Survivor: BlogHer Edition


I survived. I am home in my most comfortable old sweatshirt and yoga pants drinking coffee while only a feet away sits the best man on the planet, my guy, reading the newspaper commenting on news and photos. Could I be any happier at this very moment? Not possible.

Now for thoughts on the past few days. Let me start by sharing a story that both Elisa Camahort, and Lisa Stone — two of the three BlogHer cofounders — each shared with me months ago when I divulged the subject of my blog.

“We’ve been told that the BlogHer conferences are no place for infertile women.” Well I’m here to tell you that if you’re not in a good place with your infertility, they’re right. It’s not that I was voted off the island, nor was anyone rude. Far from it. In fact I had an opportunity to meet some really interesting, thought-provoking women. Like Alyssa Royse who blogs Just Cause. Then there were: Claudia Ruiz; Laura Scott; and Nicole Simon among others.

Infertility Survivor

No, it was the environmental factors that only a woman who has experienced infertility would have found challenging — especially someone in the early days of infertility diagnosis and treatment. For example, in order to get to the speaker’s lounge (think airport club minus flight attendants), I first had to run the gauntlet.

To my immediate left the Childcare Room. On my right the Lactation Room. Just ahead the Sesame Street Room — complete with “characters” so moms and their infants could cavort for a personal DVD. Across the way at the end of the hall was my destination: the speaker’s lounge.

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Let me add I’m a long-standing big fan of Grover. I briefly entertained ducking into the Sesame Street Room for a visit until I saw a woman openly breast feeding (and I mean letting it all hang out) as she walked my way down the hall.  Save for her child’s serious suction power I worried — what with her gait and all — that her baby might fall off. That’s when I made a beeline for what I hoped would be a safer, quieter place.

Unfortunately there was no quiet there to be had. A self-described Mommy Blogger dominated the room talking in her “outside voice” into a microphone while she led a live Second Life session from the large round speaker table in the middle of the room.

Mommy Mania

Now let’s reverse the tape and go back to the opening session where with my delightful wing man, Lori. We made our way through an exhibit hall full of sponsors hawking gear and services for, yes, you guessed it mothers. To be fair 10-15 percent of the exhibits were non-denominational so to speak, but they were a tad harder to spot amid the large signs and eager salespeople looking to tap into the lucrative mommy market.

We found Mel looking for iced coffee (sadly, without success) and took seats at a table in the front of the room. The exercise put to the 1,000 women in attendance was to move from table to table in a form of speed dating: describe who we are and what we blog about. As I surveyed the ballroom in readiness I could feel my heart sink.

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How to start? What to say? I immediately wished I could impersonate a travel blogger, a tech blogger, even a sex blogger — all of whom were among those who introduced themselves to me. Talk about a caffeine buzz kill at 9:30 in the morning when you’re among the former group and you come upon me. “Hi, I’m Pamela. I’m an infertility survivor who writes about issues associated with infertility.” I understood completely when they smiled kindly only to quickly move on.

Rich Insights, Empty Room

Infertility is just not a topic that lends itself to this type of format. I stopped playing by the rules after a few minutes and instead moved into reporter mode. I posed the questions about their topics and gave them the floor until it was time to “switch.” As we parted, I simply handed them my blog card containing my name and blog URL telling them if they wanted to know more about being an infertility survivor they could check out my blog on their own.

Since this post is getting way too long, I’ll just make two brief comments about our panel, which was videotaped and will thankfully be posted on BlogHer’s site later this week.


First, one unbiased attendee — she was part of the BlogHer team — told me ours was one of the best BlogHer panels she’d attended. You can read more observations about our session from Stephanie who was on hand and did some live blogging as did Cecily.

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Second, this infertility survivor was seriously disappointed with the turnout. While our session was intentionally part of the Mommyblogging track — specifically to stimulate a conversation with the, how shall I say, non-fertility-treated-nor- adoption-initiated Mommybloggers — I don’t think there were more than five actual Mommybloggers in the room. Of those all acknowledged they had personally experienced infertility.

The balance of the room were mostly friends and family of the panelists and the usual cool chicks. (You know, participants in the infertility blogging community like Rachel, Luna, Millie, Dramalish and Amber) and a few who wanted to know more about what it meant to be an infertility survivor (e.g. representatives from the March of Dimes).

Lost Opportunity

While wonderful to see and hear from the infertility community, we who identify as an infertility survivor talk amongst ourselves all the time. We didn’t need BlogHer to bring us together, though it did allow some of us to meet face to face for the first time.

Someone suggested that perhaps we needed a more compelling name to the panel. So for next year, I suggest it go something like this: “MommyBloggers: Will you know how to support your children when they learn they have conditions that cause infertility?”

Not surprisingly, outside of my panel the only other place I felt truly at home at BlogHer was the session called Women Without Children and the Blogoshere. I’ll save those observations for another post.

p.s. I grabbed the panel shot above from Luna’s blog. (Thanks, Luna!) From left: Me, Lori, Monica and Mel.


30 Responses

  1. luna

    July 20, 2008 5:30 pm

    oh I’m so glad I wasn’t there for the speed dating thing. I get that reaction enough already for living infertility and loss — I certainly don’t need it for writing about it…

    I was also disappointed there weren’t more attendees, but the crowd you had was great, and I do believe you all reached some other women in a meaningful way. so I say yes to quality over quantity. I do like the title for the next one though. at least that would force open a few minds…

    on an unrelated note, I was so very happy to finally meet you, even if it did take this to make it happen. you continue to inspire me in so many ways, so thank you.

  2. niobe

    July 20, 2008 7:51 pm

    Well, though it sounds like there were aspects of it that were difficult, I’m really glad that you and others were there to give some visibility to the issues surrounding infertility and perhaps to make people readjust their world views — if only a little bit.

    When the panel video is posted, I will definitely watch it.

  3. thalia

    July 20, 2008 8:09 pm

    I decided 2 years ago that blogher was not for me – after Julie and Julia went (after they both had children) and Julie wrote something similar to you – that the place was simply infested with mommies and offspring, not the place for someone in the midst of infertility. In addition, I found the over-focus on the US, and the focus on commercialism rather unappealing, although I’m beginning to doubt myself on that last point because presumably it’s good to have a bunch of women subverting various business models?

    But having read this, I’ll stick to my guns and leave blogher to the rest of the blogosphere.

    I’m sorry you didn’t a bigger audience. I’m sorry it was such a tough experience. I’m glad you braved it because oh how much better is it that you were there and touched at least a few of those lives.

  4. Kymberli

    July 20, 2008 8:35 pm

    Just five “Mommybloggers,” each one having experienced infertility themselves. In all of the Mommybloggers there, there had to have been more than five who had experienced at least some degree of infertility. It seems to prove why I, as someone who managed to “crossover,” often feels so alone and trapped between the two worlds and why I identify more closely with the IF community than I do the typical “mommy” community. I am also disappointed that your panel wasn’t able to bridge the two communities.

    I’ve often felt like I stood somewhere on that metaphorical bridge. I can see both sides clearly…hmmm…I have to think more because I can feel a post coming for my blog based on your observations and those that I’ve read so far from the other BlogHer attendees. It feels like there’s a call to action somewhere in the span of that bridge, and like I need to feel my way around in it to figure out what it is and how to do it.

    I’m so glad to hear that the panel will be shown on BlogHer next week. I can’t wait to see it.

  5. Julie

    July 20, 2008 8:49 pm

    Like Thalia says, I felt the same alienation when I went to BlogHer a few years ago. Since I didn’t then — still don’t, as it happens — feel comfortable calling myself a mommyblogger, I found the environment weirdly marginalizing.

    It was a relief to learn that we few infertiles there were not alone; many photobloggers, travelbloggers, genderbloggers, and other-kinds-of-bloggers expressed the same feeling. I suppose mommybloggers are seen as more easily monetized, whatever the hell that actually means. It was fairly dispiriting, I must say, and it sounds like you came away with a similar feeling. I am sorry it wasn’t as energizing for you as some people — not I! — found it to be.

  6. loribeth

    July 20, 2008 11:06 pm

    Thanks so much for the report! I am sorry you didn’t get a bigger audience. 🙁 But I am still glad you were there, giving voice to our experience (even if it was sort of drowned out at times…) & that you all got to meet each other.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the childfree panel. I read Teri’s Purple Women blog faithfully until she closed up shop. They come to this life from a very different place, but I think we still have a lot in common in the way society views us & the things we have to deal with. I also find I need to reminded now & then about the good stuff about living without children! & they are VERY clear on that point!!

  7. peesticksandstones

    July 20, 2008 11:07 pm

    Thanks for representin’, PJ!

    I gotta say — it’s hard for me to imagine such a big, in-person meeting of bloggers. To me, blogging still seems very personal, intimate (even if I am sharing it with anyone in the world who cares to read).

    Have you ever been involved with the Resolve community/advocacy, etc? I’ve often wondered how that in-person interaction would compare to the IF blogger community. Anyone have any insights?

  8. Ellen K

    July 20, 2008 11:43 pm

    I’m sorry your panel didn’t have a larger audience, and although I’ve never been to BlogHer, it sounds like Julie and Thalia are right on target in their assessments: it doesn’t seem a place that women who are blogging about anything other than parenting would feel very welcome. I do have to wonder at the pains the organizers took in making young children feel welcomed, even a priority. One part of me says “Well, if it helps the average woman attend by absolving her of childcare, that’s great,” but really, there are too few adults-only places in our society. Perhaps they might call it BlogKids instead…

    Sorry for the snark — really, I am glad you and the other ALI bloggers participated.

  9. smarmoofus

    July 21, 2008 12:18 am

    I am so grateful to you for having the courage to attend this event and try to raise awareness. I have noticed the abundance of “mommyblogs” out there, and it’s difficult when I participate in memes to make the rounds and see all the adorable photos of adorable children. I can not imagine going to MommyFest and having to tell all those people that I am not and never will be like them. Because it’s the insult added to the injury of knowing that I will never be like them. It’s not that I don’t want children, it’s that I can’t have them. And if one more person tells me in that sickeningly sympathetic voice, “Oh, that’s too bad… you would make a great mother.” I WILL RIP THEIR HEAD OFF. Ahem. Sorry.

    Anyway, yes… thank you for going. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for sharing your experience. I know now that BlogHer is not for me. I really couldn’t handle it and stay sane.

  10. Samantha

    July 21, 2008 1:29 am

    For what it’s worth, coming from someone who likes to keep her IRL identity and blog identity quite separate, your bravery in coming forward and putting yourself into public situation is sometimes that really impresses me. But if it’s too difficult for you, I say stepping back is perfectly appropriate.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      July 21, 2008 1:58 am

      I knew full well when my full name made it on the google servers tagged with infertility there was no going back…but thanks for the nice thoughts.

  11. Jen

    July 21, 2008 2:10 am

    You are a very brave woman. Thank you for putting yourself out there for the rest of us. I can’t say I am surprised at the reaction from Blogher. But it is still a little disheartening. It sounds the conference was just a giant daycare event.

  12. Deathstar

    July 21, 2008 3:32 am

    It’s important to realize that those who walk the difficult path often do walk alone. It was important that you and the others were there. We all know that infertility is not a popular topic, but it’s important to communicate, to show up and be there. The sad thing is that I betcha if one glamourous celebrity stood up and admitted they were infertile (instead of popping one out at 17 yrs old), people might find it a bit more interesting.

  13. Laurie

    July 21, 2008 7:08 am

    I was in the small audience and really appreciated your honesty and courage. I will take your words with me and share it with the moms I know. Your post really illustrated how difficult it was for you (and would be for anyone else in your shoes) given the abundance of “Mommy’s.”

    • Pamela Jeanne

      July 21, 2008 2:33 pm

      Dear Laurie,
      Thank you for taking the time to come and to hear what we had to say. You are an important ambassador and we appreciated your willingness to share what you learned. All the best, Pamela

  14. SAHW

    July 21, 2008 2:21 pm

    Pamela, I’m proud of you for going and presenting the face of our community, even though it may not have been to many…I was hoping many more of the mommybloggers would have attended your session. Like you said, next year, it may need a more compelling name, and perhaps if somehow it could be scheduled at a time when there are too many other sessions that draw larger crowds…

    Either way, you survived, and for whoever your words have touched, we thank you.

  15. Kelly D

    July 21, 2008 7:43 pm

    I had no idea what to expect of Blogher and at one point thought about going. I’m surprise it was more like a baby expo than a professional seminar. Don’t the organizers realize that women blog about topics and that bloggers are attorneys, CPA, wifes, friends, etc.?

    Even though the attendance was light – you touched more people than you realize by passing out your cards and having the panel listed as one of the breakouts.

  16. Summer

    July 21, 2008 8:25 pm

    I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that your panel was not attended by more fertiles. But I think it was great there was an infertility panel and hope that it will continue to be something on the BlogHer agenda if only to keep our views out there.

  17. Cat

    July 21, 2008 11:13 pm

    I think the suggested title for your next panel is wonderful. Last night I was talking to my Mother about my latest infertility news, i.e that IVF isn’t working and we are shaping up to have no biological children. She pondered why this was happening, trying to work out how this was happening to her daughter… the implication being that it hadn’t happened to her, or to her Mum, or to her Mum before that etc… I gently pointed out that this was pretty obvious as otherwise I wouldn’t be here! We had a laugh…but yes… title of your next panel is a good one. No-one expects to be in this position, Mother’s and daughters alike.

  18. Phoebe

    July 22, 2008 12:14 am

    Too bad there isn’t more diversity at the BlogHer conference. You’re a maverick, changing the world one blog post at a time!

  19. Ms Heathen

    July 22, 2008 4:27 pm

    I am so proud of you for braving BlogHer and for giving voice to our little community, but am sorry that you were not met with more support and understanding.

    Glad that you are back home, and can take some time to enjoy hanging out with your husband!

  20. Geohde

    July 23, 2008 1:38 am


    I am sorry that the audience was not what it could have been, but glad that you were all there to impart the message to those who did choose to attend.


  21. Tricia

    July 23, 2008 11:23 am

    Thank you for doing this. I can only imagine how difficult it was on a million different levels. I’m disappointed in the turn out for your panel, but not surprised. Infertility is not something the fertile crowd wants to understand. I’ve recently run a series of articles related to domestic violence, and the response has been lacking. People are afraid to embrace wheat they don’t know, even if it means new knowledge could make a difference.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there!!

    • Pamela Jeanne

      July 23, 2008 11:19 pm

      Appreciate your continued support. Tricia. You’re right that some topics just seem to make other people uncomfortable. Maybe one day that will change…

  22. Amber

    July 24, 2008 2:02 am

    I just wanted to say it was super cool to meet you. I greatly admire your poise and thoughtful articulation.

    It’s strange when you are marginal and I’m not sure it gets better. Unless “marginal” becomes the norm…we’ll always be marginal. The best we can hope for is some understanding and maybe even some compassion from the majority.

    Truth is the majority doesn’t want to know about infertility because it’s not pleasant. You hit it on the head when you said they’ll be all ears when their child, friend, etc are dealing with it. Not that I’d wish it on anyone. It’s just our community is here and serves a purpose.

    BTW I am a mom and find “mommy talk” very boring. I’d much rather discuss politics, shoes, leadership theories, Desperate Housewives….

  23. Bea

    July 26, 2008 2:04 pm

    Yes, your title makes a good point. With 12.5% of the population infertile, and all of these people having parents, it’s a skill many may have to have. And the attitude should start early – rather than conditioning (intentionally or not) our children to believe they have to have children in order to be fulfilled, parents should be prepared to validate other choices, or other circumstances.


  24. Tracie

    July 26, 2008 3:04 pm

    I wonder whether we become “invisible” to society — as women without children as you are, as a 50+ woman, as I am — because marketers don’t know what to sell us. Your comment about the sales area being full of stuff for parents/kids made me think of this. It’s not quite a full-blown entry into my blog yet — I need to let it ferment a bit.

    Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts. I’ve never been to BlogHer, and wonder whether I’m just “too old” to find my niche there.

Comments are closed.