About 7 years ago I was pregnant with my third child. And like most pregnant women, the pregnancy was all I could think about. I belonged to an online forum of women who were due around the same time as me, and through the months we became like family. We knew about each other’s personal lives, offered each other advice, and supported each other emotionally through good times and bad.
The community I experienced was important to me. My husband and I never planned on having more than two children. I was pregnant again by accident. My son was only 1 when I found out I was expecting again. He was an energetic child who took all the energy from me, and just the thought of raising him, and then another child who could be just as energetic…. Let’s just say I was slightly less than enthusiastic about the whole upcoming experience. I joined the forum because I needed to talk about it, and I needed to know I wasn’t alone. And what I got out of it was not only new friends, but an evolving feeling of anticipation for the child that was never planned but loved more and more every day.
Ask a pregnant woman what she is thinking about, and it will pretty much center around her expanding belly and the life inside of her. Pregnancy affects the brain. A pregnant woman could talk about her pregnancy at all times of the day and never run out of things to say. And who can blame her? There is so much going on in a pregnancy – from body changes to hormones to wondering about what’s normal and abnormal to how the family is being affected to swollen feet and peanut butter cravings…. Thing is, in real life, non-pregnant people are not interested in hearing about pregnancy 24/7.
This is where my online community came in.
Suddenly I had a place where I could talk about even the most embarrassing change that was happening to me (hellllooooo hemorrhoids) and someone else would chime in with “Me too!”. If I just needed a good cry, there was always someone there with a “listening ear” and a cyber hug. Every doctor visit was detailed, as was every single flutter against our belly. We filled that board with posts on every single topic relating to our pregnancy, as well as anything else.
When we were all about 5 months along, one of the ladies went into premature labor. We prayed with her for her baby, a sweet baby girl attached to tubes in an incubator to keep her tiny body alive. And privately we thanked God that it wasn’t us, that our babies were still safe and growing inside of us. She continued to keep up with us on the boards, giving us regular updates on her premature baby. A couple women put together a collection to get her a new computer so that she could easily keep us informed. And through pictures we were able to experience her departure from the hospital and watch as she grew a little stronger every day. Even women from the other boards visited ours to offer encouragement and love.
At 7 ½ months along I was sitting on the couch at home when I realized that I hadn’t felt my baby move all day. In fact, the last time I had remembered feeling my baby was in the afternoon the day before when he had given me a series of quick frantic kicks before silencing again. And on the ultrasound at the hospital that night I learned that my child’s heart had stopped beating. It was later learned that his umbilical cord had cinched up tight, that the cord lacked the proper amount of Wharton’s Jelly to be able to stay full and allow food and nutrients to pass through. In essence, my baby had died of starvation.
The support I received from the online boards at this time was overwhelming. They offered me words of sorrow and love over my stillbirth. These women had become like sisters to me in the past months, and were true to their care of me in the loss I experienced. They were feeling the loss as well. The mother of the premature baby was especially attentive with me. She wrote me often in emails to see how I was doing and offer encouragement as I mourned. She helped put together a care package that was sent to me from the ladies, a gift of little trinkets from the forum board to let me know they were thinking of me. And I was grateful for her care. The other women were still safe in their pregnancies, and were about to experience what I was not going to be able to experience – a happy and healthy birth to a living, breathing, wriggly baby. At least this woman knew what it was like when things didn’t happen like they were supposed to. The fact that she survived it and was doing ok even though her daughter now required constant medical care, it gave me faith that I would be ok too.
It was soon after that the boards received an alarming post from someone new. The pictures that this woman was posting were not of her premature baby, but of her sister-in-law’s baby. This woman had in fact lost her baby to stillbirth and was lying that her baby had actually been born prematurely.
The board was shocked. And hurt. And ANGRY. I witnessed the verbal slander that these women hurled at the lying mother, furious that they had been tricked and made fools of. She apologized profusely, and then disappeared from the boards, deleting her profile altogether.
A little while later, she emailed me, explaining her position. She had hurt so much when her baby had died. And to help process the pain, as wrong as she knew it was, she made up a make-believe world where her baby had been born and was real. And having been through loss myself, I knew exactly what she was feeling. We had been a part of a group of women who were all experiencing the same thing. When circumstances changed, when the pregnancies ended without warning, we were suddenly the outsiders. Since losing my baby, I sporadically visited the board to read up on the women who had become my friends. But I found it more painful than reassuring because I could no longer relate. And as their babies were born, it hurt like losing my son all over again. She hadn’t wanted to lose that sense of community. And she didn’t want to have to face the world where no baby existed. So she made up a world of her own.
I can understand the anger that has been fueled by the lying blogger who faked her pregnancy and birth of a terminally ill daughter named April Rose. The heartstrings of people who supported her through emails and gifts were abused. The people who had supported her were made to feel sympathy and love for a baby that never existed.
But I also understand the pain and hurt of a mother processing a life that should have been different. She should have had a baby. That baby should have been alive. There never should have been a tragic ending. I feel for her, this woman who went about things the wrong way to deal with the emotional scars left behind by pregnancy losses.
This story is also a reminder that what we see online and what is real life can be two extremely different things. The mask of the internet allows anyone to be whatever they project to the world, and easily do it without being questioned. This story of the lying blogger is not the first of its kind, and will not be the last. So please be careful in the information you put forth, and be aware that it is possible that there is more to an online person than what they are putting out there.