This is a strange letter to have to write to a kid who is not yet three years old. But it is one I have been thinking about for a very long time. When I first started writing you letters on this blog, I was doing so to document our time together, both before you were born and after. I never could quite imagine that anyone else would ever care to read them, and I continued to write them in the expectation that one day – and who knew when that day would be – you would be able to read them for yourself and would treasure reading them as much as I treasured writing them.
This blog really started because of you. Over the years, long before you were even a twinkle in my eye, I spent a lot of time on this here internet. I was of the generation that learned basic HTML by creating a Geocities website devoted to my favorite celebrity (in this case, The Road Dogg, a pro-wrestler for the then-WWF). I corresponded with faceless people in themed chat rooms, and I had to share an email address with my mother and the rest of the family. We only had dial-up internet, which meant that we had to wait for a loud, obnoxious modem to dial into the world wide web, and if anyone picked up the phone (we still had house phones back then!), the fragile internet connection would be lost.
I used to visit sites like Ask Jeeves to find answers to questions. Back then, Google wasn’t around – or at least I’d never heard of it! But there were various sites – like Yahoo or the aforementioned Geocities – that allowed us to connect with other people and reach out into the world beyond our own little towns. In a strange foreshadowing of my future move to England, I once made friends with a 16 year old girl from the UK. She used funny words I’d never heard, and she explained the differences in our culture in a way that no history teacher ever had. I wish I remembered her name because I would have looked her up.
I met my first husband online. He wrote for a wrestling newsletter that had thousands of subscribers. We somehow fell in love through the written words we sent into the ether, and I moved to England to live with him in the early 2000s. Given that I was so far away from family and friends and everything I’d ever known, I was grateful for the internet to keep me connected to home. Email was great, but I found another medium that filled a void – blogging.
My first blog was on LiveJournal, and it was amazing. It allowed me to keep a diary of all of my life experiences – the good and the bad – and anyone could read it. Not only were my family and friends invited, but random strangers began to interact with me, as well. It made me feel not so alone. Even now, over a decade later, I still am in daily contact with some of those friends I made online. The world is not such a big place after all.
In my early forays into blogging, I spent an awful lot of time writing about childish things. My frustrations with my first husband, my annoyance at celebrities, my memories of other places and other times. I also wrote a lot of fiction. I have always wanted to be a writer, and I joined up with communities that allowed me to share my stories and have them critiqued. Some of those stories were true, some were exaggerated, and some were just downright made up. I never worried about disclosure or what people would think. I wrote because I loved to write, and I wanted people to read my words.
I blogged through my good times and my bad times. I blogged through the death of loved ones. I blogged through my first wedding, my entire first marriage, and I blogged through my divorce. I blogged through depression and attempted suicide. I wrote abysmal poetry, and I shared photos of bloody self harm. I was a mess, and I blogged through it all. I had no reason for discretion because I had no one but myself to protect.
I blogged very little when I first met your father. Those first six months, I probably only sat down twice to update. And that is a bit of a regret because those were some of the best months of my life. When we found out you were coming, I knew that I finally had a real reason to blog. I wanted to share every aspect of my pregnancy, your birth and your life with my family and friends. I wanted to give hope to women who had been told – like me – that they couldn’t have kids. I wanted to share our story. And because I was a little bit paranoid about the risks associated with my pregnancy – I had been told it would be quite dangerous for me to have kids – I was afraid that I might not make it through your birth, and I wanted you to be able to have physical proof of how much I loved you.
I did the same when I found out I was expecting your little brother. I blogged constantly, and I tried to capture every detail in case I wasn’t there to share it personally. That pregnancy was pretty bad. I really thought I might not make it through.
But I did. And you know what? Part of that was down to the constant feedback I had from those who read this blog. I felt such a sense of community. Women (and men) who had been through hard times sent me strength and helped me never to give up. When we were told your brother might have some pretty severe problems, and we were told that I was too ill to do much of anything except lay there and wait, I shared it all and found comfort in all those who promised they were right there with me.
Obviously, the worst never came. Daniel was born healthy only five weeks early. I had to have a blood transfusion, and it was a few months before I was feeling well again, but we got there. And I kept on blogging. For you. For your brother. For your father. And for me.
But then something terrible happened. We had a minor incident that turned into a worldwide talking point. Our whole family was dragged into the limelight, and it seemed that the whole planet knew your name. At first, I was proud – something I had written about a subject that I thought was important was getting recognition. People were paying attention, and that was good. That whole time is a bit of a blur, but I remember just being floored by how much attention was coming our way. Every news agency, and every major network in America got in touch with us. We were invited to be on TV, to be interviewed for magazines. Some of the more unscrupulous newspapers published stories about us without asking permission, stealing photos from my facebook account.
Very quickly, though, the attention turned negative. Suddenly there was a great focus on me and some of the things I’d written in the past. Some of the stories from other blogs or websites were being dragged out and used to discredit me. And since there’s nothing that the media loves more than a story about a fall from grace, many places started claiming that I’d lied. And those that weren’t claiming I lied started looking at me as a bad mother for writing about it at all.
Suffice it to say that for a few weeks, life was miserable. I lost the plot spectacularly, giving in to depression and feeling more than ever that I wanted to die. I felt like I’d failed you and your brother. The sick and twisted emails, phone calls and post that we received did me in. I will NEVER repeat some of the things that people said about you. I will never forget the horrible things that were said about me.
I questioned whether I was a good mother. Had I really failed to protect you? Not only in the original incident, but every second since? The fact that a reporter showed up at our front door, having found us by piecing together photos I’d shared was terrifying. If he could do it, anyone could. He sat down with us and showed me how easily we could be found because of my presence on social media. When he left, I shut down everything. I deleted most of my accounts, and those that I didn’t, I completely privatized. But the attention seemed to take forever to go away.
We left home for a while. We visited your grandparents in Pennsylvania and then we took a trip to the west coast to see your dad’s family. Things calmed down, and I was able to breathe a little easier.
Eventually, I brought things back online. I started blogging again. It was hard, and I was scared, but your dad didn’t want me to let the bastards win.
I realized after all of this that there is a difference between documenting our family stories and chasing publicity. While I genuinely never imagined that we would have become somewhat famous due to a blog post, I understand now that it could happen to anyone at any time. The power of social media is that if you have a strong opinion – about anything! – there will be those who will passionately agree with you, and there will be others who vehemently disagree and want to see you destroyed.
There are also people out there who just get off on hate. They will say the most disgusting things in order to hurt you, and they want nothing as much as to see you break. And you will always have two choices: to give in or to stand tall.
So what I want you to know now, my beautiful tow-headed boy; my accidentally famous son; what I want you to know is that it is never okay to give in. If you make a mistake – own up to it. If you are right – then fight for yourself tooth and nail. Never accept defeat. You can find a way to turn any situation around.
In the last couple of months, I’ve been careful not to share too much. The direction of this blog has changed a little bit as a result, but that is okay. You and your brother are the most important things in my life, and I would do anything to protect you – and that includes trying to protect you from myself.
At the end of the day, my boy, you really are the reason I keep going with this blog. Because despite my self-doubt and what the naysayers like to believe – I know I would give a lot to have a written account from my own mother about my early years. I would love to have that insight into my own childhood, and your father feels the same. This blog is a labor of love for you and your brother, and I will continue to write it as long as I feel it is viable.
And if we ever get accidentally famous again – I will be sure to look the whole world in the eyes, refusing to be bullied into any course of action I don’t want to take. I will be the example that I want you to follow. And I will protect you at any cost.
Forever your loving mother,