Survivor: BlogHer Edition
I survived. I am home in my most comfortable old sweatshirt and yoga pants (though I don't use them for yoga) 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. (I have to review my swapped cards but they're in the other room which requires getting off the couch).
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.
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.
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.
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 and I write about issues associated with infertility." I understood completely when they smiled kindly and quickly moved on.
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 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. (I say thankfully because I thought it contained some important information and insights. But don't take my word for it...)
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.
Second, I 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 infertility (e.g. representatives from the March of Dimes).
While wonderful to see and hear from the infertility community, we 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.