Saturday, 21 September 2013

Blurb Update; or, Why Words Matter

Mr. Turtle partly inspired this post. He is completing an assignment for his graduate counselling psychology course that requires him to take a word that is used in the profession and come up with synonyms that have different connotations and analyze how the meaning is changed in context.

Example: The word "repression" has a certain connotation. A recovering alcoholic passing by a liquor store may cross the street to avoid it. She is "repressing" her desire to go in. But instead of using this word, one could say she is exercising "discipline" or "restraint." Those words imply she is exercising choice rather than hiding from a desire.

Of course, those words don't mean exactly the same thing as repress.  The idea, from a counselling point of view, is to help someone redefine their experience.

I am not a counsellor (for which I am thankful, and thankful that there are people like Mr. Turtle who can do that job) but I have a life long fascination with words. I studied English Literature for my first degree, so I have fed the craving.

I decided to update my blog blurb today.  This is the "About Me" section off the to the right. It's been eight months, and several referrals and tests since the blog's debut, so I thought it was time to update About Me.  Excuse the navel-gazing, but some of the changes to words are significant to me, so I'm going to indulge my inner English major and explain them.

"Call me the Turtle." This stays the same. It's a nod to the first line of Moby Dick. One of those fantastic, understated openings like the "So" at the beginning of Seamus Heaney's Beowulf.

This blog is primarily about our journey to transcend infertility.
Changed from: "It is an unexpected journey to overcome infertility factors."

I try very hard to keep sports/war metaphors out of my blog. As in: "I'm going to beat this thing" or "We have a new weapon to fight infertility." I simply cannot use sports/war metaphors when talking about health issues. This is not to criticize others who use them.  Everybody expresses themselves and copes with challenges in their own way, and if it helps someone to say it like that, they can say it like that. But, I simply  can't conceive of having a battle with my own body or organs. Who gets to be the winner in that scenario?

"Overcome" is a softer word than "beat," but it still implies a win/lose scenario, which I find limiting.  "Transcend" means "to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed." You don't have to beat or destroy or obliterate something to transcend it.  What you do is become greater than it.

Mr. Turtle and I are in our early 30s. Neither of us has ever had children but we would like to.

Changed from "...journey to start our family" (or something like that; I've already forgotten.)

Yes, Mr. Turtle and I would really like to have children. Are we partly defined by our desire for a family, and by extension, our infertility? Yes. We are part of a group affectionately known online as IFFers. It may not be exactly right to say I am "proud" to be part of this group, but I am certainly not ashamed of it. I am  humbled and inspired by the courage, tenacity, resourcefulness, and generosity of IFFers. We hope one day to also be part of another group called "parents."

But at the same time Mr. Turtle and I are not solely defined by whether or not we have children. Neither, I would argue, is any other individual or couple. By the way, this great post by Infertile Myrtle deserves a read: Infertile Does Not Equal Incomplete. It can be hard to find that kind of equanimity when dealing with yet another BFN or failed treatment, and I do not always feel it. But I nevertheless think her words are worth dwelling on.

[...various diagnostic details...]
Stays pretty much the same

"In case you are wondering, "torthúil" is an Irish word meaning "fertile." I try very hard not to be defined by the diagnoses given to my female bits."

Changed from: "I'm starting this blog by thinking positively."

Well, obviously the blog has been around for a while, as has the IF diagnoses. I've had some time to consider just how positive I really am. On one hand, our situation looks bleak. Double infertility diagnosis is never good, and DOR/POF is truly craptastic as put perfectly by another POFfer. Natural conception with POF is a 5% chance with every cycle (according to the Wikipedia expert.) Add non-swimming sperm into that, and we have a chance of, I dunno, probably zero? On top of that, DOR/POF also significantly reduces the chances of IVF success.  On the other hand, we haven't entirely given up hope that improvements in health and reproductive health might increase our odds. And conception through ART is still a possibility too.  My intuition, which I believe is based on something more than delusion, tells me there is hope yet.

What I have also discovered, however, is exactly what the new sentence says: I don't want to be defined by the diagnoses given my female bits. True, for a period of time after learning about the DOR/POF, I felt fairly devastated. I felt like I was riding an old rusty jalopy on a rough dirt road through the desert, while all the while different parts were breaking down and falling off in a tragi-comic progression.  The car would never, ever reach its destination. It would break down somewhere between Phoenix and Waterton and I would perish in the dust. But then I realized I was fundamentally uncomfortable with this self-concept (except certain nights when awake at 3am). I do not feel broken. I do not feel hopeless. I do not feel at the mercy of my imperfect reproductive system. Or rather, I simply refuse to feel this way. It isn't who I am.

So, why do words matter? Because I check this blog at least once a day, when I'm around my computer. Because I see my own words, and others see them too. They matter. I want them to carry the message that is generative and meaningful, not limiting.

Are there words or phrases that you feel define your blog or your journey? or words and phrases that you can't stand to use?

17 comments:

  1. Absolutely agree. Some words mean so much to me while other words actually make me stop reading things because it turns me off. Glad to see you changed up some words to help define yourself and your journey just the way you want it to be. I completely agree about the war/sports metaphors!

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    1. Haha, I know what you mean! And I think it's important to do those occasional check-ins and ask: "What message am I sending out there to others, and to myself'

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  2. What a great post! It sounds like you are in a really good place, and I am happy to hear that. I never wanted to be defined by our diagnois, or have our family defined by the fact that it won't be traditional.

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    1. Love how you put it Gypsy Mama! "I never wanted to be defined by our diagnosis, or have our family defined by the fact it won't be traditional." I do want to be "in a good place." Something I've learned over the past few months is that I need to actively work on being in that good place. Using the right words for me/us are part of that.

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  3. I'm definitely a word nerd. I spent an entire day choosing my blog's name, wanting it to be something that conveyed my current fixation with an emptiness, as well as be translatable to motherhood when I surely succeeded. I was pretty pleased with it, also, because it's not as google-able as some things, and I only wanted people to find it if they knew what they were looking for.

    I think your new description shows your positivity, perseverance, and above all your wonderful personality (how's that for accidental alliteration!). So I think it's a definitely success :)

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    1. Thanks Anne (sends virtual hugs). Blog names can be tough. It's hard to find one that can feel relevant through different parts of the journey. I like yours :-)

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  5. I'm new to your blog (which I found through Gypsy Mama), and this was a great place to start. I love this post! So much of what you've written resonates with me, and I agree that words matter and if used thoughtlessly, can constrict us in ways we aren't even aware of. Your comments about transcending vs battling are right on. I think I have a particular issue with those analogies, because it feels like if you walk away from the ttc journey as an infertile, and maybe *don't* get to be parents as you hoped to be, that implies some kind of 'loss' or failing. Reminding ourselves not to be defined by IF/pregnancy loss is so important, but this community can be a double edged sword, in that it's often so extremely focused on a singular outcome as a measure of 'success'/happiness.

    Thanks for provoking some new thoughts and helping me to articulate stuff that's been bouncing around in my head!

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    1. Thank you for reading Sadie! I moseyed on over to your blog which I found very thoughtful. I never thought of the ALI blogosphere as defining success and happiness by one outcome, but I suppose that is often true, although (I think) we are all aware of the other outcomes and there are many bloggers who have found "success" or at least a way forward, that is not birth. I think it is so awesome that you can read many different perspectives in the community, although I tend to gravitate somewhat to experiences similar to my own.

      There are so many points on this journey where one can feel like one is "failing." Reproductive organs fail; procedures that could or should have worked fail; people look at you like you are a failure because you are not a parent (or you imagine they are looking at you like that). Failure to hope enough, failure to be smarter/faster/stronger blah blah blah. But life is never that simple, and when I think of how I found a "way forward" during other challenging parts of my life, it was never through narrowly defining what success meant, but rather through opening up to complexity and the many paths life offered.

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  6. I love this! Even though I'm not as lyrical or deliberate in my word choice as a writer, I definitely appreciate it as a reader!

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    1. thank you! the blogosphere is a great place to enjoy lots of different writing styles and points of view. I really like the scientific focus of your posts.

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  7. I've used the battle metaphor myself...I chose to think of it as more a fight against infertility than my body, though. I liked the idea of strength that comes from thinking of oneself as a warrior. But I get that it's not for everyone. That's what I love about the blogosphere...someone's always thinking of a new way to say something that may not be what I'd say, but it still rings true nonetheless.

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    1. Absolutely - blogosphere at its best is a consciousness-raiser!

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  8. This is a thought-provoking post. I, too, think a good deal about the power of words and the importance of articulating thoughts and feelings. From my years in therapy for depression, I learned that telling the story of a trauma is a huge part of how you heal from it.

    Oh, and I love that you shared the meaning of torthuil! I have wondered how/why you chose that name, and I think it suits you perfectly as it's musical and unique :)

    In answer to your last question, the word "infertility" itself is one that is hard for me to use. I know it sounds obvious, but just calling myself infertile for the first time was so hard. Some people like to use more gentle terms, like "sub-fertile," but for me, it's been important to give this struggle a name because that has allowed me to find a community of support.

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    1. Thanks Annie. I struggle with the word "infertile" too, because it sounds like a dead-end, and I like to think it terms of roads less traveled, or even rocky, dangerous roads, but not dead ends :-) Anything (almost) but that. I didn't want the word "infertile" in my blog title because I didn't want it staring me in the face like a curse every time I can to write here. But like you I also feel the need to name the struggle. I think that's part of the reason I like the acronyms - IF, IFfers. :-) It feels like a private (but shared) language where we can own the terms.

      I really like the name of your blog "sweetest in the gale." And I did google it to find the poem it was from. Very evocative and appropriate.

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  9. I nominated you for the Liebster award! Don't feel pressured to participate, but I wanted to let you know :)

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    1. Thanks Anne! :-) I needed some inspiration for my next post! I am so glad you take the time to read.

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