What’s the biggest mistake you think you ever made and how did it change your life?
I wrote about loved ones on my blog without their permission, including stories about their personal lives that weren’t mine to share. I didn’t do it often and I had good intentions. But I believe that I used poor judgment in those instances.
When I began blogging in April 2007 I used my space as a sort of CarePage or Caring Bridge site, in that my main focus and intention was to update close friends and family who had shown us, through their love and support, that they wanted to share in our journey trying to expand our family. During my first year of blogging we were using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to try to have another child, after dealing with secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss for two and half years.
There is a lot of waiting involved during In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycles, as with trying to conceive in general. So I would often turn to my blog to try to work through those “two week waits” and other uncertain times as we wondered if we were ever going to be able to get and stay pregnant again.
During those difficult waiting periods I began to blog about other things, to try to get my mind off whether any given cycle would work. I mostly wrote about things that were happening specifically to my immediate family (Bob and Sean at the time) and me. Sometimes I would talk about outings we took or social events that we attended with extended family and friends, as well as share news about milestones in some of our loved ones’ lives, such as marriages and childbirths. As a Christian with a bleeding heart, there were also times when I wrote about some of the difficult experiences in our loved ones’ lives, always accompanied by prayer requests for them.
Back then my audience, to my knowledge, was small and mostly made up of people that knew my friends, our extended family and me in person. I considered going private/password protected a few times, when I began to learn about and interact more with others in the blogosphere. But I quickly saw how others dealing with infertility (especially secondary) and loss appreciated being able to find my blog and connect about our shared experiences, as I felt when I found similar blogs. So I decided to keep my blog public.
Over time my focus and intentions for blogging expanded from keeping loved ones updated to include reaching out to, connecting with and even being a resource for those who were also learning to cope and find joy when life doesn’t go as we hope, dream and plan (whether due to infertility, loss, illness and/or other circumstances). As that evolution took place I wish that I had taken time to revisit my old posts and revaluate the relevancy of their content. Of course my writing about the details of our experience with infertility and loss was still very important to have on my blog, but it could have been an opportunity for me to consider removing or at least editing the personal references I made to some of our extended family and friends, most of whom at that time were unaware that I even had a blog.
The more I connected with others who seemed to appreciate my openness about our journey through secondary infertility and loss on my blog, the more compelled I felt to “come out” about its existence, even though it has always been public. In February 2011 I chose to tell our extended family and friends about my blog and invite them to read it, if they were interested.
It wasn’t long before some of our loved ones became aware of what I shared about them on my blog. A few were not happy about that. Initially I removed a few posts from my blog and not long after that I read through my entire blog and edited specific references that I made to those people who didn’t want me to write and share publically about their lives. They did not ask me to do this and I never formally told them that I did so, but it just felt right at the time. I was genuinely sorry about what happened and apologized.
That was a very painful time in my family and my life. I never intended to hurt anyone through sharing my blog entries; rather I was and continue to be proud to know that I have helped many people who have also struggled with infertility and loss through my writing over the years. I wish when these loved ones read my blog that it could have helped them better understand what Bob and my journey trying to expand our family was like (including both the pain and the joy we have experienced along the way). I hoped it would bring us closer together. However, sadly it has done just the opposite.
How this mistake I made has affected a few relationships with loved ones in our life is the only regret I have about my blogging experience. Sadly, what happened seems to have damaged these relationships in ways that may never be repaired.
Though my loved ones and my relationships are now civil, much of the time it feels superficial to me. I am doing my best to accept and make peace with how all of this played out, knowing that I can’t change the past. I can, however, change they way I write and share going forward. I can also be true to myself around these loved ones, not trying to be someone that I am not in effort to win their approval, as I often did in the past.
Ever since my “big mistake” I have been more careful about who and what I write about on my blog, here on The Today Voice and anywhere else that I share publicly on the Internet. I was hard in the beginning, as I did feel I was censoring myself. But I realized then and continue to be aware now that there is a fine line as to what is appropriate for me to share on my blog and I try not to get too close to it with what I write. If I am ever in doubt, I try to err on the side of not writing about a person, event or situation (unless I have their permission). Otherwise, I am extremely general in how I describe people in effort to conceal their identity. Sometimes I will even “sleep on” a post before hitting publish, giving myself more time to be sure about what I am considering sharing.
Five years of blogging is not for the faint of heart. I am proud of my writing and the ways it has touched people over the years. Expressing myself on my blog and other places has become my passion. It saddens me that not everyone in my life feels that same sense of pride and joy, knowing how my writing has helped me (and others) to learn, to grow and to heal. But it is what it is and I do my best to accept and make peace with that, believing that overall my blog and my writing has brought much more joy into my life and the lives of others than pain.
What’s the biggest mistake you think you ever made? How did it change your life?
Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.