Two Halloweens

New mom Hayley mulls over the challenging question of sharing your child’s story online (with help from Stirrup Queens author Melissa Ford) and reflects a bit on what a difference a year makes.

I want to tell you a story about two Halloweens. 

Last year, I missed Halloween. It isn’t celebrated in the Czech Republic, which is where my husband and I were because IVF is way cheaper over there than it is here. Now we’re home with our baby, but while I was quick to blog about the experience back then, now I’m not sure how to talk about where I was a year ago for Halloween.

One of the troubling things about blogging now that I have a child is that, like it or not, the Internet is forever. Before, talking about my infertility/IVF experience was all about me and my husband, and we’d already lost a lot of privacy due to the nature of treatment. Now, it’s about me, my husband, and this new little person. Is it her story too–and is it still mine to share freely in conversation, and what about online? By blogging about IVF which helped created her, was I violating her privacy?

The question nagged at me, so I turned to Melissa Ford, the author of the IF blog Stirrup Queens, as well as several books (including the very helpful Navigating the Land of If). She’s been blogging about this sort of thing for way longer than I, so she seemed the natural sounding board for my uncertainty.

— ∮∮∮ —

Do you see a line in the sand between one’s own infertility story and a child’s story? For example, is my IVF my story or my daughter’s story? It’s medical for me, but not really for her…or does that count as information that should be hers?

Mel: Yes, though the line is blurry. Is the time before [our twins] arrive[d] my story or their story? The time after is definitely their story, but I’m mixed into it as well. It’s easier now because I can read anything to them before I post and talk about how they feel about it. But when they were babies, it was much harder, and I had to make the best decision I could not knowing how they would feel about a story being out there once they could read it.

Is one’s conception something that should be kept private (at least when it comes to Google search results)? I know you don’t use your kids’ real names on your site–is this at their request? I’m always interested in different parent approaches to the online presences of kids.

Yes… and no. I mean, isn’t it a bit like that joke that kids tell, grossing each other out, that their existence means their parents have had sex? No one’s conception is completely private: there are only a few possible options for creation. It’s got to be one of those options. But in regards of stating outright which one it is… I think it’s a luxury of those who are conceived without assistance that their story gets to remain “private.” Or the assumption is really that they were conceived through heterosexual sex. Conception privilege? A reality of those who were conceived with assistance is that their conception is less private, whether that means sharing the news with family members or posting it to strangers online.

I went with the option to use a nickname because I didn’t know how they’d feel about their full name or image being out there. I knew I could introduce their name later, but I couldn’t go backwards and erase their name from an online record. I thought there would be less chance for the kids to be upset that I DIDN’T use their names than there would be for if I did use their names. That said, my kids grew up, and I got the chance to ask them… and they most definitely did not want to be online. They don’t like their picture online. They also don’t like to be in front of an audience and perform–so it’s not just the online world. It’s the whole many-people-looking-at-me idea. So I went with the right choice. I wouldn’t be surprised if their comfort level changed in the future, but for the time being, I haven’t made a choice for them. I just made the non-choice until they could speak up and make the choice for themselves.

What are some of the benefits you see when it comes to blogging such intimate stories (like an IVF journey, or adoption journey, etc.)? Cons?

The pros are enormous. No one ever has to be alone. You can always find someone out there to talk to or draw information from. Face-to-face interactions are wonderful, but not everyone has that outlet. Telling your story and reading someone else’s story becomes a way to connect. The cons are the same ones that exist in the face-to-face world. People that you depend upon let you down. Signals get crossed and people misunderstand each other. Sometimes you can feel as if you’re giving too much of yourself. But I think the pros greatly outweigh the cons.

Not everyone knows how expensive IVF is (and how insurance is unlikely to foot any of the bill). If someone wanted to remain publicly private about their infertility, how would you suggest they get involved? Are there ways to keep one’s intimate details close to the chest but still advocate for, say, a little insurance coverage?

It’s hard to get your voice out there and remain completely anonymous: people respond more to those they can see, know, etc. It’s hard to get invited to the Capitol to lobby for change if you’re trying not to show your face…But I think every time you get the words out there, you have the potential to change someone’s mind. To help grow their mind and expand their understanding of a situation outside their experience. A person can definitely take steps that are more private, such as writing their Congressperson, or offline, such as setting up a support group in their area. Blogging isn’t the only way to change the world.

— ∮∮∮ —

This year, on the book-ended second Halloween, I’m back home in Richmond where my family belongs. Halloween is really Thanksgiving for us now. Instead of anxiously wandering the streets of Brno while Halloween happened without us, now my family will be busy seeing how long the baby lasts in her lobster costume1 and handing out candy. And maybe I’ll post a few pictures to my blog, because this story is ours–mine, my husband’s, and hers wrapped up together. The whole messy, grey-lined imperfect thing that is our life is something I want to share openly and without shame. If my daughter ever faces this thing herself,2 I want her to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that she was so very, very wanted. That my blog is proof of that is a good thing.

What particularly resonated with me from Mel was the idea that no one’s conception is completely private, and that’s OK. I will continue to blog about my family, using a nickname while my daughter is little and likely keeping it to baby photos.3 I feel pretty strongly about keeping the infertility backdrop an open conversation–the greatest number of hits to my blog come from people seeking blogs about parenting after infertility, so there’s some need I’m filling there. I think the sacrifice of a little privacy is worth the fight to get more coverage and support, to stay in the game. Being imperfect and flawed and human, I can only go forward and advocate and live our life together, and hope my daughter agrees with me someday. I hope she’ll join me.

Until then, it’s baby-lobster-costume time. We’ve waited a long time for this Halloween.

Photo by: ChrisDag

  1. Editor’s note: The lobster-baby pictured above is not Hayley’s baby. Believe it or not, Little Lady DeRoche is even cuter. 
  2.  Or anything similar–we all have hard stuff. 
  3.  I feel like baby photos are just kind of…baby photos. While adorably unique to their parents, babies aren’t very distinct, generally. Once she starts being her own little person, I’ll probably taper it off. 
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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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