The Way We Were

May 31, 2007

When I began blogging, I knew nothing about blogs or mommy bloggers. I didn’t know who Dooce was. I didn’t know what Dooce was. I had stumbled upon a mom blog accidentally, while searching for advice on gas and reflux and the like, and I immediately took it for a diary. A very funny and illuminating diary, but a diary nonetheless.

And I thought, I can do this. I want to do this.

I was under treatment for post-partum depression at the time. My psychiatrist had advised me to keep a diary, to vent and to sort through my thoughts and to keep track of them so that maybe I would maintain enough self-reflectivity about the depression to keep myself a step or two ahead of it (because if you actually write down the words ‘bought single airline ticket to Mexico today; am abandoning husband and baby’ you’re more likely to recognize that that’s the depression talking.) But I didn’t want to keep a diary. I’d kept diaries in the past, and they always turned into the worst kind of sappy, self-absorbed rambling (ahem).

But this, this blogging thing – this seemed different. I could keep a sort of diary and have a handful of people – my husband and friends and family and the like – as an audience, or as a sort of virtual Greek chorus, listening in and commenting upon the action of my mothering struggles as I strutted and fretted these upon the stage of the blog. It would be a way of recording my experience, of articulating my experience, and of drawing a few intimates in to my experience.

So I started the blog as a sort of semi-public diary. That I had an audience, however small, was key: I was writing for that audience – for my husband and for my mom and for the circle of friends that I’d informed about the blog. I was both self-conscious about my writing and remarkably unself-conscious: I’d ramble on about spit-up and swaddling and breastfeeding and swaddling and swaddling again and it was a way of both showing off my writing and performing my motherhood. It somehow made it all easier, more manageable, more fun to work through the struggles of motherhood as a kind of performance. Spit-up is just unpleasant if it’s just you alone, on the couch, wondering what the fack you did to deserve being sprayed with partially-digested breastmilk. But it’s funny if it becomes a story that someone else gets to hear or read. The same is true of snot-sucking and swaddle-busting and sleep-deprivation. And once these things become funny, they become manageable.

My early posts seem, at first glance, to be just so much long-winded rambling about swaddles and sore nipples and snot-suckage and weird toys – but they’re also performative rambles. They’re rambly because the stories felt rambly, because that’s how I would have told those stories to a friend. I would have been breathless and wide-eyed and I would have been cursing a blue streak. That hypothetical delivery made it all the more funny and – to my own mind – accessible. Because that’s how I would have performed those stories, in my living room or at the dining table.

Those early posts, in other words, were just as performative as the posts that came later, once I’d realized that I had a much wider audience, and that I was performing motherhood on a shared virtual stage. In a way, I think, they were actually more performative: there was probably more exaggeration of my frustrations and of my confusion, because I was trying to communicate my experience to an audience that I felt wouldn’t immediately (in the literal sense of without mediation) grasp my struggle. My husband, my family, friends without children – I wanted them to laugh and to admire my skill with the written word, but more than anything I wanted them to get that this shit was hard. That I was struggling. That I was a little bit crazy. That if I was laughing, it was through tears.

But as I began to discover that there was a larger community, out there, out here, beyond the stage and yet, somehow, still on the stage, my performances, my writing, changed. They became, I think, less self-conscious. I did not have to persuade my new audience, my fellow performers, of my experience. They – you – knew. You already knew what this whole mothering was like; I didn’t have to persuade you that it was hard, because you knew that. You know that. Our common experience as parents and as writers made it possible for me to settle down and think about those experiences. Once I was freed from the perceived necessity of dramatizing my true stories – necessary, I felt, if my close circle of non-mother intimates – was to understand what I was going through – I was able to get down to the business of simply telling those stories. And reflecting on those stories, and seeking out other stories, and reflecting on those stories, and so on and so forth.

Writing.

A dear bloggy friend told me, recently, that she loved my old posts – the swaddle rants, the snot rambles – and that she had wondered whether my writing was looser then because I was less self-conscious, less inhibited by the idea of audience. Curiously, the answer is no. I may be more writerly now, but that writerliness has, I think, come hand-in-hand with the loosening of my inhibitions. It was only once I became freed from the perceived need to show that I became better able to tell. And it was you – my audience, my friends, my fellow players – and my awareness of you and my awareness of myself as one of you that freed me.

Thank you.

(big hug)
This is my contribution to our first! ever! BlogRhet meme - on the question of how your blogging has evolved. You can check out the details here (and track the links to check out other posts). And because it’s a meme, I need to do some tagging, and so… Redneck Mommy, Mothergoosemouse, PunditMom, Beck, Julie and Fidget? And you too, Liz. Because you need a distraction from all of that baby love. Have at it. And all the rest of you, too (MBTers? You catch that?). If you’re not too busy doing this.
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On the topic of bloggy love, Bon nominated this post for a Perfect Post award. All the nicer because I especially love that post, too, and am so heartened to know that it struck a chord.
A Perfect Post – May 2007

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Don’t forget about the BlogHer contest that MBT is holding. Just write a post on some variation on the topic of how blogging empowers women. That’s all. You could win a two-day BlogHer registration package. Or, if you don’t want or need the registration, you could also win candy. Candy’s good, too. Deets here or here. Do it. Don’t make me come find you and twist your arm.

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    { 36 comments }

    dana June 1, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I’m thinking about writing about my blogging and how it’s evolved, but I’m not sure it has. This might take a long time to write!

    Mimi June 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Huh. Like bubandpie I imagined the audience thing working the other way around: from less conscious to mre (and may have commented as much, somewhere). Your swaddle ranting got my through my swaddling, too, btw.

    True, though, that writing for an audience of mommies means less having to get everyone up to speed on what it is to be a mommy. Because it’s a given. So you just get on with the story, and wait for the comments …

    Lawyer Mama June 1, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    It seems counterintuitive, but that’s how my blog development worked too. I’m less self-conscious now. Why do you think we become *less* self-conscious the more we write? Is it because we know our audience better? Is it because we feel like more of a community? Or is it just plain old confidence gained through practice?

    I’ve told you this before, but I loved your horse post. It’s one of my favorite all time blog posts. Congrats. You deserve it, Your Badness!

    J. June 1, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Oh wow! She’s getting so big!
    Adorable as ever.

    (obviously I haven’t been over here for awhile … my apologies!)

    Jennifer June 1, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    I continuously feel the need to post a virtual thank you note to my readers. They somehow always come through for me with support, advice, and been-there-done-that wisdom.

    This is an amazing community. I feel honored to have stumbled across it as well.

    chelle June 1, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    I think the more we write, live, laugh, love … the more we evolve. Cool writings on writing :)

    You darling is ever so adorable!

    flutter June 1, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    I am so glad to have stumbled upon you.

    Amber June 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    What a wonderful evolution! Like you, I had no idea of the broader community and my initial entries were limited to friends and when I could force my husband to read.

    But then I discovered a whole world, a network of common experience, of shared joys and struggles. And what a huge difference this outlet has made.

    Jezer June 1, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    You know, those snot and Bad Toyz and swaddling (Oh my GOD how we both fretted over the swaddling. I bet that tipped people off that we were mad waaaaay before either of us admitted it) posts were so sweet and fresh and full of the newness of brand-new motherhood, that it’s easy to feel nostalgic for them, just like I miss the sweet milky smell of my newborn. But I really like how your entries have evolved over these many many months. Our babies aren’t so milky and innocent anymore, and neither is our writing. Probably that’s the way it should be.

    You are a writer that I admire. I’m so glad to be a part of your blogging history. Thank you for the nod. It’s an honor.

    Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" June 1, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Well, I am so happy you blog.

    You are amazing in every way. I enjoy all you wrote about and I am thankful that you share so openly with us all.

    bubandpie June 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    It’s true. Consciousness of one’s audience isn’t nearly as inhibiting as self-consciousness. I just did this meme, looking at how (whether) my writing style has evolved since I started blogging, but if I were to compare my blogging voice to my private diary voice (from before I started my blog) the difference would be huge. The presence of an audience freed me to do more than just make notes of stuff I wanted to remember.

    mothergoosemouse June 1, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    I loves me some good critical thinking, especially with the eye turned inward.

    mcewen June 1, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Like you, I came across blogs by accident, researching something on line – I never imagined that I’d be part of it.
    cheers

    Mad Hatter June 1, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Ya, I really get what you’re saying here. Still and all, I liked the 20 or so of those first posts that I went back to read lo those many months ago.

    Kyla June 1, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    I am really enjoying this meme!

    Tere June 1, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Some of the things you said, about writing to the audience you knew you had and also being both self-conscious and UNself-conscious, struck a chord. I think that’s a bit true of me, too.

    Might have to go back and add that to my post…

    Fidget June 2, 2007 at 2:47 am

    I took up the challenge. You’ll be so proud. I was glutened tonight and have been in horrible horrible pain, but I just had to participate. It’s been so long since I’ve been tagged.

    I to have become less self conscious. I used to think “oh my god, what if someone I know finds my blog?” now I’m a walking billboard for the damn thing.

    ewe are here June 2, 2007 at 3:31 am

    I may have to go back and read some of those early posts…

    :-)

    Susanne June 2, 2007 at 7:33 am

    This is a great topic. And I totally get the lessening of the need to dramatize the stories because you know that your audience shares your experience.

    I’d like to write about this too. I will line it up behind the 25 other posts in my head waiting to be written.

    Girl con Queso June 2, 2007 at 9:04 am

    I loved reading this. So interesting to read about your journey and evolutions.

    Her Bad Mother June 2, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Jezer, the honor is all mine :)

    Beck June 2, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    My early blogging is stilted and ackward to my ears – it took a while for me to become comfortable with the medium, with the idea of writing for an audience.
    Hey, I’m tagged! All right.

    gingajoy June 2, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    I think Lawyer Mama (and other’s) question about how we become “less” self conscious is a really good one, and I *think* I know why. We have a sense of audience, we’re not writing into the void, we feel comfortable, we understand the terms of exchange and engagement. It’s like walking into a room of friends as opposed to strangers, we are less likely to stammer and trip over our tongues.

    Hel June 2, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I’m with susanne – I would love to write on this – but oh the unfinished University essays and studying for the my exam on the 11′th and the awesome posts I have jotted down on paper but don’t have the time to type out.

    But I can tell you that I came acrosss my first blog when doing a search on wombs because I though it was time to make friends with mine. And in a weird but wonderful way I think blogging did help me make friends (with my womb and others)

    BOSSY June 2, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    You should be proud that you have a blogging identity and that you are embracing it. Bossy’s blog identity is about as specific as Sybil.

    mamatulip June 2, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    I remember the first time you commented on my blog. I was on Blogger back then, and I saw the pic of Wonderbaby in the MUTHASUCKA onesie and thought to myself, “Now she’s a blogger I need to read.”

    And the rest…is history.

    ozma June 3, 2007 at 2:36 am

    Love this post. I remember those early days of blather to oneself. Glad you did not take the one way trip to Mexico but I hope you do get a round trip to Mexico sometime soon.

    Jeremiah McNichols June 3, 2007 at 7:50 am

    Great stuff.

    Reminding you, because you asked to be reminded: Looking forward to your (nick)names meme post!

    jen June 3, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Now see, this is why, Bad. This is why.

    ps. you told me to call you out when we were ready. we are ready. xo

    Julie Pippert June 3, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Intriguing discussion.

    Swaddling pro. YGG.

    My kids are very anti-swaddling. Go figure. ;)

    Thanks for the tag!

    As evidence of how In Tune with the blogging community I am, I anticipated your tag via Joy and my blog-on-blog meme response is up.

    Julie Pippert June 3, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Oooh Joy I believe you nailed the conscious versus self-conscious comfort level.

    Excellent.

    mama k June 3, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Interesting thoughts…

    thanks for stopping by my blog!

    PunditMom June 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for your blog. I find it inspiring. And now that you are the second person to tag me with this meme, I guess I’d better get crackin’!

    Liz June 3, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    This was a great post–and I think it very apropos. In my own life, I’ve thought a lot recently about blogging and my personal blogging experience.
    I feel like I’ve devolved into a boring BLAAAAGHness. So I hiked up my skirt and did a little digging recently.
    I’ve always felt that blogging was like live action memoir. I think of my blog as my son’s baby book, because good gravy I haven’t kept up an *actual* book.
    Anyways…I love your blog, thanks for sharing your own particular brand of Mommy Insanity with us. I mean that in a good way, you know.

    Multi-tasking Mommy June 3, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Hmmm…this is definitely getting me thinking about how my purpose has changed along with my blogging itself! Thanks for helping me think some more about the purpose of my blog. For me, the main thing is it allows me to stay orgnanized and is a great place just to share my thoughts and experiences.

    Redneck Mommy June 5, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I’ll have to root around in the back of my closet to find my thinking cap, but once I don it, I’ll be all over this like my son on a smartie.

    It’s going to be hard to be as articulate as you though, love.

    Won’t stop me from trying though…

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