Thursday, June 18, 2009

When News Hits Close To Home

I couldn't help noticing this story recently. It is a story about a woman who blogged about having a terminally ill baby. What do you know, we had a terminally ill baby. When I read more, she claimed that the baby was a trisomy 13 baby. We had a trisomy 13 baby. She claimed that her Christian faith kept her from aborting the child, but to carry it to term. We made the same decision. Lots of people followed her blog and sent her encouragement... same here. The key difference was that she perpetrated a hoax... it was all a lie. Our story was true. Many people are upset with her. Some want her to be prosecuted, but there isn't really any way to do that. She apparently did it to work through some issues that she did actually have in her life. The article states:
In her apology, Beushausen said she began writing the story as therapy but became addicted to the attention it generated. She said she lied "to a community of people whose only intention was to support me through this time and that is wrong, and for that I am sorrier than you could know."
I saw references to this story several times, and the angle seems to be that lying on the internet is just wrong and should be treated as a heinous crime. I would like to say for the record that whether or not lying is a crime it is still wrong. But people have lied for various reasons throughout history. As a librarian, I have always been amazed that people seem to understand someone lying verbally, but they are aghast if it happens in print. Somehow they believe that newspapers only print truth. Book publishers only print truth. The Internet only prints truth. Hello out there! There is not some magical process that prevents lies from entering print media. You have to evaluate truth or falsehood the same way every time. Consider the source and how reliable it is. If you don't know the source, you can't tell how reliable it is. If you follow a blog site for a long time, you may get a better feel for its veracity. Is it backed up by supporting facts? If the story is a very personal one, it is harder to tell.

I also wondered how many people would start second guessing our story since it sounds so similar.

But I am getting off the topic that I really wanted to pursue here. All of that is dealing with the issue of lying to the public. I really wanted to deal with the object of temptation. Before I saw that story, I had already noticed that there was a temptation to people who go through tough issues like we did. Until you are in that situation you may not realize it. And if you are in that situation you may give in to the temptation before you realize it is there. The temptation is to take undue advantage of people's good will to you. Let me take you down the road with me for a while and maybe I can show you what it is like.

When I first got a call from the hospital that they noticed something unusual in our ultrasound, I was proud of myself for having the presence of mind to sit down while they described what they found and why they needed to have a more detailed ultrasound to determine more fully what the situation was. I told Tim what they told me and we were very concerned. We knew that something bad was likely happening, but we knew nothing more than that and we started telling people that we needed prayers.

At our appointment for the second ultrasound, they described the concerns they had based on the first ultrasound and then we had the second one. The pictures were much better and they confirmed the problem. As another avenue of information, we decided to have an amniocentesis done that day, which did confirm trisomy 13. We were shell shocked at the time. We sought information hungrily. I felt like I was moving through a haze going through life and our kids kept pulling me out of this hazy world of seriousness into the present where I still needed to play with them and feed them and love on them. I still had to prepare for Christmas. We shared with everyone our news so that they could pray with a little more information. As a result we were inundated with prayers, concern, love, and good wishes.

The fact that we still had to get on with our lives helped and so did all of the attention people were showing us. I am sure the prayers we didn't even know about helped too. During this early time period we had to make basic decisions like continuing the pregnancy. This is the time when I did most of my mourning for our daughter. Because of the discomfort of the pregnancy, I often found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning. That is the worst time for a troubled person... everything seems bleaker then. It was also the time when we were first public about our trouble and had people coming up to us to find out what was happening. We frequently had people telling us how heart-broken they were for us. They kept asking us how we were doing, asking how we could possibly be managing through it all, and volunteering to help in any way.

Before long we had people telling us how amazing we are and how strong we are. Not all that long ago I had someone I barely know tell me "you're a good christian woman" (out of the blue, as we passed each other, with no other context). Not only do I not really know what she meant by that, both Tim and I are puzzled by these things.

Now we would like to think that we are all the nice things that people are saying to us. However, from our perspective we are simply trying to do the best we can and didn't have a whole lot of choice in dealing with the diagnosis of a trisomy 13 baby. Yes, we did have to make a few choices along the way, but that doesn't change the fact that it had to be dealt with one way or another. We were getting a lot of attention. People were being very good to us. People were making us dinners nearly two months after our baby died. When my doctor asked me (over and over again) how I was managing, he was impressed by the support we were getting.

Do you start to see where the temptation comes in? First you get lots of attention. Then people start saying really impressive things to you and about you. People decide to put their desire to help into action and you get physical help in one way or another. Before you know it, you get kind of used to getting the attention. Then you start getting a big head over how wonderful people say you are. Then you start to receive physical benefits from people who are showing you their love for you. That can be addictive. Apparently that was what happened to the woman in the news story.

Now the reaction to this woman who lied seems to be that people are feeling that their good actions were given to the wrong person, who benefited from it and they feel burned. I want to say that just because someone committed a hoax, should not keep people from doing good things. But I will say that people in the real situation do have a temptation to take undue advantage. So, I will also say to those doing the good works for them, "don't be taken advantage of." I have seen someone wrap herself in what seemed to me to be a cloak holiness. She was frequently used as a motivational speaker who was guaranteed to make people cry as she would tell her story. I knew someone with a terminal illness that rubbed me the wrong way, when I saw her wanting to be treated extra special by everybody all the time. I saw a couple who seemed strong at the beginning when they lost a child, but who went through a very troubled time for many years after because the strength was more show than substance. In all of these cases, I had a little bit closer dealings with these people than a passing acquaintance so I saw a difference between public behavior and private behavior. I don't want that kind of thing to be part of my story.

I would rather people see me for who I am. I am not extra holy. I do not consider myself somehow stronger or especially blessed to handle trouble. I like to think that what we all face in life is common to man. The rain falls on both the godly and the ungodly after all. Instead of saying "why me?", I think the more appropriate question is "why not me?" So, all the extra special treatment felt a little odd to me. It was very helpful. It did do us some good. But I think it is appropriate for a season. It shouldn't become a lifestyle. At least it shouldn't be a lifestyle for the person receiving the special treatment. It is very appropriate for the person giving it as long as they spread it around to everyone.

1 comment:

Crimson Wife said...

That woman clearly has deep psychological issues. I pray that she gets help for them.

It sounds from what I can tell like she is more delusional than out to defraud people for her own personal gain, KWIM? That latter kind of hoax I believe should be prosecuted the same way any other con man/woman would be. But if she was simply emotionally manipulative in order to gain attention & sympathy, that's not a crime. Unethical, absolutely. But that's for God to deal with not the criminal justice system.

I hope you and your family are hanging in there okay. You all are in my thoughts & prayers :-)