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Saturday
Jun142008

Blog-sidings

The first time I used the term was during the Los Angeles visit to see The Business of Being Born. I really thought I’d coined the term (ha!), but a tad of research found this example from May 2, 2005:

“How 'bout ‘blogsided’? A variation on blindsided. As in, the director of the Los Alamos weapons lab claims he was ‘blogsided’ by unhappy employees.”

The earliest example of the term “blog-sided” I can find is from Sept. 27, 2004. Granted, it is in a different context, but is still important enough to note.

“My jaw drops open in complete speechlessness that I am even having this (admittedly one blog-sided) conversation!.”

The term isn’t seen much on-line (yet), but I think many more people have experienced blog-siding than have used the word.

Not so long ago, I talked (wrote), albeit in a roundabout way, about my interaction with a client. I didn’t know that she would, eventually, read what I wrote and recognize herself. I thought I knew that anyone could be reading, but it didn’t sink in until this experience. Being Net savvy, she lambasted me (rightfully so) in all the places I was known. I not only removed that piece, but others that could have incriminated clients – even if it was in a good light. My (now former) client felt violated. I apologized and the situation settled down, my re-building my blog reputation over time. I now only write about clients who have given me permission to do so.

Besides removing possibly HIPAA-violating posts, I also removed a lot of my own personal information from my blog because my former husband came along about the same time and didn’t like things I was writing about our kids or him or something; I can’t even remember now, but it wasn’t a pleasant time. In another way, I, too, felt violated. Being personally attacked, sometimes for who I was as a woman, not just a midwife, pulled me into my Self… so much so, I fell into a years’ worth of serious depression.

I’ve written a lot about writing. I’ve said that writing, for me, is as crucial as breathing. When controversial things come out of my fingers and I feel the bite (and I express the sadness/pain to my friends and family), I am asked why I don’t just write privately; isn’t that the same?

In the world before the Internet and blogging, it probably was. But, in an incredibly narcissistic way, it seems that those of us who blog can no longer go back to writing for an empty theater once we’ve had the amazing experience of writing with interaction; even if that interaction hurts deeply at times. That we risk public flogging bespeaks of the deep compulsion to write in a blog.

It took me a long time to inch my way back to sharing my thoughts and beliefs after I removed a great deal of posts from my blog. Interestingly, as I got stronger in my “voice,” I even said things like, “I will never allow anyone to censor me again!” One Tenacious Baby Mama continues as my hero for the Truth in Written Word. When you pull her site up, the first thing you read says, “First of all, you will not like me.” She knows and states it – and makes no apologies for what she says or who she speaks about. It was with her lead (and my family's approval to write whatever I wanted about them) that I stood tall again and let the ideas and words drip from my fingertips after my long (fairly) dry spell.

Blog-sided can also be a wonderful, if not disconcerting, experience. Most of the women in my mothers’ group and all of my clients read my blog. Even knowing this, it surprises me when they will bring up a topic I’ve discussed in my (not-very) private world. That is “blog-sided.”

The other type of being blog-sided comes with anger and retribution.

Writers across the Blogosphere vanish each night. We click on their blogs, long-cherished and much-loved, only to find the cold Blogspot announcement that “The blog you are looking for no longer exists.”

I always think, “There, but for the grace of the goddess, go I.”

I wonder who blog-sided them. Outed them. What they found on the site that was so distressing to the author that s/he felt compelled, no… terrified… enough to shut the whole shebang down.

We sometimes learn what happened. Flea (a physician), for instance, discussed his court appearances as well as his day-to-day life as a doctor. If the rumor was correct, the prosecuting attorney shut his site down.

Fat Doctor took a hiatus and then came back much more anonymously and with this disclaimer:

Blanket statement to anyone wanting to sue me:

I am not your doctor and cannot give you advice. Please call your local hospital for referral to a board-certified family physician.

Unless clearly stated that I have permission to tell the story, patient anecdotes are fiction inspired by true events. Trust me, it's not all about you. Resemblance to any person alive or dead is purely coincidental.

On the other hand, if you are my friends or family members, you'd better watch yourselves or you'll be mocked. Publicly.

Opinions expressed are my own and do not represent those of my employers, coworkers, family, friends, neighbors, dog or the International House of Medbloggers.

Other times, I am quietly invited to join the private space of the invisible blogger, reading with a handful of trusted individuals, commenting where everyone knows exactly who the other is.

Most of the time though, bloggers are gone forever… into the Ethernet. Magnificent writers who shared incredible stories write somewhere in a corner where (almost) no one can see. I miss those folks. I hope not to become one.

I’ve been sharing my thoughts about Licensed and Certified Professional Midwifery lately and it ain’t sittin’ so well with a lot of people. I’ve gotten hate mail, mocking letters that call me “traitor” and an “insult to midwifery.”

The Internet allows people to write amazing amounts of tripe while remaining anonymous. I have a thin veil of anonymity, but it wouldn’t take 30 seconds to figure out who I am.

I’m always slightly amused by comments both here and on other blogs, throwing complaints or nastiness around, yet being left signed, “Anonymous.”

As much as we can’t stand much (all?) of what Dr. Amy says, there is something to be admired about her in-your-face declaration of who she is. Her name and face are right out there on her blog. How many of us can say we’d do the same?

Writing anonymously has its benefits. Those Bloggers who write with their names and locations hidden are able to share the fascinating details of worlds we otherwise wouldn’t get to see. I love reading Med(ical)blogs! They share the flippin’ coolest glimpses into the lives of doctors and nurses. When “seeing” what patients look like from their eyes, I find myself much more forgiving than if I never knew.

When any group of care providers get together, invariably, stories of funky/different/challenging clients comes up and, in the sharing, tension and worry can be released. Looking at people’s quirks, wondering why they do the things they do, remaining baffled by them and sometimes chuckling or crying about the situations brings the participants closer (most times).

Medblogging is the same; voyeuristic glimpses into other people’s lives helps us to learn other ways of doing things, to feel “normal” in a crazy world or to feel not quite so bad after all. I believe it fosters a sense of community, albeit a cyber one. When any of our blog-friends disappears, it is a great loss to us all.

Blogs enable real life discussions on a variety of topics.

A client of mine, after reading my pulled piece on the need for advancement in midwifery education, spoke about the need for transparency in all professions, especially those that deal with real lives. The word “transparency” is perfect for what I feel about the need for midwives to come out of their hidden inner circle and show the world exactly who they (we) are. If there is nothing to hide, no shame, then our status is assured. If, on the other hand, we are afraid we might be judged (and we will) and found guilty of the charges, perhaps we should look at that, not that we shouldn’t have to “answer to” anyone else, that we should hide our charts, our statistics or even our motivations. The day is long gone when midwifery was an isolated entity that can fly under the radar of medical scrutiny. If we don’t measure up, then we need to fix it.

I heard once, if someone is embarrassed to have anyone over to their house because it is such a mess, then flippin’ clean it up! Why live in a place that brings embarrassment or shame? Just clean it up.

It’s what I want midwifery to do, too. I would love to be able to write fearlessly, but perhaps in writing about experiences that go on behind closed doors, I am also acknowledging that I won’t be able to write every thought that crosses my mind. I sure haven’t been able to write about Peer Review and all the antics that went on there (I left) because we had a vow of not talking about what goes on in PR meetings, so there are taboo subjects. I don’t write about every client interaction even though I think many would be incredibly helpful to students and apprentices (if not other midwives themselves). I’ve had to paint with broad strokes so’s not to rock the boat of murky midwifery waters.

So, I do keep a private journal now; one that has the down and dirty of it all. And the joy and laughter that comes with working in a birth setting. As a crone, my days aren’t forever in the workaday world. Someday, I will get to put my thoughts and experiences onto the (public) computer and, if I am really lucky, might get them published. They’d be an eye-opening read!

I’ve been encouraging hidden Bloggers to please capture their thoughts and feelings in a completely private blog. Perhaps some day, they will be able to write about them, maybe creating composite teachers, peers or clients to hide their true identities – maybe not.

As the Net becomes more accessible and blogging even more common (some people who I’d never thought would have one now do!), blog-sidings are going to happen more often. Let’s hope they are more the good kind than the bad.

Even in my (our) expositions, I (we) walk a fine, fine line. It’s keeping my balance that’s the hard part.

Tuesday
Apr292008

Where are My BlogSisters Going?

I'm missing Emory Student Midwife (Journey to Becoming a Midwife) and Minority Midwifery Student (blog of the same name).

Did Emory censor y'all? Where did you go?

Saturday
May262007

I Was Blog-Sided

Standing in line, registering for the La Leche League Conference that is this weekend, a woman came up to me and commented on my having hair this year. She said she’d seen the pictures in my blog throughout the last year, but it was different in person and I looked great! I fumbled for a second and said, “My blog?” and she said she was a faithful reader, to which I laughed and said, “Who, crazy ol’ me?” and she said that must say something about her, too, since she read every day (note to Self: don’t say that again!) and I embarrassingly laughed as she wandered off to do her thing. I’d lost all composure and said to Donna, “I’ve been blog-sided!” I do admit it was a soothing Ego stroke (I can hear Eckhart moaning now) – and it was funny-odd, too.

A rapid-fire process of “What have I written in the last year?” and a bullet list of all the titles of my posts came to mind, zipping past my mind’s eye at lightning speed. Did I say anything embarrassing? Was I hateful to anyone? Did I hurt anyone’s feelings? Could I have been nicer to people? Did I make anyone laugh? How depressing was I? Why did I get so morose with the Wicked stuff? I hope she knows I love midwifery… that I just had a hard patch for awhile (good gawd, I am at a LLL Conference!).

A sort of blog-flashing-before-your-eyes moment.

Shouldn’t every written word that makes its way to the “page” be considered in this much depth (and oh, so much more)? With all the attention words in general receive in our culture and in particular, on the Internet, blogged words certainly require an extra dose of let-me-look-at-you-another-second-before-hitting-publish don’t they?

I am a pretty impromptu writer. Watching me write, you would see me type out the piece, correct a few mistakes, read through the piece once, correct another mistake or two and then hit publish. I then read through the published piece, see new things to be corrected, fix those and then move on. If glaring deficiencies are brought to my attention, I correct those, but post-production corrections are rare. I spell deliciously, so don’t need spell check loads – and write in Word far too infrequently, but am working to correct that (I’ve lost more than a few really great pieces because I wrote in Blogger and not Word) – I am writing in Word now.

Because of my off-the-cuff style of writing, I have, at times, said things that, while seeming correct to me, in my world, when pointed out to me, were wrong in other people’s worlds.

A recent example: Regarding the Fat Vagina post, an anonymous commenter said:

You wrote: "I am the rare homebirth midwife who takes “obese” clients and doesn’t automatically see them as high risk, sick, Gestationally Diabetic, or an automatic transfer to have a cesarean."

See, now why do you have to do that? I'm not sure why you do it, but from this perspective, it looks like you feel the need to "pump yourself up" by putting down others (even subtly) in comparison. You so frequently say how you do things differently than "most midwives" or "other midwives" and those things you mention are pretty much standard of practice among most homebirth midwives--but yet you let your readers think you are so far and above all the others. It's not the truth that you are the "rare midwife" who (doesn't discriminate against obese women), because it actually would be a rare homebirth midwife who would risk a woman out for size.

I have been around midwives for 20 years, a lot of them, and I have not known any to discriminate against obese women the way you describe. Have you been party to everyone else's practices and choices over the years? You couldn't possibly, because as dwindling an art as midwifery is, there are sure a whole lot out there for one person to cover. How many midwives in your own community do you think would treat an obese women's case that way?

Why can't you simply say "I don't discriminate against women in the following ways....etc etc" which is really not only an honest statement (stick with the "I," not comparisons) but doesn't give an inaccurate impression to readers about how other midwives practice? This is something I've seen here many times, and I hope you will really think about it rather than dismiss it because you don't like to hear it. It's a mean-spirited habit that gives midwives in general a bad name, all in the interest of making yourself sound better. I know you are very given to exaggeration, but can you consider toning that down more to truth-size when referring to other people? In terms of how you manage the various practice patterns you have blogged about here and how you do them "better," "less," or "more," most really are not any different than how the average homebirth midwife practices.

I say, “…. “ and an anonymous poster clarifies by saying, “…”

end comment

I’ve sat with these words for a couple of weeks now, listening deeply, wondering about my Ego and whether I am trying to make myself (seem to) be a more wonderful midwife than all the other midwives (at least when I wrote the piece over a year ago)... and when I write in general. I tried to think about all the midwives in my experience who have had pregnant fat women come to them desiring their care and what the midwives said about them in public versus what they said about them in private and what the criteria was (emotional or “medical”) they used to decide to accept them into their care or pass them on to someone else.

I think this anonymous midwife is correct, especially in regards to this piece. I think the majority of homebirth midwives I know/have known do not automatically risk a fat woman out. I do have plenty of memories of CNMs who have had to risk fat women out of birth centers and even some hospital-based midwifery practices, not because they wanted to, but because their doctors required it.

In giving this a whole lot of thought, my only defense – and it is a lame one and not one I am claiming to keep – is that the article was originally written for OBs, RNs and CNMs and by saying that I was a “rare” midwife, perhaps I would be heard differently.

As I said. Lame. Lame. And wrong.

And I apologize.

I apologize to my midwife-sisters for saying that they risked fat women out. I apologize to fat women who now think midwives will risk them out for being fat. I apologize for my careless use of words that shouldn’t have been used flippantly – and while humility is, er… humbling, I want to thank the anonymous midwife for bringing my Ego to my attention. I will watch my words more carefully. Thank you.

And, while we’re at it.

There’s another commenter that I want to speak about.

When I wrote In My Emailbox, telling an aspiring midwife the painful and difficult sides of midwifery, Sam said:

Food for thought: I understand you've experienced some difficulties, but so often you speak of midwifery and of your own office with disdain and disgust. How can you continue to offer loving, attentive, quality care with all that swirling in your head and heart? I'm not so sure you can. WHY do you continue? Why bother? It doesn't serve the people your work is meant to serve, and you've made it repeatedly clear it isn't serving you. If we consider the law of attraction as a factor, you might consider finding work you DO love and can speak kindly of, because this continued attitude isn't going to turn things around for you anytime soon. If potential clients could all read what you think about it, I wonder if they would want to trust you as their midwife, and just because they can't all read it...doesn't it emanate from you anyway? How will that truly build a practice?

And while I respect your right to hold and discuss your feelings about it, I personally feel it's unfair and selfish to speak of it as if it's the bottom-line truth for everyone, as if you're revealing the one real truth about being a midwife. This is what it's been like for YOU, but it is NOT every midwife's experience...it is NOT the truth of midwifery.

end comment

S/he asked me questions that needed to be asked - bluntly, harshly, yet filled with a knowing of me as a person, that I wouldn’t (probably) go deleting my blog, ignoring the words by defending myself self-righteously (maybe I would at first, but I didn’t even then) or being so snippy as to delete the moderated comment and not allow anyone else to even read it. I never even considered not publishing it.

I don’t know who you are, Sam, but you were quite the cold splash of water in my face! I was none too pleased to read what you had to say, but I listened anyway and your words coincided with the introduction of all The Secret information and its subsequent absorbing into my system. If you hadn’t said what you said, I don’t know if I would have been as receptive to The Secret, Abraham Hicks, etc. It all might have glanced over me and I’d still be splashing around in the neck-high water of isn’t-this-so-hard-on-me? Thank you.

Other Bloggers are being blog-sided, too.

Flea, Fat Doctor, Neonatal Doc, etc. have all shut down, moved or removed their blogs. An on-going discussion about medical blogs and their noteworthiness (or patient exploitation-ness) has me sighing with understanding for their situations (except for Flea who might actually be discussing his blog in court). It is easier for me to ask outright, “Do you mind if I write about you/this?” than it is for a doctor, but I suspect blanket admitting/registration forms one day might include, “… and give my permission to allow any discussion regarding my case, whether face-to-face or in a cyber setting…”

Continue reading your forms.

While I haven’t read these docs in awhile, it saddens me greatly they are no longer a part of the Medical Blogosphere; I always knew they were just over there, ready for me to read when I had a minute. And now they are gone. Their humor, their wisdom, their points of view, their amazing writing skills. Gone.

My hope is that each time I am blog-sided, when those flashes of “what-did-I-write?” zing through my mind, I hope I can smile (mostly)… knowing that I did do my best, write my best, and that the next person after that walking up to me hugs me, thanks me and wishes me many more words.

There are still so many more words. Always, many more words.