I also realize that some people may perceive me as not having a balance. I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to be a know-it-all or some referee to how we communicate with others in this community. This post isn't meant to pass judgement. It's simply meant to remind us that we are all important. Our stories, our journeys, our feelings - we all matter, and we should all matter to one another. We are a family.
And that is what a family does. Even when we have different paths in life, even when we have differences in opinion - we are still a unit.