Monday, June 15, 2009

Crazy Mother of the Day: Beccah Beushausen

Per the LA Times, linked above, somebody calling herself "April's Mom"has spent the last two months writing nightly blog posts, sharing the emotionally-wrenching story of her pregnancy. Her child, she wrote, had been diagnosed in utero with a terminal illness, but she was determined to carry the baby to term.

Its easy to see why a story like that would compel readers, especially Christians with an interest in parenting and the pro-life movement. And they came to her in droves; her blog got more hits in one day than, say, the Egg has received in its four years of existence. (We're not jealous, mind you; we're just envious.)

The story had a sad ending, though. Actually, it had two:
  • First sad ending: April was born, survived a few hours, and then died.
  • Second sad ending: It was all a lie.
The blogger, now revealed as Beccah Beushausen, posted a picture of her putative daughter, which a sharp-eyed reader recognized as a doll. Needless to say, fans have been outraged.

Now, look. We could jump all over this in some pejorative political way, and suggest that the anti-abortion movement is driven, at least in part, by the mentally unstable leading the gullible. (And in fact, we have long suspected as much). But deceit and credulity aren't restricted to any one of America's cultural ghettoes. Jayson Blair, anybody? James Frey? Bernie Madoff?

But, at least in this case, we are struck with sadness by the (apparent) psychological backstory of the hoaxer. It seems she did lose a son, a few years back -- a terrible thing, which we would not wish on our worst enemy. And it seems that she started the blog in an effort to deal with that trauma.

In fact, her losses and traumas may run deeper than the article suggests. Here's Beushausen's own rambling apology-cum-explanation. In it, she says (among many other things): ... I am no stranger to losing a baby. I have suffered this type of loss, more than once, to varying degrees, and while the circumstances and times vary (spanning from between my college years through just this last year), the pain is very constant.

We believe her. But we are wondering about "more than once, to varying degrees." What exactly does this mean? The LA Times mentions one loss, which is bad enough; but what are the others? Miscarriages? An abortion? (She does also mention having been "a young, scared woman who didn't know how to handle an unplanned pregnancy," which is often how abortion stories begin.

Anyway, it is a reminder not to believe anything one reads on the Internet. Why, for all you know, Father Anonymous himself could be a strapping six-footer with a lush baritone and Pietistic bent.


Pastor Joelle said...

Um...She *says* she lost a son. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. Unfortunately whatever she says now is unbelievable. There are those people who are so desperate for attention they will lie and manipulate, regardless of the harm they cause others. That is sad.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a modified case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome! (MBPS) is a relatively uncommon condition that involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. One of the most harmful forms of child abuse, MBPS was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for telling outlandish stories.

About MBPS
In MBPS, an individual — usually a mother — deliberately makes another person (most often his or her own preschool child) sick or convinces others that the person is sick. The parent or caregiver misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by lying and reporting fictitious episodes. He or she may exaggerate, fabricate, or induce symptoms. As a result, doctors usually order tests, try different types of medications, and may even hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause.

Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied by gaining the attention and sympathy of doctors, nurses, and others who come into contact with him or her and the child. Some experts believe that it isn't just the attention that's gained from the "illness" of the child that drives this behavior, but also the satisfaction in being able to deceive individuals that they consider to be more important and powerful than themselves.

Because the parent or caregiver appears to be so caring and attentive, often no one suspects any wrongdoing. A perplexing aspect of the syndrome is the ability of the parent or caregiver to fool and manipulate doctors. Frequently, the perpetrator is familiar with the medical profession and is very good at fooling the doctors. Even the most experienced doctors can miss the meaning of the inconsistencies in the child's symptoms. It's not unusual for medical personnel to overlook the possibility of MBPS because it goes against the belief that a parent or caregiver would never deliberately hurt his or her child.

Children who are subject to MBPS are typically preschool age, although there have been reported cases in kids up to 16 years old, and there are equal numbers of boys and girls. About 98% of the perpetrators are female.

Father said...

An anonymous commenter left a comment, which I accidentally deleted (sorry, Anonymous!), suggesting that this "sounds like a modified case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome."

I'm not sure I agree -- in Munchhausen, there actually has to be a child, doesn't there? But it's definitely in big family of "emotional illnesses that involve deceit as a way of making yourself look good to others." Sadly, that's pretty big family.

Anonymous said...

You "accidentally" deleted my comment? web

Father said...

No, seriously, it was an accident. The real kind, not the kind that happens when that "beautiful" gravy boat Aunt MIllie gave you slips out of your hands and shatters into a million pieces.

But what I actually deleted was the email that Blogspot sends me with the text; turns out the comment itself was also stored online, and I recovered it there.

For a guy who spends so much time online, I'm really very lo-tech.