entitlement & selfishness on TTC forums

okay, i need to vent about something goofy. generally it’s against my principles to complain about dumb things that happen on the internet because it becomes this obnoxious echo chamber in which things that happen on the internet, which should be easily ignored & forgotten, take on more weight & thus more importance than they really deserve. i think this is what happened with the feminist blogosphere. it just became a thousand different blogs all linking to & criticizing one another & acting like their petty slights & disagreements were the most important political theorizing that has happened in the last thirty years. the internet is a place that people go & so often show their very worst possible selves, to be saved to remote servers until the end of humanity. thinking about it too much is a waste of my energy.

despite all this, i did start frequenting a messageboard for women who are trying to conceive. i got pretty into it after i started clomid because my doctor is not really great at making herself available to her infertility patients. she has phone nurses & she claims that they are infertility experts who can field all of my questions, but i they’re difficult to get in touch with & they have done a piss-poor job of aaddressing some of my most basic concerns. the messageboard i like has a sub-forum specifically for women who are on clomid, & i connected with a few women there who were very helpful to me.

the trying to conceive forums are a world that seems to be completely out of step with my personality. there’s a lot of emphasis on support, compassion, & maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude. hundreds of women are looking at the forums at any given time, & there is a huge amount of diversity. there is actually a sub-forum specifically for requesting prayers, & another for praising god when your prayers are answered. the forum as a whole is not religious, but there are many religious posters, & everyone seems to work hard to get along & refrain from judgment. fundamentalist christians in idaho are posting right alongside punk lesbians living in brooklyn. i do like to challenge myself to get along with different kinds of people, & i do feel really isolated among my actual real life friends & acquaintances during this whole trying to get pregnant journey. though sometimes i think that maybe it’s a good thing that i don’t have a tight bro who is also trying to get pregnant. it’s been eight cycles & i have yet to hear a surprise pregnancy announcement from a friend or relative, which is really nice. i don’t think i’d handle it too well if one of my friends got pregnant before me.

the downside is that these forums are kind of a hotbed of ignorance & crazy. there’s an entire sub-forum dedicated to posting photos of pregnancy tests & asking people if they think said tests are positive or not. there are two sub-forums for posting about pre-test pregnancy symptoms. these get really out of hand. you have your usual fatigue/nausea/sore breasts complaints, but a surprising number of women post about how one of their ears is feeling warm, wondering if this is a possible pregnancy symptom. seriously, so many women post about their ears–just one of them feels warm. i’d love to see a doctor’s response to a patient making an appointment for a warm ear.

scores of women on the boards have been trying to conceive, with no luck, for years. i mean, who is more likely to seek out a source of support on the internet–a woman who gets pregnant right out of the gate, or a woman battling infertility? lots of the women who post regularly have been diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or just regular old unexplained infertility. & yet, many of them are able to spare thoughts of generosity, compassion, & goodwill for other women on the boards who have become pregnant or are struggling. at the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s inspiring to me to see people reaching out to one another & manifesting such good intentions even when their own fertility prospects are looking pretty shitty.

the flip side is that the boards also get a lot of traffic from newcomers who are brand new to TTC. maybe they already have kids, but are trying to get pregnant again. maybe they’re going for their first. these are the women who really drive up the traffic with the pregnancy test photos & warm ear posts. once you’ve been trying to get pregnant for six months, two years, seven years, however long, you learn that you just can’t obsess over every twinge or slightly warm ear. you’ll explode. it just eats up too much emotional energy.

but people still try to be patient with the newbies. after all, they will either get pregnant & disappear soon enough, or they won’t get pregnant & they will learn to pace themselves. i made the mistake of replying to one such newbie last night, who had spent several days posting increasingly frantic questions about her symptoms & whether they may be indicative of pregnancy, & offering up what i thought were some encouraging words about taking it easy & not devoting too much energy to the “two-week wait” (the two or so weeks after you have ovulated but before a home pregnancy test would provide an accurate result). i said, “just think: this might be your last two weeks of freedom before you are pregnant & then have a baby to look after! make the most of it!”

this lady flew off the handle & said i was being “very rude.” she informed me that she had been pregnant before & knew the symptoms, & that she was indeed running off to vomit every hour on the hour & didn’t need my input. she took umbrage that i dared to ask her how long she had been trying to conceive, & informed me that this was not her first cycle. she followed up with, “don’t act like you know what everyone is going through.”

WTF?!? i replied & told her that if she doesn’t want answers to her questions, she shouldn’t ask them. i also told her that if she is actually running off to vomit, then she has enough hormone coursing through her system (even though she is only five days post-ovulation & having implantation that early is pretty much scientifically impossible) to get a positive test, so she should probably just go take one & stop wasting her time. & i informed her that i’ve been pregnant before too, as have a lot of women, & that she does not have the market cornered on having experience with real-life pregnancy symptoms. i pointed out that we were conversing on a messageboard for a very emotionally exhausting, confusing topic, & to walk into such an environment & immediately start ascribing bad intentions to the other women there is really insulting.

of course there was kind of a mass exodus from the thread (which had been quite active up to that point), & the next day, this woman started a new thread & said, “i have been asked to start a new thread. it’s called the good vibers. only post here if you’re bringing good vibes!” because good vibes are really going to be what gets you pregnant. not anything as distasteful as science & perspective.

the whole thing pissed me off because this woman is a newbie. she’s only on her second cycle trying to conceive. as soon as she gets pregnant, she’ll be gone, but in the meantime, she is sucking up the time & energy of those of us who have been struggling to get pregnant for months or years. she’s walking into this community with a monster sense of entitlement–so much so that she seems to view thoughts like, “try not to read too much into early symptoms” as someone saying, “you will never get pregnant, hahahaha”. i like the idea of a support community; i am less enamored of a pollyanna community where everyone needs to be relentlessly positive lest someone’s feelings get hurt.

& there’s a big sensible chunk of me that is like, “dude? it’s the internet. maybe just don’t look at these forums. they’re a huge waste of time & energy.” but they are also a source of emotional support & sometimes useful advice that i have not been able to get from my doctor. why should i leave? i was there before this obnoxious woman. i’ve paid eight months worth of dues in not getting pregnant. another sensible chunk of myself says, “it’s one woman. out of, like, hundreds. come on.” but the whole culture of newbies leeching off the support of the old-timers, when most of the newbies won’t have any trouble conceiving & most of the old-timers are old-timers because they’re battling infertility, just sickens me. this woman is just a particularly egregious example of it.

i guess if there is a moral, it’s this: respect other people’s life experiences if they choose to share them with you, & don’t make assumptions about where they are coming from. if someone extends compassion & patience to you, try to pay it forward to someone else. you’re entitled to a bad mood, but you’re not entitled to hold other people responsible for your bad mood.

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