I have been blogging regularly for over five years now. Donna’s cancer brought me to the keyboard and I have simply never left. For a person who is not religious, busy, and ‘taking a break’ from the clinical social work I am trained to do, the human connection the Internet affords me is invaluable — honestly akin to food, water, oxygen.
One thing that keeps me blogging are the folks who read what I write. Between Donna’s online cancer journal and Mary Tyler Mom, there have been well, well over one million visits to my posts. That is crazy town for me. I am a geek, a dork, utterly unpopular and awkward. That people care about what I write is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around.
And I know people read because you tell me. So many comments over the years — sustaining, supportive, friendly, funny, loving comments. Most of the time I want to crawl under the covers when I read the love you shower on me. You shower love, I run for the covers. It is humbling and awkward and I don’t quite know what to do with it except keep doing what I am doing.
Every once in a while, I touch a nerve. You see, I am a woman with opinions. I am. I know this as I have always had opinions. Ask my grade school classmates, and they would describe a mini-Mary Tyler Mom who argues about politics and religion. True. Freaking. Story. In the first grade I got into it with a classmate who said her mother let her vote. Well my little first grade self was not going to stand for that. I corrected her misrepresentation and felt justified in doing so. In junior high, I proudly wore a ‘Harold Washington for Mayor’ (Chicago’s first African-American mayor) despite living in the suburbs. Ugh. I can be smug and self-righteous. I know that about myself. I try hard to own it and dismantle it, too.
When I first started Mary Tyler Mom, I was resolute in not wanting to write about cancer. I was going to separate myself from having been sainted as a Cancer Mom. When you have a child with cancer, people tend to think you are somehow stronger, better, more compassionate, etc. The thing is, you’re not. You’re still who you’ve always been, just with something important to say that people may or may not want to hear.
Well, summer 2011, Mary Tyler Mom came out of the closet as a grieving mom. I was still the same snarky, witty woman, but now I was snarky, and witty and sad, too. When I wrote Donna’s Cancer Story last September, my Internet presence kind of ballooned. I was grateful to get the word out about pediatric cancer and I was grateful that lots and lots of people were learning about my dear Donna. If her mother doesn’t tell her story, who will? No one, is the sad truth. So I do.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the praise my readers give me. It makes me uncomfortable. I want to tell you about my flaws as compensation. The things I do that I am ashamed of, the things I wish I did better. I feel the need to humanize myself so no one treats me like a saint, cause a saint I am not.
I am snarky, opinionated, passionate, loud. I was all those things before cancer, too, but now people listen to me.
Overwhelmingly, I get warm reception from my readers. Great heaps and piles of love and support. It’s crazy not only that people like what I do so much, but tell me about it. All the time.
Enter a flaw.
For every hundred or couple hundred warm, heartfelt, loving, supportive comments, I get a mean one. Or two. When I write about something I am most passionate about — pediatric cancer, or bald Barbie dolls, or now, adoption, that is when I get the mean. And while I will read those hundreds of positive, uplifting comments, and they will carry me and hold me up when I feel weak, I will obsess over the one or two negative ones.
See? I told you I was flawed. You should have believed me.
What the freak should I care about what a stranger thinks about me or my life? I shouldn’t give a fig. But I do. Ugh. It makes me feel needy and narcissistic, but I do.
Here is the thing: I chose to write about adoption. I willingly chose to tell the story of our introduction into the world of adoption, as wrenching as it was. When I pressed that ‘Publish’ button, I agreed to accept the consequences of that action. People will question and judge and suggest. It is human nature. And the Internet kind of turns the volume up on human nature, doesn’t it?
Please know that Mary Tyler Dad and I are so grateful for all the virtual support shown to us in the past week. It brings us back to the days of Donna’s journal when we would pour over the comments at the end of a long and draining day in Cancerville to fill us back up so that we could do it again tomorrow. We are humbled by those who shared their own stories of adoption with us — birth moms and dads, adopted kids now grown, foster parents, and adoptive parents. Thank you for that. Your stories fill us with hope at the start of what we know will be a rough process.
Others made suggestions about all different types of adoptions, wondering if we have considered this or that — foster children, older children, international children, special needs children, even older, international, special needs children. Please believe me when I say that we have considered everything. You don’t enter adoption lightly. You truly can’t, as the vetting process for adoptive parents is hard freaking core. We are fully informed of all the adoption options available to us. We know what is best for our family. If others make assumptions about what that means, that is about them, not us.
Also know that our decision to walk away from this birth family was not an easy one or lightly made. Mary Tyler Dad and I did what was right for our family, our son. It does not bring us any comfort to know this family will continue to struggle. They are in the midst of things that affect many American families — drugs, theft, homelessness, emotional and physical violence. They were using their baby as a carrot, dangling that unborn child in front of us, testing to see how tight they could squeeze us. We can’t and won’t invite that into our lives. If others would, please message me and I will put you in contact with their attorney.
Whew. That feels better.
I’ll make you a deal: you keep reading and I’ll keep writing. I will do what I have always done — write about things that matter to me. I will tell the stories that I think need to be told. Maybe, someday, I won’t always be in the middle of them. Maybe, someday, they won’t always read like a Lifetime movie script. Maybe, someday, I will learn to not care about the haters. Truth is, they get me all riled up in the moment, but then I move on. Donna taught me that trick.
So hate away, haters! I’ve gonna choose some hope instead. Donna taught me that trick, too. You should try it sometime.