|Some place safe by Feline Zegers|
Online communities have been my thing for years. When I moved as a teenager to a rural area in 2001, the LOTR online community was my first foray into the concept of making true connections with people online. (I'm still friends with those people. I heart them.) As I've moved through life, LiveJournal communities have been important to me, as are the online friends I've connected with. In wedding planning, I discovered the Offbeat Empire (nerd wedding photo-palooza alert), along with the Practical Wedding/APW network of smart ladies (who I still follow -- in fact, I still follow APW, mostly for its Reclaiming Wife segments, because seriously -- that is some good feminist stuff right there). So in short, the Internet community has been for me, as for many other bloggers and nerdy types out there, an incredible part of everyday life. So naturally, when experiencing infertility, I turned to the Internet. I found OffbeatMama's posts on infertility helpful, but they make up only a small portion of the dialogue on the site. Other websites like TCOYF and The Bump (I know, visiting a site that boasts "ta ta tuesdays!" is pretty much asking to experience heartburn) have forums, but they are often littered (I'm sorry) with terms like "AF" (meaning "aunt flo") and "baby dust!!!" and "baby dancing" and...you get my drift. Cutesy acronyms may be some people's schtick, but they simply aren't mine. Signatures that follow every single post full of blinky glitter-text and tickers for various life events just aren't part of my routine online culture, mostly due to my long years at LiveJournal where posting a signature to a comment was (and surely still is)...well, laughable. (I realize it's not laughable for all online communities, but in my circles, it = laughable).
But it's not just a design and online-custom culture-shock that I've experienced. It's also the...well, the religiosity of a majority of the forums. I saw one site where people were posting weekly Bible study sessions, and someone very timidly asked if it would be okay to have an atheist forum too, but it was said so meekly, so 'please if you don't mind, we really don't want to offend the obvious majority, we'll be awful quiet' and so on and so forth that I just felt a little sad. Where are the tattooed nerdy punk infertile couples who want to talk about philosophy or piercings instead of 1 Peter, those who get eyeballed in the waiting room from the more Jennifer Garner-types? (Because apparently Jennifer Garner is the Face of Cinematic Infertility, and even though I know that's not the reality of people going through this, it's easy to go to the RE and feel like the oddball when the other couples in the room are older than you, and wearing khakis, polos, and pearls. I may not look all that punk in my usual grey pants or grey pencil skirt, pierced nose and tattoos aside (and those I keep mostly covered), but combined with my long-haired tattooed husband, we definitely aren't a stereotypical career-y suburban-y couple.)
So of course, being an online community person for years, my first inclination is to say, welp, there's a commuity need. Let me create something! But the thing is, firstly, I simply don't know how long I'm going to be part of this community. I'm still in the shallow end of the pool. While I don't want to go deeper and deeper, I also don't know if I'll need to. I'm not, to further the pool metaphor, Swim Team Coach material, yet, because I've (comparatively) only recently gotten in the pool. Yes, this experience is always going to be a part of me. And yes, even if I hit success, it still changes the future -- we always wanted two kids, and if just having one is this difficult, then #2 may never be a part of our lives. It's a bit of a shift to go from thinking you can choose how your family will look, more or less, to realizing you can't, and a surprise baby will almost certainly never, ever be a part of your story. But if I do get successful -- then I necessarily move to a different part of the pool. The nature of the infertile community online is that it's a constantly revolving community, but there's also a lot of talk about how best to deal with that from both sides. What people owe each other, and so forth. So that's the first rock in my path: do I pursue a long-term project when I don't know if my situation itself will be long-term? Or do I wait for a certain amount of time to pass some more?
There are also factors like dividing a commuity, when people may be inclined to say, no matter your belief, you belong here, and saying to religious people "you don't belong in this infertility forum" could be construed as hurtful and divisive, rather than simply specific (which apparently often causes a community to flourish).
Of course, there are blogs. There are tons of individual blogs, all easily findable, even. I did find one atheist infertility community, but the last post was from something like 2006, and there were a whole 2 members. There are books (Navigating the Land of IF is very good). However, a lot of the books I come across...aren't really from people in my nerdy subculture. Often books about couples experiencing infertility, based off of the GoodReads searches I've done, are funny tales from people who experienced infertility after waiting to have kids due to careers, or at any rate were older and established (Peggy Orenstein, etc). And I'm not saying I don't sympathize -- infertility sucks, no matter the reason. But I also don't identify with those stories. It's nothing personal.
Maybe I just need to recruit a bunch of offbeat-types for single essays or something. Because the thing is, people are out there. It's just hard to find them all in one place amidst the acronyms, the ticker-signatures, the just-have-faith posters, and stories that I don't quite connect with (even though I connect with the frustrating theme itself). I want more stories about people with tattoos, who maybe don't have a home to take a second mortgage out on for IVF, people who haven't established careers yet, people who are young, people who have nose rings, people who don't believe there's a god or a reason for any of this, people with pink hair, people at goth barbeques who you'd never look at and think they're jealous of that person with a baby in a sling on the other side of the yard. (Maybe a Kindle book? Alt-IF? Or something.)
To paraphrase The New Colossus: Give me your tattooed, your pierced, your hot-pink hair-dyed masses yearning to breathe free.