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Only Slightly Shorter Than The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, But at Least You Don’t Have to Memorize It.

{Delay in posting brought to you by Seeing My Father for the First Time in Four Years, Under Circumstances Appropriate for Depressing and Overwrought Short Fiction—no, no I’m NOT kidding, and like most every other event of the past three months, this is a matter deserving of a whole entry of its own, and I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but just between us? I think 2011 might be trying to kill me.}

Before we get started, I’d appreciate it ever so if we (well, YOU) could agree to read this whole thing before commenting. It might seem like an odd request, but there is a part of this entry (possibly more than one, now that I think about it) that might tempt a person to emit a screech of fury and skip directly to typing. Maybe, instead, that would be a good time to take a cleansing breath or throw some small, unbreakable object. That’s a fine idea, actually. Find yourself something for throwing and have it nearby, next to your snack. But no typing until the end.

So! she says, clapping her hands briskly together: let’s begin.

A few days after Simone’s birthday, I opened my Inbox and saw the subject line indicated below by a helpful red arrow:

(WAIT! No typing! Use your small, unbreakable object!)

I am posting this screenshot not for dramatic flourish, but because I can think of no other way to adequately covey the experience of seeing an email titled “[YOUR CHILD’S NAME] Must Die.”
My first thought, bizarrely, was about punctuation: At least it’s not an exclamation point at the end, I thought. Then I decided the period was worse—more chilling. Then I realized that while I was thinking about punctuation and feeling my insides go cold and then hot and then cold again, I still hadn’t opened the message.
I wanted to recreate that stomach dropping flush of horror in you not just because I am A Giver, but because if I’m going to ramble on and on (and ON) about my reaction, you might as well understand what I was reacting to. Only you will just have to trust me as to what information is necessary to that understanding, because I won’t be posting the rest of the email. I’ll tell you about it, but without quotes. If my emailer wants the rest of his words public, he is going to have to pay for his own damn hosting space, or visit one of the many public forums where people can (and do!) mock children. (HINT: This is not one of them.)

Here is what I will say:

-Nowhere in the message did the author actually threaten Simone. Or me, for that matter. He said he hopes she dies a horrible death before adulthood—but, well, wishing doesn’t make it so. He did propose, in so many words, that *I* kill Simone, which suggestion I have rejected.

-While the vitriol was ostensibly directed at my daughter, it was largely of the UR BAYBEE’S UGLY!!!1!! variety and seemed specifically designed to provoke *me* (which makes sense, as Simone isn’t much of a reader just yet).

-The author has a history of commenting here and elsewhere online, if you expand the definition of “commenting” to include “lobbing hate speech and inflammatory statements with the obvious intention of creating an outraged kerfluffle.”

-The author is grievously misinformed about the impact of Simone’s early birth upon her current medical status and the likelihood of her need for future assistance from the state. (This lack of reading comprehension is maddeningly rampant among my hatemailers and online detractors. I give to literacy programs, I volunteer, and still people manage to come away from hours of perusing my website with the impression that my daughter is blind, deaf, and in possession of a stunning array of developmental problems that leave her with little quality of life.) I’m sure it says something unflattering about me that I find it far more difficult to not respond to these factual errors than I do to ignore the insults.

-Nothing in the text compared to seeing the subject line, but it was a profoundly ugly message.

After reading it in full, I instinctively closed the door to my office, not wanting Scott to see it before I was ready to show him. I felt sick and angry and weirdly ashamed. After all, I had thrust Simone out into the online nethersphere, exposing her to these sneering halfwits. I didn’t much feel like trusting the world with my baby anymore, and not just because of this most recent salvo—Simone has been a target of Internet mischief-making since her birth, and three years of studiously ignoring cruelty takes it out of a person. I’d been happily sorting pictures of her 3rd birthday celebration for a post, but after the email I was disinclined to share them. I wanted to write about the email, and the ways its alighting upon the already heaping weight of online ugliness had tipped some internal scale of mine, but I found I couldn’t.

I strongly suspected that I was either over or under reacting—possibly both—and decided I shouldn’t post about the situation until I figured out which it was. Maybe people would think I was making a mountain out of a molehill: this was a documented shit-stirrer trying to get a rise out of me, nothing more. Maybe people would think I wasn’t taking this seriously enough; they would lecture me about lawyers and scold my naivete. Probably there would be some of each.
I swung from one extreme to another myself, alternately flippant and litigious. I did file the pertinent reports, and in the process had a conversation with a kind police officer who characterized the emailer as “some nut giving unsolicited parenting advice.”
“If you can call ‘Kill her’ parenting advice,” I said, and we both had a good laugh.

Part of what made my own thinking about redrawing Internet boundaries so muddled was that I kept stumbling back upon Conventional Wisdom gleaned from the writing of others who’d dealt with similar dilemmas. Alas, Conventional Wisdom made contradictory demands upon me. One such set of demands goes like this: Do Not Acknowledge Internet Trolls/Do Not Let Internet Trolls Dictate Your Behavior. The idea is to proceed as if the incident never happened at all, so as not to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they “got to you.” Attention will only encourage them, because attention is what they want, so we mustn’t give it or The Terrorists Win. But if the reason I am not posting about something someone wrote is directed at producing or not producing a certain reaction in said someone, doesn’t it seem to anyone else like that is allowing said someone to influence my behavior just as much as writing about it would? {Ed. Note: Whew!}

“There’s this idea that If I post about it, he wins,” I explained to Scott a few days into my internal stalemate. He snorted, and then said something very wise:

“He doesn’t ‘win.’ Trust me, this guy isn’t winning anything—he’s not taking time out of his busy WINNING Schedule to make fun of 3-year-olds.”

Of course, he was right, but I still couldn’t seem to write anything, so instead I thought about it. A lot. Not just about the “Simone Must Die” email, but about writing online, and privacy and honesty and anonymity and cruelty, and how the lines we are unwilling to cross move when there are children involved. And now I am ready to inflict share this jumble of thoughts upon with you.

(Oh, you thought we were done? Sorry! I’m just getting started.)
(I did warn you, after all.)
(This would be a good time to unwrap your snack.)

People are tediously fond of comparing the online community to high school, but there is one way in which this comparison is in fact very apt: both tolerate a lack of basic decency that would be unthinkable in most other public environments. In high school, on a daily basis, I saw people pushed, humiliated, taunted, and laughed at. I can honestly say that I never once did the same (and Simone had better be able to say as much when she is older, because that right there is one behavior I will not abide). There was one girl in particular at my school who was the butt of seemingly every joke, and one day while she was being teased by a gaggle of our classmates I slid into the seat next to her and tried to be friendly. It didn’t go well. She assumed that I was making fun of her myself; why else would I be talking to her at all?
Treating a person so badly for so long that she is suspicious of anyone who would do otherwise changes who they are. I’ve never understood how anyone, teenager or no, can be so intentionally, casually cruel. How can you think so little of another human being that you feel entitled to belittle them for your own amusement?

We all have unkind thoughts, and I’ve said unkind things privately that I would not want repeated in public. I try to do this as rarely as possible, even between friends, but I’m human, and like most humans, I don’t like everyone. I also don’t go around *telling* people that I don’t like them, online or off. I may argue with them, but I am capable of remembering that not every opinion needs to be expressed. There is nothing noble about taking time out of your busy day to tell a stranger that she is a bad mother, even if you think she is one.
(It’s children, more than their mothers, who are considered public property. The less utopian side of “It Takes a Village” is the woman scolding you for taking your baby—the VILLAGE’S baby—outside without a hat.)
People often get stroppy about the first amendment at this point in the argument, and it tries my patience, that it is so difficult for some to understand what is a relatively simple concept:

Having a right to do something does not necessarily mean that doing that thing is right.

For a long time—years—I never deleted a comment. With the exception of spam, they were all allowed, no matter how hateful. I had the vague impression that to do otherwise would be tenuously adjacent to censorship, that if I was going to “put myself out there,” I had to be prepared to take whatever anyone wanted to dish out. Eventually I managed a distinction between dissent and irrelevant bile, but that still left a strange breed of commenter who, while not flinging obscenities for sport, made a habit of consistently posting extraordinarily rude remarks, often overlaid with a veneer of topic-appropriateness. A few months ago I started banning those as well, and posted the following update to the previously nonexistent comment policy here at Flotsam:

1. I continue to welcome respectful dissent, but I will no longer welcome those who make a habit of leaving snide, passive aggressive comments exclusively or anonymously.

2. Comments that are cruel and/or irrelevant, i.e. those that are composed of pointlessly insulting remarks upon my appearance/my child’s appearance/how boring or unamusing you find my website (you know, THIS site, the one you’ve chosen to devote your limited time to perusing) will be promptly deleted and the commenter blocked.

Criticism has always been part and parcel of writing for public consumption, but the tenor online is different, and seems to foster a uniquely depersonalized nastiness. For some reason, the Internet has given many people the impression that social contracts and standards of decency are suspended online, as a corollary to the possibility of anonymity. They aren’t. The presence or absence of consequences for bad behavior is irrelevant. The wrong thing doesn’t stop being wrong when no one is watching.

Some of my sternest censure is reserved for those who profit by cultivating outrage. There is money in outrage now, lots of it. I wonder how some sites reconcile posting high-minded musings on the horrors of bullying alongside headlines and articles designed to polarize and infuriate. I’ve seen the courting of controversy defended as “sparking debate” in a revoltingly disingenuous attempt to apply a Serious Journalism patina to what is essentially an online successor to The Jerry Springer Show. Comment sections explode with personal attacks; moderators and authors call for civility but do little to enforce it. Then they publicize the conflagration—Have you seen this? Have you heard what These People are saying about Those People?—in a manner that seems equal parts mischievous teenaged Mean Girl and I Claudius-worthy guile.

I write creative nonfiction; I am used to navigating the tricky ethics of writing about people who actually exist. I am already selective in what I write about my family, both online and off. Considering a subject’s reaction to what I write about them is familiar territory, but considering their reaction to criticism of what I write about them is not. People are quick to remind one another that The Internet is Forever, but I wonder how many think about the fact that “forever” applies not only to their own websites, but also to those discussing them. How will Simone feel stumbling across strangers opining that she ought never to have been allowed to live at all? I can hope or believe that she will be able to roll her eyes at their stupidity, that the love and gratitude expressed by other strangers will far outweigh it, but I’m not sure that I have the right to assume that risk on her behalf. Simone is three, and at this age I do have a tremendous amount of control—for now, her exposure to the world is largely at my discretion. Why not take advantage of what—with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and tweenagers broadcasting their every movement in poorly-spelled shorthand—is becoming an increasingly brief window of opportunity? I can’t prevent anyone from ever saying a cruel word about my daughter, but I can make a decision to limit the access I provide to her.

In short (ha haaa!) the question is this: if I KNOW that writing about my young child has made her a target of mockery—however irrational and ill-informed—do I have a responsibility to protect her stories and pictures from being used as fodder for it? Does this send a message that I value her right to privacy, or does it say something much more complicated by giving weight to the words of a bully?

******

The People of The Internet seem to agree that we have a responsibility to avoid trampling upon our children’s privacy online, and to consider their possible future feelings about our writing. On the other hand—a triumphant fist, really—there is an increasingly defensive mandate for truth-telling, and not as in “not lying.” This is a touchier, feel-ier, CAPITALIZED Truth-Telling. This goes along with the Conventional Wisdom dictating that letting hatemail stop me from writing about my family means ceding some nebulous advantage to Evil.

I have two problems with what I have observed among those proposing this stance. One is what I will call Rosa Parks Syndrome (if you have not read that essay by Sarah Vowell, you owe it to yourself to take a break from this screed treatise novella post and do it now). In this case, the syndrome manifests itself in a lot of We will not be silenced! We are mothers who blog! Un-silent mothers! Death to The Patriarchy, one lyrical anecdote at a time! sort of talk. Before you retrieve your small, unbreakable objects in order to throw them at ME, let me say that even five years ago, I’d have been with you, and I still do believe that there is tremendous value in women writing about their everyday lives—as mothers and otherwise—online. Other People’s Archives were my What to Expect When You’re Expecting. However, at this point it seems a little thin to continue insisting that the voices of a group of largely white, moderately well-off mothers with Internet connections are being systematically ignored and silenced, especially when this battle cry is mostly taken up by people who have been able to turn membership in the largely-white-moderately-well-off-mother demographic into a financially viable business model.

I fully agree that motherhood is undervalued. (I also think it is overvalued, which is part of why mothers are subjected to such intense and unfair public scrutiny, but the intersection of those statements is a complicated can of worms and have you not SEEN how long this is already?) I especially agree that writing about motherhood is a good way to get yourself shelved in the Pregnancy & Childbirth section (AHEM), and I could write a whole other screed treatise novella post about the pigeonholing of female writers writing about traditionally female subject matter (with a subsection on the special circle of irrelevance reserved for those who add humor to the already dangerous combination of being female and writing about parenthood—Calvin Trillin and Ian Frazier escape by a penis-length!). Online, though, this ostensible persecution just isn’t there. If anything, domesticity is rewarded. Mothers online make up an extraordinarily privileged group wielding huge influence. It’s not that some people don’t take those who blog about motherhood less seriously than those who blog about technology—they do, and it’s silly—but mothers who blog probably face less discrimination for being mothers than most other segments of the mothering population.

My second, and primary, problem with the credo of Truth-Telling is the almost fanatically absolute value it grants to honesty. Over and over, I see honesty being treated like a magical forcefield. This attitude is not confined to the Internet—there are plenty of poorly written memoirs that attempt to stand purely on the rawness of their content—and in general the shocking and the bare have begun to be viewed as exempt from considerations of both taste and ethics. Honesty is not the same thing as artistic merit or moral rightness, and is not a defense to criticisms of either.

I haven’t written much about this, but I was teased fairly ferociously from kindergarten on. I was a weird kid, and then I was funny looking, and later I dressed like a cross between a drag queen and a Japanese cartoon character.
Even in the first grade, I was a big proponent of the don’t-let-them-know-they-got-to-you school of thought. I may have cried at home, but in the moment I did no such thing. Ever. Happily, I had a Smart Mouth, and this is a tremendous asset when confronted with bullies. Bullies are usually with friends, and thus especially easy to embarrass—make the friends laugh at the bully, and no one need ever know about the painful lump in your throat. You can convince people that you’d never believe that what the bully said was true, that being called ugly doesn’t faze you in the slightest.

By the end of junior high, the teasing had become so expected that I didn’t bother with my Smart Mouth anymore. Instead, I behaved as though the jeering figures were erased from reality, adopting the same middle-distance trance as one does when dealing with NYC Sidewalk/Subway Shouters. I won’t pretend it never upset me at all, but it became such a part of the fabric of my school day that I remember very few specific incidents. One that sticks stubbornly to the inside of my skull is from high school: my locker was next to a short, jock-y, popular boy who tormented me whenever he got the chance, and before Math one afternoon I was getting a book out of my locker when he and his friends ambled up and started in on me. I don’t remember what they said, but I can assume that deep-throated shouts of “FREAK!”—released as close to my face as possible—were in the offering. I ignored them, moving unhurriedly about my business, and then I walked to class. It wasn’t until I was seated at my desk that I unshouldered my backpack and saw the great, viscous pool of green snot that had been horked onto the top of it.

I didn’t like being shouted and laughed at or spit on. The teasing would almost certainly have petered out if I had stopped wearing giant platforms and fake lashes and sequins glued about my eyes. The strange thing to me, looking back, is that it never occurred to me to do so. I don’t mean that I considered the option but dismissed it out of hand, I mean that I did not consider it at all. This was not out of courage or strength of principle, though I will admit that it did take a certain settling of the shoulders to walk into school each morning. I wasn’t immune to the idea of “cool,” but I had the same unwavering faith in my version of it as my tormentors did in theirs: I would sooner have DIED than wear khakis or a button down shirt, and if the only way I could dress the way I liked was to make the clothes myself and put up with gawking, laughter, and tourists taking pictures of me at the mall, so be it. It wasn’t defiance for defiance’s sake, or because I felt honor bound to stand up for the rights of middle-class girls everywhere to wear goggles and dangerous shoes.
There was nothing especially admirable about my behavior, but I do admire the lack of calculation involved in it. I seem to be making a lot of grand, philosophical-type statements, so I might as well go ahead and make another: knowing that an action will result in criticism or trouble and doing it anyway is not inherently brave or good. When she is older, I hope that Simone feels secure enough to be true to herself in the face of opposition, but I want that impulse to come from inside of her, not from a self-conscious insistence on Not Backing Down.

As usual, I have failed to come to a pleasingly definitive conclusion. (I wonder sometimes if ever I will come to a pleasingly definitive conclusion about anything, try as I might.) There is no “safe” number of pictures or posts or mentions below which Simone will cease being a target, and mean people aren’t going anywhere. Why not excise her from my public life altogether? What’s the point of posting about her less? I don’t feel any closer to an answer than I did the day I saw that subject line in my Inbox, but I’m increasingly certain that’s because there isn’t one, not really, at least not a One True Answer, a Right Thing To Do. I think worrying less about carving out some sort of widespread policy on Internet exposure IS the answer, or as close as we get, and part of that is accepting that there is no rulebook, and maybe there shouldn’t be, because maybe the rules don’t come from anywhere but us, and probably they change all the time.
I do know that the idea of omitting my greatest source of joy, of keeping entirely mum on the topic of the strange and exhilarating and remarkable experience of witnessing and shepherding the growth of a whole new human…well, the idea of that makes this site seem pointless. Not because I exist solely as a mother (only one of the essays I am working on now mentions Simone at all), but because while I don’t believe that full disclosure is a mandate, or honesty a virtue unto itself, I do believe in the importance of telling our stories, and my daughter is, sometimes, an inextricable part of mine.

I often think that reading—most art, really—is like a vast, temporally flexible game of Marco Polo. (Not the most sophisticated metaphor, but there you go.) We are desperate to see reflections of our own lives and experiences pinned down and made richer and more coherent with language. They help us understand ourselves and our world, and give us the relief of knowing that we’re all in this together. I wrote a whole damn memoir, for god’s sake, and I wrote it because I know firsthand the loneliness of being unable to find an echo. When some woman carrying one live baby and one dead one, or sitting next to an isolette, whispers “Marco!” I want my book, flawed as it is, to be the “Polo!” called reassuringly back to her.
On our best days, I think that this is what blogging does, and with an immediacy that is breathtaking. We owe that immediacy to the Internet, along with unprecedented access to other people and their stories, and I often think I owe much of both my physical and mental health to that access. That access is also the source of comments that imply that I’m a bad mother because my house is messy and email messages that tell me to kill my daughter. It’s complicated.
So. I might post about Simone, or not, according to my internal whim. I have a lot of faith in my internal whim, or at least I am trying to.

165 comments

  1. emma says:

    Alexa I admire your eloquence in the face of such ugliness. I have no advice or even any position on privacy of your family but in a purely selfish way I am glad that you have the courage to share your life. Simone is beautiful (not that that is important).

  2. This is going to take some time for me to think through, but I wanted to take a moment just to say that I read every word and it resonated deeply.

    (But, even after being lulled by your calm words and thoughtful parsing of the situation, I still want to throw something at whoever wrote that email to you.)

  3. I feel like I should read this again, but I’m going to comment anyway. I did read the whole thing.

    The last paragraph totally sums it up for me. I don’t want to feel alone, I don’t want anyone else to feel alone. I spent my life being bullied, without any lasting friendships. I still don’t make friends easily. I’m always waiting like that girl was for people to betray me. The Internet is my safe place, and while I still have a hard time trusting, here is the one place I don’t feel alone.

    Your reaction to everything is more thought out and more reasoned than I think he deserved. I think you are winning! Duh!

  4. Jayne says:

    Yow. It’s a good thing you made it a point of telling us to read the whole thing first. You’re going about processing this whole thing very maturely but, should you decide to go a different way, you know you have a whole little army of girls here who’d be happy to go rough somebody up if need be. That said, I have an autistic child, and a baby who was once a two pound preemie, both conceived with ART, and because I live in Canada and have awesome health care, they really are burdens on the state, boy howdy, so that really hits home.
    As a mommy blogger, I self edit furiously, because of a gillion reasons, none of them even tangentially related to The Truth. I can’t offend some people I know are reading, I hate to dwell on some of the more negative/less glamorous aspects of my life, and I only have so much time. I don’t feel bad about it, but I don’t think I feel writing to as sacred as you obviously do.

    • Alexa says:

      I self-edit for all the reasons you mentioned as well–not a thing wrong with that, in my opinion, and no need at all to feel bad about it.

  5. Cupcakekarate says:

    I, too, am processing what you’ve written (it’s a good thing I had that salted beef!). I think what you’ve said is so important- the balance between bridging the chasm of solitude while protecting those you love from Internet Jerks is delicate. I trust your internal whim and I appreciate that everything I’ve read from you (especially lately) seems to be thoughtfully posted rather than thrown out there just to get a post up.

    Thank you- I’m not a mother, nor do I plan to be one any time soon, but something about your writing speaks to me.

    • Alexa says:

      Thank you. I will pass your vote of confidence along to my Internal Whim. Also, it is nice to know that a) motherhood is not s prerequisite for enjoying my writing (I worry sometimes that I bore non-mothers) and b) that you don’t mind my posting infrequency. I really would like to post more (a LOT more), but it is hard for me to separate my stifling and unreasonable perfectionism from my legitimate desire not to post utter crap. Work in progress.

  6. Mimsie says:

    Alexa, your post is unbelievably touching. I had to go back to your recent post and gaze at the photos of your darling Simone’s happy birthday parties and shake my head. HOW could someone write menacing and vitriolic comments about such a precious and innocent little girl who has been through so much in her short life. Oh, and the school bullying–it makes me feel sick. It happens everywhere, and does not end when the bullies graduate. Please keep writing to us, for us, for yourself, for your family. Hugs!!!

  7. carolyn says:

    I have no words to use to respond to such a brilliant piece of writing. [Oh, wait. Maybe I do.] The issue of privacy and blogging is one often discussed but hot damn, you made it… I don’t know. You elevated it. You brought it to the forefront and made it difficult to ignore. I think everyone needs to read this and understand that there are PEOPLE writing these blogs. People with real children and real skin and real feelings. And there are freaks reading them who just don’t care.

    I’m so sorry that you went through this. Of all the blogs in the world, yours is my absolute favorite, and it would be terrible if you were to leave. Yet I know what it feels like to want to shield your child. At least, until that first day of school.

    • Alexa says:

      Oh, thank you! And yes, I think it is easy for people to think of the people writing blogs as paper doll versions of people, and forget that they are as real and familiar and mysterious as anyone else.

  8. Ginger says:

    I have a feeling I will need to read this at least 4 more times, because you have stirred at least that many thoughts in my head. But I wanted to at least say this–as with all things, instinct and gut feeling go a long way. I’m not sure what I would do were I ever in your shoes, but going with your internal whim will likely guide you right.
    I do want to throw things at that person though. Hateful, hateful person.

    • Alexa says:

      I have long been an admirer of yours (and anyone who hasn’t read Mir’s recent-ish post on the Pain Olympics should). Thank you, and I hope your snack didn’t congeal or anything.

  9. Ariel says:

    Well, I DID read all of that, and my own two cents are that I would miss hearing about Simone if you stopped writing about her, because I’ve been cheering for her since before she was born. But obviously, you are her mama, and you must do what’s right.
    Also, mean people suck. All the time, everywhere.

      • Alexa says:

        Yes, and that is part of the difficulty for me–so many of you have been her cheering section since before she was born, and you got me through those times. Obviously Simone doesn’t “belong” to anyone, even me, but I feel like you are all her…aunts, or something.

  10. Patti B. says:

    Speechless…but I’m with most everyone else that I DID read all of your words but sadly the heinous words that the freak loser idiot monster wrote to you still stand out. For someone who has fought so hard to be on this earth with her loving family, Simone seems to have been randomly plucked out of the blogosphere by this scum. Lucky for all of us she is strong, and then some, just like her Momma. I will miss hearing how your itty bitty baby plays on the playground and enjoys her school days, but I will understand if that’s your decision. I love your blog, loved your book and think you are an amazing mother. Better days ahead.

  11. Sara says:

    Jesus fuck what is WRONG with people?! I am constantly amazed at the things they will write online or in email. I’m almost hoping that guy has some sort of mental illness, you know? Because if there are quote-unquote normal people walking around this world sending emails like that…like, do I have to go outside my house? It all seems like too much sometimes. I am so sorry you had to read that subject line, not to mention the email itself. So, so sorry.

    • Alexa says:

      I think I know what you are trying to say. It is easier to accept this behavior if there is some sort of definable medical explanation for it, but unfortunately I think that as much as we’d like to be able to “other”-ize this sort of thing, the truth is that regular, ordinary people not so different from us are capable of awful cruelty.

      • Ashley says:

        It struck me as I was reading and asking myself what would possess someone to post such hate (I’ve seen these comments before on your blog)…and you (Alexa) hit on it, I think. That all social norms can (not that they should) be abandoned online probably gives these depraved people some kind of strange rush..some kind of adrenaline high. And probably that high comes from wondering what will happen next…what reaction will I get? Perhaps these people are addicted to this rush in the same way freaks are addicted to porn, serial killers are addicted to control and recognition, etc. There’s probably a pathology or a profile here that needs documenting. If so, the naive part of me wonders if there’s a formula way for dealing with it.

  12. Mara says:

    I very rarely comment, but feel the need to. You are so thoughtful, and I appreciate your honesty in sharing this with us. I don’t blog, and I don’t read any other blogs but this one, even though I have tried when it has been a while since you last posted. Your writing, your honesty, intelligence, humor and thoughtfulness is unique. It is sad that putting what I see as something very positive out in the world also brings hatred and negativity back to you, and I think you are certainly grappling with a very modern issue in deciding where the lines are drawn. You write, “Having a right to do something does not necessarily mean that doing that thing is right.” and I agree. It is a question of ethics and really morality, and it is sad when those who claim to be acting based on morals do not see this fundamental truth. On the other hand, I believe that those of us who truly to connect, and improve society- live happier and more fulfilled lives. So there, we have that on them!

    • Alexa says:

      I am honored to be your one and only blog.
      I agree that this is a very modern issue, which is what makes it so difficult. It seems odd that it should be an issue at all, because the issue behind the issue (treating people with kindness and respect) is a very old one, and you’d think everyone would have managed to master it by now…

  13. Melanie K says:

    This is so very well written, its obvious how much thought you have given it. I wish the trolls were not so eager to spew their obvious unhappiness with the rest of us, but they are there and yeah its something to think about. I have wondered for years if I could blog but ultimately decided that because I didn’t know the boundaries, I couldn’t begin (can you tell I am kind of a rules person?). I certainly hope to read more about Simone, our daughters are so close in age (Allie turns 3 end of May) and I love to hear how she is doing, but I also respect the decisions you have to make about what to share and whom to share it with.

  14. hls says:

    Phew, I thought this was leading up to “and so I’m not blogging / not blogging about family any more”. Yay, we still get to read you! Sentences like this express a larger truth in a way that takes my breath away:
    “When some woman carrying one live baby and one dead one, or sitting next to an isolette, whispers “Marco!” I want my book, flawed as it is, to be the “Polo!” called reassuringly back to her.”
    not because I’ve been there – I haven’t – but it is the kind of understanding we all wish for. Thank you.

    • Alexa says:

      Thank YOU. Knowing that what I write can provide that feeling of being understood to someone makes me so happy, and it feels pleasantly like I am honoring all the writers who did the same for me.

  15. Jane says:

    So thank you. The “person” (and I use the term loosely) whose comment discomforted you (and rightly so) is obviously a toad…no, a toad wouldn’t even do that. He/she is an idiot, doubtless living in his/her mother’s basement and subsisting on cheetos and mountain dew. And he/she smells bad. And has orange hands. And has not spoken to another human being in several months. And who we would all avoid on the subway, possibly actually getting out before our stop because of the sheer loathsomeness of their non-personness.

    Your “marco…polo” comment is perfect. We need to feel we are not alone. Sometimes, these days, that takes the Internet.

    Post on! And all of us who wish you and Simone more than well….well, we will be happy.

  16. Tricia says:

    Marco…

    My babies were born at 27 weeks – two pounds each (I know, jumbo compared to Simone). We spent months in the NICU. I didn’t think they would EVER come home. I wanted to smack the doctor if he told me one more time, “They’re tiny.” (I. Can. See. That.)

    So I started blogging. I introduced the world to my “muppets.” It never occurred to me that some people would find pleasure in mocking small children. But what DID become very obvious, was that I would eventually be done “doing time” in the hospital. Because someone sent me your book. (I even reviewed it on my blog: http://www.streamdoubletrouble.com/2011/02/06/book-review-half-baked/)

    “I recommend “Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe” to everyone and anyone touched by prematurity – no matter how distantly. This book is a must read for anyone touched by a baby born too soon.”

    Because, just as Alexa says above…

    Polo!

    • Alexa says:

      I’m so glad you found my book! If I were very, very wealthy, I would give a copy to every NICU parent (if they didn’t want to read it, they could use it for something else, like as a positioning aid or to toss across the room in fury when their discharge plan was changed for the umpteenth time). Your boys are beautiful.

  17. Bellevelma says:

    My first thought, when Scott said the guy wasn’t taking time out of “his WINNING schedule” was, OMG, Charlie Sheen is threatening her baby?! So sorry you have to put up with people like that. I hope Simone’s birthday was fabulous and each year is better than the next.

    • Alexa says:

      I WOULDN’T PUT IT PAST HIM.

      Simone’s birthday WAS fabulous. I can’t imagine next year (or any year) being better, but you never know.

  18. electriclady says:

    I like Scott’s comment. This guy is not WINNING by any stretch of the imagination.

    You are brilliant and wonderful and wise, and you put into words so much of what I think about mothers and mothering and writing and sharing and honesty and rights and rightness.

    And you know, if you were any less of a freak I wouldn’t love you half as much. I hide it under my shiny glossy big city gal patina, but I was tortured all throughout school too. And it makes me actually not fully trust anyone who WASN’T tortured when they were young, because obviously someone who was never tortured must have been a torturer.

  19. evany says:

    On one hand, I’m so much sadder knowing that I share a world with such a terrible, rotting, outreach-prone monster. On the other hand, I’m so incredibly happy to be in a world where both you, your family, and your incredible writing thrive so winningly (it’s true, you really are one of the best writers going, online and off!). And in this particular good-vs-evil balancing act, I feel like your contributions are so fantastigreat, they outweigh the darkness.

    So yeah: Thanks, you!!! (Pat, pat, pat!)

  20. jen says:

    I am completely speechless on two levels. Firstly, that anyone could say such a thing about a child is…I simply cannot understand it. There are no words. And secondly, how you amazingly and ever so eloquently found the words. All the best to you and Simone and Scott.

  21. Sarah says:

    I”m sorry life hasn’t been a bowl full of cherries lately. Genuinely. Without snark. I love your writing and miss seeing it on a more frequent basis. I was about a trimester behind you (with a singleton), and followed your blog the whole way through. It was scary to read, as were so many others I read at the time, but seeing other kids survive difficult, trying times helped me see how my own boy would too. And Simone did survive and thrive and my boy does too. BTW, isn’t toddler hood a hoot? :)

    • Alexa says:

      Oh dear! I always feel bad for the readers who were pregnant when I was…just reading along, sympathizing about morning sickness and then BAM! Pregnancy horror movie.

      And YES to toddlerhood. I actually think 3 is my favorite age so far.

  22. Heather says:

    Wow! I am so very sorry that people are just so mean. I have a few other thoughts too, but I will keep those to myself.

    I don’t write about my kids, I don’t want them out there, so if you stop writing about Simone (beautiful girl) I totally understand.

    Good luck!

  23. DAWN says:

    As a follower of your blog and journey with Simone and Ames you are like family to me. I cannot pretend to know the way you felt when seeing that email. Several of the blogs I follow have gone to private for various reasons. I am not sure if that would be an answer for you, but maybe a spin off of your Flotsam blog where you would feel more free to share about your life with Simone. She is a fighter, she fought through adversity to live and you were meant to be her mom. And a damn good Mom at that. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Keeping a clean house is not the definition of a good mother. All the days you spent by Simones bedside indicated early on you had what it takes. And your candid blogging about Ames and Simone helped me when my best friend lost a child after a 58 day stay in the Nicu. And then myself a mother at 46 with help of ART spent only a brief week in the NICU, but again I said if you could do it, certainly I could get this 36 week baby girl home!! I am just one person here and you have made a difference in my life and have comforted me unknowingly. Just know, you MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Thank you. You must of course, do what is best for you and your family. That is a personal choice. I can only thank you for sharing with us your amazing blog and letting us enter a day in the life of Alexis.

  24. Pamela says:

    Almost everyone else has already said much of what I wanted to…but I couldn’t let this go without telling you how insightful and thoughtful this post is. The issue of privacy and how much to share on a blog and how to handle comments is fraught with ambiguity and you captured this dilemma perfectly. Thank you!

  25. Aqua says:

    You had me in tears by the end. Such an eloquent, thoughtful, rich, elegant response to what was evidently an evil — simply unimaginably vicious — comment. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time; yours is by far my favorite blog. You are a superb writer and such a warm and wonderful human being. I hope you know that you’ve touched the lives of strangers like me. I was pregnant while you were going through the nightmare you went though, and I cried with you and I feared the worst with you and I cheered with you and jumped up and down when the news was good. Simone could not have chosen a better mother.

  26. yaya says:

    Just sending a bit of soft pillowy love out for this post. Thank you for your honesty, strength, courage and huge heart in posting this. This is one mama who loves Simone like she is my own (and we have never met)…please know (and I know you do) how many people love & respect you and your family and your writing. Peace, Love & Gentleness.

  27. Georgine says:

    I have been reading your blog for a very long time and have always marveled at how beautiful Simone is having such a rough start to life. I love reading about her accomplishments, you see, I have a grand=daughter that turned 3 in November and she had a few rough moments from the minute she was born. I admire you for the fact that you have been able to right about the difficult times as well as the wonderful times. Please don’t stop writing about your wonderful daughter or posting photos, she is amazing and a true gift from God.

  28. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I am sorry that your awesomeness attracts some crazy.

    But I am glad that you share. Your story, and the stories of others, have meant so much to me in these last few days of suck. And internet love is magic.

  29. Jen says:

    I just love you, and Simone. I’m so sorry you had to deal with such vileness. I can only hope that karma has something special in store for that jackass pig.

  30. Amanda says:

    I stumbled upon your blog last summer and could not stop reading your archives. I then immediately bought your book and devoured it. I admire you and your incredible talent for writing. You are witty, smart, honest, insightful, and just damn funny. I have no words of wisdom to offer for the dilemma you face. I have no doubt you will make the best decision for you and your family. Thank you for sharing whatever you choose to share with us. I truly enjoy reading it.

  31. tash says:

    I think what gets me (in addition to eleventymillion other disgusting things) about this person (and the surrounding people) is the ungodly amount of time they have to read stuff they clearly disagree with, and then plot and write comments. Do they have jobs? Need to use the restroom? Eat? Have they checked out the latest in video game technology to release some nervous energy at the end of the day? I mean, why? (Munches granola bar.)

    I am so with you on the whole “tenor online is different, and seems to foster a uniquely depersonalized nastiness. For some reason, the Internet has given many people the impression that social contracts and standards of decency are suspended online, as a corollary to the possibility of anonymity. ” Yes, yes, yes. I often wonder if the serious News organizations regret opening up because now their serious seriousness is the target of anonymous “U dunno wazzup” crap that must make their eyeballs bleed to have to wade through and moderate. Commenting online has made everyone an expert in everything, be it Middle East politics, the NFL lockout, or permature babies (or sadly, in the overlapping neck of the woods, dead babies and how their mothers should behave). It blows my mind.

    I could comment long enough to make you get a snack but I won’t. I will miss (incredibly) reading about Simone but I understand completely if you never write about here or post a picture ever again. And I’m not just saying this to be nice because I think you write purty, but she’s a doll. She’s not teasable. Those cheeks? Those curls? Oh, and polo. I know different circumstances and all that, but grief and mothering is grief and mothering.

    hang tough.

  32. Amy_Rey says:

    Yes, internet assholes are what we call #LOSING, and they are legion. This is the single most unfortunate thing about the internet age—the lowered inhibitions people have. I suspect many of the online haters/trolls/Fomenters of Misery weren’t ever bullies in the flesh. They’re cowardly assholes who wouldn’t say “boo” in real life, but are emboldened by the anonymity to become Their Worst Selves at the keyboard. (Of course, the in-the-flesh bullies ALSO are online bullies, but they have so much company.)

  33. Sonya says:

    This is one of those times when I am about to lose my faith in humanity, and then I see the supportive comments and think…yes, but there are kind and lovely people out there too.

    My 15 year old daughter S, who I have mentioned before as a huge fan of Simone’s, has a weirdly excellent ability to understand and function well in a high school setting to the point where she has made being smart/geeky (she hosted Numbers marathons – the show where they solved crimes….with math) look cool. But regardless of her achievements, I am proudest of her for how she goes out of her way to be kind and inclusive and to not just avoid any of the ‘mean girl’ behaviour that can be endemic at even the best girl’s school, but refusing to spend time with those that behave that way. I like to think it is how I brought her up, but I think it is also that she has observed her older sister struggle with her medical and learning issues and the fact that she is just an astute and wise young woman, as I am sure you are bringing up Simone to be as well.

    I will be very sad if we lose your writing and the lovely pictures and stories of Simone because of that troll, but I will understand why if that is your choice.

    I hope that your 2011 (and mine, truth be told – thanks global economic meltdown!!) takes a u-turn to improve dramatically.

  34. Angella says:

    “I do believe in the importance of telling our stories, and my daughter is, sometimes, an inextricable part of mine”

    Yes.

    I don’t write about my kids as often as I used to, now that they’re school aged, but they show up as part of the family story.

    So sorry and appalled that you had to receive such a horrible email. I hope that the sender finds himself the recipient of Karma. Soon.

  35. laura says:

    all i can think of to say is: i’m sorry, that troll is an asshat. and nolite te bastardes carborundorum. and maybe if you know who the punk is, i will put a flaming pile of poop at his doorstep.

  36. Cris says:

    Preach! Really well argued, thanks for sharing your thoughts (and your child) with us…As everyone else has said, your last paragraph really sums it up. Being a mother can be very lonely and isolating and mommy blogs help you realize, in your most lonely mommy moments, that you are not alone. That someone else is going through the same nonsense/joys/battles at that very moment–or has been through them and lived to tell. Simone has every right to be proud of you.

  37. Editdebs says:

    I’m a bit in love with your brain. And I’ve been in love with your daughter since I started reading your blog.

  38. Swistle says:

    I think my favorite part was “alternately flippant and litigious.”

    I think that if we take our children out of our blogs to protect them from anyone using them as mocking fodder, it’s not too far from the idea of taking them out of school to protect anyone THERE from using them as mocking fodder: i.e., it’s not a practical solution. “The internet” is a strange part of real life, but it IS part of real life: it wasn’t part of our childhoods, which makes it feel optional, or tainting—like the societies that ditch electricity because the world’s gone downhill from there.

    My thoughts are not yet organized on this topic, but you see the gist of what is churning? If I were going to organize more ON THE SPOT, which will not work (I will see this topic while I should be sleeping, I can just tell), I would add that of course SOME “taking the children out of the target zone” DOES work: it isn’t all or nothing. I would drive my child to school if he were being tormented on the bus. I might even take him out of a school where he was having problems. But there would need to be a place where I would stop removing him from society in the name of protecting him. Not that I know where this would be, you understand.

  39. Agadoo says:

    It’s nice to know you are going to keep blogging, but I get the feeling you think about blogging a lot more than you actually put pen to paper (so to speak.) Meaning, I won’t expect another post from you till around June or so.

    Anyway, internet bullying is all the rage, and internet micro-celeb Julia Allison has made it her platform due to a rather active hate site created around her misdeeds. But the commentary on the site is a thing of beauty, so I’m a little conflicted. Sometimes a hate site can leave me rolling on the floor, gasping with laughter, so is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  40. sharon says:

    What small-minded apology for homo sapiens could send such unmitigated hatred towards a small child? Your eloquence in the face of such moronic behaviour is astounding.

    I have read your blog and commented with varying degrees of frequency since before the babies were born. Wept tears over the loss of Ames, held my breath as Simone battled her way home and have ached with tension and/or laughter at her progress since those early fragile days. Your writing is a joy to read and I would be very sad to see the blog come to an end, or even change from its current format, but if you feel that enough is enough, then so be it. It would be wonderful to see Simone through her school days and onto college and enjoy her future achievements with you and Scott (and possibly a sibling or two?) but if the price you pay is having to read such vicious garbage then maybe that price is too high.

    So, if this is the end, I wish you all good luck, health and happiness for the future. Simone is a beautiful human being, both inside and out, just like her parents and never let anyone make you think for even a split second any different.

    xox

  41. Heather says:

    You are a beautiful writer, and I feel so privileged that you share your story with me (and also all those other people in the world, as I suspect you are usually not thinking of me in particular). I always look forward to your posts, and I will continue to look forward to them until they day (if it comes) your internal whim tells you to stop sharing them.

  42. Swistle says:

    Oh! I forgot to say how much I loved the part about how having the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s right to do. And really that WHOLE THING about how the line can be hard to draw but there really still is “right” and “wrong” in some places, and writing a hateful email like that is just clearly wrong. Wrong behavior. Bad behavior. I’m so used to remembering not to say “bad” about things, but some things ARE bad.

    I also forgot to emphasize that I have NO IDEA what I’d do in your shoes. No idea. Not even a “Well, I THINK I’d….” sort of thought stream. I empathized with all your mulling about various options.

  43. a says:

    First, because the only small object I have nearby is the TV remote and I don’t want to lose that, I will get this out of the way. I think it is perfectly legitimate to call your email writer a jackass. That is unconscionably rude behavior, and I hope it is visited back upon him/her tenfold.

    My instinct would be to never write another thing about my daughter, if I had been the one to receive that email. But I’m not a writer at heart, I blog for my own entertainment, my husband is a very private person and objects to me writing anything personal at all, and I am of the opinion that my family is grindingly ordinary (although we’re not actually, but we are so uncommon in certain ways that no one can relate).

    As to Truth-Telling…well, I am one of those people who find it difficult to soften my statements, and often tell the unfortunate truth. But, unlike many people, I would prefer to say nothing at all, so if you are subjected to my truth telling, it’s because you asked me. And then insisted that I answer. Inflicting my opinion on you unsolicited is reserved for close friends who won’t be offended.

  44. I, too, read the whole thing (in one sitting!). I was struck by the depth and breadth of your commentary on this one comment and its possible ramifications. We all know that depraved people walk amongst us and they are depraved whether they have fodder to comment on from blogs. This sorry soul (soul-less soul?) would fall in that category. Yet, mothers are by nature protective of their young (and too bad we aren’t in real life lions because, as a pride, it would be very fun to hunt this particular prey and fell him).

    And, there is a ‘the rules don’t apply’ mentality to the Internets and there’s just not a lot to be done about that other than rally the troupes when rallying is what needs to be done. I certainly do not want the Internet governmentized.

    While I don’t have any earth shattering advice, I do want to thank you for writing about something that is often not discussed which is not what to do about cyber bullies so much as how much of ourselves (and our children) to put out there just because we can. When posting FB statuses or entries to my blog, I consider how he might react as he gets older and let that be my guide. I solicit in real life feedback or advice when a situation warrants it. The telephone for parenting advice from friends is a wholly underutilized piece of technology (and once you hang up, there is no record (well, now that Bush is no longer in office).

    Mostly, I just miss reading your writing and am glad to see something from you even if I’d rather it be pictures of Simone being her too cute self.

  45. I read it all the way through, and I still kinda want to beat the everlovin’ crap out of the person who wrote such evil words about Simone.

    I used to have a friend, who was for some time (like nine-ish years) my very best and closest friend. She, like everyone, had some personality faults, and for a long time, I tried really hard to pretend that her particular faults could mesh with mine, even though a blind person could have seen that an Honest To A Fault (she) and a Sensitive Weeper (me) were just not ever going to be able to figure it out. I was never quite able to eloquently explain to her just exactly why honesty was not always necessary, beyond my hurt feelings at some of the highly inappropriate and insensitive things she would say under the guise of “honesty”. She always trumped me with the virtuousness of honesty, and how I was quite a good liar (rather than hurt someone) and how often my lies came back to bite me in the ass. And I’m certainly not claiming that my way of interacting was superior in the grand scheme, but I do know that lies or omissions of mine came back to hurt ME, whereas her honesty hurt everyone but herself (and left her feeling awfully self-congratulatory at being willing to cause such hurt because it was sooooo important to uphold honesty).

    And I think that’s where I felt like standing up to cheer while reading this:
    Honesty is *not* a magical force-field. It does not (and should not) stand on it’s own.

    And that as you said, having a right to do something does not make it right– and I might even add that just because virtue is on the side of that Truth-Telling does not make hashing out truths (simply for the sake of doing so) inherently virtuous.

    Thank you for this (all novella-plex words of it). Screw the assholes of the internet. I wish they’d find something else to do with their time…

  46. Damn. It was all good, but this…I often think that reading—most art, really—is like a vast, temporally flexible game of Marco Polo. (Not the most sophisticated metaphor, but there you go.) We are desperate to see reflections of our own lives and experiences pinned down and made richer and more coherent with language. They help us understand ourselves and our world, and give us the relief of knowing that we’re all in this together. I wrote a whole damn memoir, for god’s sake, and I wrote it because I know firsthand the loneliness of being unable to find an echo. When some woman carrying one live baby and one dead one, or sitting next to an isolette, whispers “Marco!” I want my book, flawed as it is, to be the “Polo!” called reassuringly back to her…” was amazing and spot on.

    Also, it sounds like you’ve always trusted your inner self. Keep doing so.

    …am still reeling from that last paragraph. Really, really lovely.

  47. Karen says:

    Marco Polo is a great metaphor for the way we approach reading and art in general. You were my echo, albeit I read your book 2 years after my own son was in special care as a tiny newborn. It spoke to me in a way no-one has. Reading your book was like revisiting the special care nursery with its heavy door and alcohol rub smell, only this time I had your hand on my shoulder. I am eternally grateful that you wrote your book and I was able to revisit my own experience through your story.
    All I can say is don’t stop doing what your doing, for as long as you feel compelled to do it. You’re right, there is no cut and dry way of figuring out where to draw the privacy lines. And mean people are everywhere. Stupid people too. Keep Calm and Carry On. x

  48. Katie says:

    I love your Rosa Parks Syndrome analogy (and that article). I’ve stopped trying to grapple with blogging boundaries because I’m graduating from law school in May and lawyers are weird so it’s easier just to share pictures on Facebook, even though I miss writing. But it’s fascinating to watching smart, eloquent people like yourself grapple with really hard questions.

    I’m on the other end of the spectrum of creepy, terrible email guy: whenever I go to the slightly-farther-away-from-Macalester-in-a-Northern-Direction Target, I always hope I’ll see you there, so I can say hi to Simone and tell you how much I love your writing, even though I’d probably stare awkwardly and not say anything and then intensely regret it.

  49. JKB says:

    This world of fuzzy lines and invasive “social” media outlets is terrifying. One minute a shock-blog explodes (admitting to loving one child more than the other in the guise of honesty) the next a troll is wishing death on a 3 year old. It never ceases to amaze me. Then I read eloquent and meaningful writing, writing that isn’t shoving X,Y, and Z products down my throat, writing that is humorous without the trying so hard vibe, writing that is so many women’s answer, writing that (even if wordy) resonates, writing that encapsulates the struggles of trying to conceive (I have PCOS and your archives gave me questions for my doctors), so after I read this writing of yours I know that it’s not all bad on the Internets. I have whittled down the number of blogs I follow to a select few. I’m sick of hearing how shitty motherhood is, how HARD it is, I am (sofuckingfortunately) a mother…I get it… That’s why I like coming here and reading about Simone and her farm school and her bath tub masterpieces. Your stories show that motherhood can be challenging (these children and all of their germs!) but you don’t shout it at us. She is a miracle child. She deserves nothing but the best and I’m confident that however her story plays out (on the web or not) you will do what is best for her. Period.

    • Mimsie says:

      Just wanted to comment on the phrase “the trying so hard vibe”. That put something into words I have noticed in several blogs that I read once or twice, then deleted from my favorites. Interesting choice of words–thanks!

  50. Laura Sanderson says:

    Alexa,

    I have really enjoyed reading your writing since I was directed here by A Little Julie’s blog when Simone was in NICU, but have never commented before. However I wanted to comment today because this post for me encapsulates why I have come back and back to your writing in the past 3 years, even though we are separated by a continent, a culture, and much more besides. I have never lost a baby or had a baby in NICU, but for me this magnificent essay on the ethics of the internet, and the value of telling the story of one’s life, notwithstanding the quagmires that you have to navigate in the process, this is your “Polo” to my silent “Marco”. You have given a voice to my half baked (ahem, see what I did there?) ideas about these things, and it an eloquent, unflinchingly intelligent, and always, always grammatical and properly spelled voice, even with your kooky Americanisms which I will forgive you for. A voice that I feel privileged to acknowledge by reading. In short, I can’t imagine the horror of having such sentiments directed at my children as you have borne, but very, very many thanks for your response.

  51. loribeth1961 says:

    I am glad you reported this a**hole to the police, even if there is not much they can do about it. How anyone could write such trash about an innocent child is beyond fathoming.

    I so appreciate your wise words — about blogging, bullying and the need we all feel to reach out & find others who have shared our experience, or some aspect of it.

    Polo. : )

  52. MJ says:

    I’m glad you’re back and hope that your 2011 improves from here on out. I am still stuck on the idea that with everything else you’re facing you saw your father for the first time in 4 years – i.e., since before you were pregnant. I’ll read whatever you want to write, whenever you write it.

  53. Lea says:

    I don’t blog, but I have no trouble imagining how this has made you feel. I know your post is mostly about the conflicts of blogging, but I feel drawn to address the pain that thoughtless people have sought to inflict.
    I will only say this: there are amazing people in this world who, without ever having met them, are able to make me understand who they are at their core. Be they bloggers, musicians, politicians, etc… I’m not saying all people out there convey this to me–most of the time I see only snippets of people, and I recognize it as a snippet and nothing more. But there are some people who, while I am aware that I don’t literally know them, I feel like I have an awareness of an intrinsic truth that drives everything else in their being. (Sounds overblown, but hopefully you know what I mean.) You are one of those people, and in the hopes that I can complete my thought succinctly and not sound like I’m blowing smoke up your butt, (because random praise by random people often sounds silly, so hopefully you will be able to interpret the depth of meaning with which I hope to impart these words): Alexa, it’s all good. You are a unique and wonderful person, and if your daughter grows up to be anything like you, which I’m sure she will, the world will be lucky to have two such people in it. And also very lucky that you are brave enough to put yourself out there so that we can follow along.

  54. Heather says:

    Wow, do I know what you mean by “being an echo.” When my father died ten years ago (I was in my 20s), I searched the bookstores for something that would help me process what I was feeling. I wasn’t looking for the self-help psych volumes about grief and loss and healing — I know because I found plenty of those, and they didn’t help. I wanted the first-person accounts.

    Luckily (?) I had a couple of friends who’d lost their fathers, and one who was just as irreverently black-humored about the whole affair as I was. She genuinely laughed when I told her about our attempts to “put the ‘fun’ back in funeral.” Talking with her healed my heart, as undoubtedly you have done for others.

  55. Sandra says:

    Wow. A powerful and thought-provoking post.

    I have borrowed (with credit, of course) your line about “Having a right to do something does not necessarily mean that doing that thing is right” as a Facebook status for today. Thanks much.

  56. JennG says:

    What everyone else said. This post is amazingly thoughtful, especially in the face of such hateful mail. I hope you will continue to follow your inner compass whether that results in a reduction of posts about Simone (which I would miss) or not. And I wish there were not hateful people like that out there with access to email and I hope some serious shame is felt by that person. Shame is a word that has been banned from my generation (Gen X) but I think it may need to make a comeback on the web.

  57. Carla says:

    Wow. All I can say right now, as I process all of this, is that I would really miss reading about Simone. Like many others, I’ve been with you since before Scott was The Actually, smiled with delight at your wedding photos, cheered for your positive beta, wept for Ames, wished I could have been there with you in the NICU with Simone, and have enjoyed your story, your humor, and your beautiful way with words. That being said, I really couldn’t blame you if you did decide to go private or to stop writing about Simone at all. I cannot believe that someone would say such things about a child. Scott is absolutely correct—this guy is not winning at anything. If he does not have some sort of mental issue, he must be living a very miserable life to be capable of spewing such pointless hatred and repeatedly attempting to provoke outrage.

  58. Jules says:

    Wow. You gave me a lot to think about. From my own behavior on a day to day basis to the more ethical questions of how much is too much to share about the people in our lives, especially if they are children. There will always be trolls out there trying to shut you down. But listening to your gut is all that you can do. There is no definitive answer. But this is a post I will be coming back to again and again. Thank you for posting it.

  59. Jodie says:

    My son was born at 25 weeks last April (almost a year ago!). We went through 6 months in the NICU, 10 trips to surgery, and such a feeling of isolation that I’m still struggling to put a name to it. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. Seeing stories like yours, and Simone years down the road from her NICU days, got me through those first awful months when it seemed like things could never get better.

    You helped me. I hope that goes a ways toward balancing the scales.

  60. Rachel says:

    Brilliant post. This is why you are my favorite blogger. I love that you don’t completely subscribe to the Truth-Telling thinking it somehow makes people noble, despite the fact that sometimes it is unsafe or untasteful. I think there is far too much poor writing on the internet these days that somehow still manages to be admired because it is The Truth. I would much rather read witty and touching writing that may not disclose everything, rather than some word vomit about intensely personal family affairs. I’m amazed at how much you’ve been through in your life and the grace and composure you display online. I hate that there are terrible people out their picking on toddlers and mothers. I hope you can find your balance and find the comfort and peace you need. Thank you for the well thought-out and long-awaited post :)

    • Rachel says:

      Forgive my grammar! It is early and I was so excited to read your post that I dove right in before my brain was even fully awake. There/their…you know what I mean, right?

  61. Kristin says:

    I don’t share many of the same experiences with you, yet your writing still resonates with me. It’s just stories. I love to hear other peoples stories, and yes, sometimes I can say “Yes, that’s exactly it!” and sometimes not, but the way you express yourself helps me understand other people and I appreciate that. I read the whole post, but not the other comments. My goal is to give bloggers more positive feedback to hopefully(!!) off-set some of the negative comments out there. I hope you keep writing.

  62. Katie says:

    Oh my dear Alexa. Somehow, in dealing with the trauma of a lunatic threatening your daugther, you’ve managed to validate years of blog-reading on my part. I had resigned myself to admitting that there was some deep sick twisted voyeuristic reason for still…four years after my miscarriages brought me to this community…reading a handful of blogs. And then you offered this explanation, which is so much nice than my hypothesis. “We are desperate to see reflections of our own lives and experiences pinned down and made richer and more coherent with language. They help us understand ourselves and our world, and give us the relief of knowing that we’re all in this together.” Yes, that’s it exactly.
    I am sorry there is a lunatic targeting your precious baby. I wouldn’t blame you for going into wtiness protection. But I hope you don’t, becauase I love reading you. Very best to you and Simone.

  63. drhoctor2 says:

    There are so many points in this post where I just felt so shocked , yes, shocked at the incidents you recall. WTH ? I can not believe you have to put up with so much crap form people. That is crazy.
    I’m so incredibly angry that you receive such e-mails. And this one? There is no object breakable enough to contain the rage I feel thinking of you seeing that subject line. I am sorry and I admire your reaction to all of it.
    Y’know, at least when people act like total wads in the comments OTHER people can tell them they are wads and it makes us feel better. As if *we* could help. as if, but still it beats the impotence I’m feeling now.
    You have so perfectly articulated “what is wrong with Mommyblogging now ?” PERFECTLY. I am impressed.
    Lastly, I love your little highschool self. LOVE her. I hope you do, too.

  64. Sue says:

    I agree with Scott that this person isn’t winning at anything. Sorry for the mean-spirited missive.

    By the way, I wore false eyelashes in high school too. I think we would have been friends.

  65. Jacqueline says:

    I’ve read through this twice now. My drink and snack sat untouched, my eyes filled with tears, and my heart leapt into my throat. I am in awe of your strength, courage, and wisdom. But I’m also heartbroken at the mere suggestion of such vile, hate filed words aimed at your sweet daughter.

    I think often about the question of openness vs. privacy and the desire to isolate and protect vs. the need to reach out and connect. I know we want to protect our treasured children from the hurtful things in the world. But maybe the real strength is in getting BEHIND them. Showing your support when the world is against them. Giving them the resources to stand against it on their own.

    So yes, writing about Simone and sharing her struggles is a risk and does open up the possibility of her being the recipient of unkind words. But someday she’ll also be able to read the kind words of thousands of strangers who prayer for her, cheered her on, and celebrated all of her accomplishments and milestones.

    Regardless of what you choose, please count me among the many women who will stand behind you 100%. You are an inspiring mother, a beautiful woman, and an incredibly gifted writer. And Simone? Oh, there are just no words for a child so wonderful.

    -Jacqueline

  66. Anne says:

    So much to think about, I’m not sure where to start…

    Thank you for thoughtfully addressing all these issues here. What you’re talking about is regarding posting on the Internet, really, I think, a branch of ethics, and, as with all branches of ethics, there are no cast-iron, immutable “rights” or “wrongs.” I’m a psychologist, and until 2002, in the American Psychological Association Code of Ethics (which carries weight, because if you go against it too much, you can lose your license), we were told NOT to provide clients with the full-on psycho-babbly assessment reports we had written for fear that the terminology would be confusing and/or misconstrued. (Instead, we were told to give clients a summarization of the findings). However, in 2002, alongside the advent of HIPAA, the Code changed, and now we were told we HAD to give clients their assessment report if they asked for it, even if they refused to sit down with us so we could explain it.

    Sorry, this was a long-winded, somewhat narcissistic way of saying that–I’m with you. I don’t think there are any right or wrong answers about writing about your family on the Internet. I do believe that there should be more controls out there (and, these are starting to happen, such as review sites on which the commenter has to click a link from the email address they listed before their comment is posted online), in order to tame the “Wild West” atmosphere of the web to date. But everyone has to make the choice that feels right FOR THEM.

    Psychological research (and common sense) have shown that people are ALWAYS less polite when they feel they are anonymous, even with silly stuff like table manners. But, as you pointed out, there are certainly people who feel no compunction being rude to your face as well (*cough* junior high school).

    I’m sorry you have to deal with that ugly email (and others, as well). I always wonder with bullies like that, how they missed those crucial, early lessons on empathy and the Golden Rule. Along with my revulsion, I also feel pity for them. How sad to have to go through life that way.

    I hope you keep writing about your beautiful family.

  67. JB says:

    I, like others, don’t know what to say, want to seriously hurt the person who wrote that comment, have REALLY enjoyed and benefited from reading your stories – “other people’s archives are my What To Expect,” indeed – but, at the same time, am such a delicate little flower that I don’t have a site or anything for fear of retribution like this. So what the H do I know.

    I also don’t have an answer for you, at all…one thing did pop into my head, perhaps if you have a publicist, ask him/her how they handle negative criticism/even threats that come along with handling high-profile clients. You know?

    I think of the young singer Justin Bieber (I know, stay with me…), he is subjected to a HUGE amount of criticism/negativity/ridicule (he even parodied the criticism of “he looks like a girl” on a Superbowl commercial), yet is obviously quite successful as the singer/teen heartthrob. So, how does he handle it? Ya know? Also see this article on NYT: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/an-internet-stars-mom-responds/ , about an interview with the mother of a girl whose homemade music video was posted on YouTube and received a horrifying amount of negative criticism…

    So…maybe those things will help? Somehow? Whatever you decide, know that we support you and we REALLY do love hearing about Simone and your world. (Erm, Justin Bieber reference – “My World” – sigh, how do I know these references…).

  68. Kathy says:

    Wow. Thank you for the wonderful post. I’m both inspired by your outlook and how you are handling this, and saddened by the meanness of some people. I truly believe that the world is made up of mostly good and kind people, but unfortunately the words and actions of the other jerks (trust me, not the first word that springs to mind to describe them) are usually so hurtful it’s hard to avoid giving them more mental energy than they deserve. It makes me sick to think about what our kids will have to deal with when they reach highschool.

    I’m glad you share what you do and really hope to continue hearing about beautiful little Simone. But I completely understand whatever decision you make for the future.

  69. SarahB says:

    Polo, indeed.

    Like you, the internet is my personal “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and pre-parental advisor and counselor. Blogs like yours make parenting seem possible and wonderful and real, as my peers and I just enter the fray.

    And as one tormented in middle school (for other reasons than dress, but still)…just…I know that feeling, and I’m sorry that it can still come into play in our lives over matters as personal as one’s children.

  70. Halyn says:

    I not only read the whole thing-I read all the comments too! (Medal? No? *Sigh.*) I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said already, but I feel like I should say something…even if it’s only a mention of how heartbroken I would be if this asshat caused you to stop posting about Simone. I’ve followed you from quite close to the beginning, and would miss seeing Simone as she grows. I already miss the Baby of the Week photos!
    This was such a beautifully, thoughtfully written post. I congratulate you on that. Had I received such an email, I think I would have posted the asshat’s name, phone number, facebook page, email address and any other identifying info I could find, and requested my readers to do their worst. I’m glad you’re better than that. :)

  71. pam says:

    Dang!!! Not only fine writing but fine thinking as well.

    aside not neccessarily appropo to anything: I ate a whole bag of chips reading this because you told me to! thanks a lot!!!!!

  72. T. says:

    You are very thoughtful, and I appreciate you sharing your insight. It is unfortunate that there are people running around that are so damaged, hurting, or insecure, that they feel the need to share their pain. I am sorry you were the target of such an especially vicious one.

  73. Sarah says:

    You are a brilliant writer and this was a thoughtful, brilliant post.

    Simone is beautiful.

    Thank you for being my polo, it really helped.

  74. Kim says:

    I hope you’ll decide to keep on blogging and keep on sharing Simone with us. You’re so gifted a writer and thinker, and Simone is so hilariously adorable, I’d really miss keeping up with you both in your continuing adventures. And Scott too, of course, who is absolutely right — that f–kwit isn’t winning ANYthing.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. Since the internet hadn’t even really been invented when my children were little I have no idea how I would have dealt with this issue. Sadly, one thing the internet has been teaching us is that there is seemingly no limit to how incredibly cruel and stupid a disturbingly large number of our fellow human beings (are we in some way “fellow?”) are.

    But, as someone else said somewhere above: Keep Calm and Carry On! And also, I too love the line about having the right to do a thing not making it the right thing to do. That and the golden rule pretty well sum up what we ought to consider before we speak/act.

  75. Issa says:

    I guess…and please note I read it all (I get a Scooby Snack right?)..that I have never felt like you were putting Simone out there too much. She’s three. Everything you’ve shared about her, you’d share at a party with all parents right? Or at a playdate with other parents? I think that trolls are just trolls. I’ve baited them, I’ve ignored them, I’ve screamed at them, I’ve changed their words around in my comments. None of it really changes the fact that some people are just horrible human beings. Nor the fact, that some people must lead very boring lives and have way too much time on their hands. Anyone who hates on a three year old needs to grow the eff up.

    My girls are older. They are 6 & 9. Their story is starting to be theirs and not mine to tell. I’ve stopped discussing them as much. My son, at 2 is still fair game. I take the stance of, would this story embarrass them if I told it at a dinner party?

    Anyway, my point is, I think this is on that person, not you. I don’t believe there is anything in Simone’s life that is so horrible to share right now. Also as her mother, I think you will know what is sharable and what isn’t.

  76. Zarqa Javed says:

    A deeply thoughtful treatise on a trying conundrum. One does really need to play it as it goes, I guess.
    Loved the analogy in your last paragragh. “Polo” to you too. Hang in there!

  77. Carmen says:

    Alexa,

    I stumbled across your sight years ago, when little Simone was still tiny and dependent on her supplemental oxygen to breathe for her, after Dooce.com supported you against the various interwebs who thought your baby shouldn’t have been allowed to live. From that first introduction to your lovely, adorable family, I have been (appropriately!) smitten. Since your daughter and mine share the same birth month and year, I feel like I have a special protectiveness over Simone, simply because she could be my little one’s sister (in looks, in behavior! Oh, the similarities!).

    So I am very sad and offended for you and especially Simone, and extremely disappointed in this fellow human who decided to write you such a horrible and decidedly INHUMANE letter.

    I read calmly until I got to the screen-shot, and my heart plummeted to my stomach and my blood froze and my brain imploded. How could anyone say such a thing about a child? Humans disgust me.

    Please know that we adore you and Simone and your cats and your wonderfully deplorable solipsism, and (pardon me!) FUCK the sow-bellied mud muncher who wrote it. I do indeed wish upon him the worst, in every sense.

  78. Karen says:

    Where do I even begin (which might have been one of the voices in your head when you sat down to write all of this), well I read the whole post, and then I read most of the comments. My head is still spinning.

    It reminds me of a conversation I had with a BLM about grief and how she was getting attacked for how she was dealing with the loss of her son. I told her that everyone grieves in their own way, and that while there are societal expectations of how it “should” look, most of these preconceived notions came from a combination of experience and media, and that there actually was no wrong or right way to grieve.

    There is no right or wrong answer in how to deal with putting yourself out there and the responses you get in return. It is an individual choice about how much you share and how you react to the positive and negative comments.

    It is complicated.

    I do love reading about you and Simone. For me it is about being the premature baby, the rainbow child to a BLM, about trying to understand how my parents continued to love one another and raise three children when they experienced so much loss. I hope to continue to be able to read about you in the future, but I would understand if you came to that day when your blog went silent forever.

  79. Meg says:

    You have a beautiful little girl. I would like to rant and rave about that absolute nasty nutball but instead I am going to concentrate on the wonder that is your child, that is my child, that is any child.

  80. Diane says:

    The anonymity of the internet has allowed the cowards of the world to say anything without really any repercussion. And MOST of the time say something they never would dare to utter to someone’s face.

    I have an acquaintance whose daughter died at school from a reaction to peanuts. Her parents didn’t share the story themselves, but it became a news item on Yahoo and the Chicago Tribune. Reading through the comments, and I know I shouldn’t have, made me absolutely loathe the human race. Things like “this type of thing thins the herd/surival of the fittest” to “parents were so stupid” Really? No compassion? I only hoped the parents did not read any of these evil comments.

    They didn’t choose to put their story out there, but you do. I feel you are very brave to not only write your story but to also read the reactions. As far as implications for your daughter in the future, considering the “newness” of the internet (as in most of the children written about in online blogs are still young), we can’t really anticipate how this information will be used. I guess the only thing to do is if you continue to include her in your writings, is to assume the worst, hope for the best, ignore the rest.

  81. Amanda says:

    Well. The thing is, I was reading this and thinking how I needed to thank you for being the only friend I had (um, *nice to meet you*) who had truly been where I was. (I’m speaking, for reference, of the infertility/IVF thing, the dead baby/live baby thing, the NICU thing. I think you once said something about mothers of premature babes being like a sorority, one with stiff drinks and lots of hand sanitizer … I loved that, in a way that’s a bit creepy, sort of like my thinking of you as a friend of mine.) So anyhow, I was thinking this while reading your post because I wanted to say that I know it takes courage to be out there, but that it had been so immeasurably helpful for me to read your writing during my Dark Time, and then I got to that Marco Polo bit and realized I could never say it better than that. So, “Marco”. And thank you.

  82. Adriane says:

    I have so many thoughts in my head. So, so many. First, I loved when you wrote ““Having a right to do something does not necessarily mean that doing that thing is right.” AMEN. Second, I cannot believe that someone actually took the time to send you an email with such ridiculous, hateful words. Third, I fully agree with Scott – the author of said email, unlike Charlie Sheen, is not WINNING. At all. Definitely losing. Fourth, I absolutely love that you wore false lashes in high school. And that you never thought about changing who you were to acommodate the jerks. It speaks volumes about you as a person.

    I have read your blog for years. In fact, I started reading when you were pregnant. I, too, was pregnant with twins at the time. (My girls were 33 weekers.) I felt such a bond with you and we had never met. I was your POLO. Or, were you mine? I will never forget reading your post after you had lost Ames. I cried and cried and cried. I felt such absolute sadness and grief. I have felt this strange sense of over-protectiveness for Simone from Day 1. So, suffice to say, I’d love to bitch-slap the hater that prompted this post. Especially if it’s the impetous for you not posting about Simone any more. With that said, I completely understand if you go that direction.

  83. Elise says:

    Alexa you are all class. Beauty and class. I read a slew of blogs and you are my absolute favorite. You are an amazing writer and I knew the minute I met you at a reading here in Seattle that Simone is incredibly lucky to have you. We all are. I think you and Simone are gorgeous and simply cannot wait for your next book, your next post, your next idea. I’ll miss Simone updates (if that’s what it comes to) as she brings such joy to us readers who’ve been lucky enough to watch her grow in pictures, but I wish only the best for you and your family. Team Flotsam is strong and has your back no matter what. Thank you for the beautiful post.

  84. Stephanie says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I have no answers. You and your daughter are both wonderful if it makes you feel any better!

    PS – your post did make me desperately want to see some pictures of you from Junior High School! Sequins around the eyes, really!

  85. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Alexa, I’m so sorry that you have to face the cruelty in that high school-esque kind of way. I have flashbacks of those kinds of experiences, and they were ugly, ugly, ugly. I’m nervous for my 7 year old daughter, who is starting to be picked on in school. I don’t like to think about it. Anyway, I’m writing just to thank you for writing. I love to read what you have to say, in your book, on here, listening to you on NPR – anywhere! Please do keep it up!

    All the best,
    jennifer

  86. Lydia says:

    Alexa, you are beautiful and so is your darling daughter. I’m so sorry you had to see something so vicious in your inbox. I do hope you keep writing, in some form, because your marco/polo analogy is spot on. When my friends get pregnant, I send them blogs, not book suggestions. Because personal stories can buoy us. Give your daughter an extra smooch tonight from the internet friends who adore her.

  87. Susan says:

    You are a tremendous writer and person. I hate that people send you such vicious messages. I would miss your stories about Simone, but I would completely understand if you stopped posting about her . . .what a difficult decision. And I wish I could go back in time to meet you in jr. high and high school!

  88. Kirsten says:

    Alexa, I read every word, did not throw anything, and ate no snacks. You are such a powerful writer, and I suspect, and equally potent mother. Well said…

  89. Laura says:

    I certainly enjoy the lyrical anecdotes of patriarchy-killing un-silent mothers, but much of your writing actually presents a sort of qualitative single case study, in that it allows one to follow the outcome of a 25-week preemie. Who now multitasks on day one of preschool. It seems like a lot of people have really ignorant opinions regarding neonatology and its progress, capabilities, &c. I appreciate the real-time window you provide into your particular experience via your blog, and your memoir was tremendously compelling and such a great combination of storytelling and (medical-y NICU) information. Awesome “Polo.” (Not in the specific “I have also had this exact experience” sense, but in the general “help us understand ourselves and our world” sense.)

  90. Erin says:

    Shocked. Feeling sick to my stomach. No words.
    or maybe a few……….
    You have a wonderful family and I am so lucky I got to know the three of you……… Simone is darling and will always be a success story for us! :) Thinking of you!

    <3, Erin

  91. Wendi says:

    Alexa, that was really something. I’m ruminating on everything you so eloquently and intelligently wrote.

    I just wish I hadn’t gotten confused and thrown my snack across the room instead of my stapler because now I’m hungry.

  92. Dani says:

    When my son was born, too small and too soon. All I wanted was to know that someone out there heard me. I was lucky to find your blog and others that helped me shepherd through the process and to help me have the courage to write about it myself.
    Thanks for yelling “Polo” and for writing a book that helps some of us see that there is light at the end of the tunnel that is from a mom’s view and not the scary technical preemie book (of which I own many).
    The people that wrote that? They are stupid wrong people. They don’t deserve the time we’re talking about them. But you deserve to be able to work through it and share it if needed.

  93. Shana in Texas says:

    Thank you for writing. Simone is one of my internet “kids” and I am thinking so not so nice thoughts about the emailer. Scott is a better man than me toturn to pity instead of rage. Said person is rather pathetic and I have a burning desire to shame them if that is even an emotion they can feel.

    I have often thought the Internet needs a Southern Aunt to instill some manners and the notion that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all. This doesn’t silence honest dissent or unpopular opinions but it does keep it civil.

  94. Julie says:

    Ugly is what we become on the inside when we target 3 year old bright new souls with hateful comments. Perhaps he was bullied. Perhaps he was a bully. Perhaps the hell he’s creating for himself will be where he ends up spending eternity.

    Beautiful is what we become when wrestle with hatred & refuse to be silenced.

    You are beautiful and brave. You are teaching Simone how to deal with mean kids right now by standing up to this…person.

    You decide what to share with us. I trust you. And I stand by you.

  95. Steph says:

    This post is eloquent and thoughtful. I get so much enjoyment from reading your blog. One of the main reasons is the relief at recognizing myself or my children in the experience of others, and often, gaining some much-needed perspective. I often wonder about the impact of social media/blog/twitter madness on our children as they grow up in this bewildering world, but in my humble opinion, what you have here is a Very Good Thing. Your love for Simone is evident, and when the understandable reaction to certain comments would be to throw something, you remain gracious. That, right there, is a wonderful gift to Simone.

  96. Leda says:

    Your book was my “Polo” as I struggled through 114 days in the NICU with my son, who was born at 27 weeks 5 days after 45 days of hanging out in the dry uterine environment of this pre-PROM queen. We’re home now, and in between admiring his very existence, finding deep delight in his newly discovered laugh, choking him through refluxy feeds, and cramming prongs back into his nose, and I look to you and Simone for hope, comfort and commiseration.
    Although I’ve never commented before, I feel an almost uncanny kinship with you: I’m a creative nonfiction writer, too. I also think it’s funny to speak German to my baby. I remember the first time I went shopping for him feeling as though buying him things somehow anchored him to this earthly plane. I could go on. But what’s important is that you’ve helped me feel less alone because my thoughts and feelings were so closely mirrored by yours, and because your ongoing story continues to have such a beautiful outcome. So thank you.

    As for the vortex of evil sending you hateful email, you’re handling it beautifully. I’m so, so sorry that you have to put up with such filth, but I hope knowing how many lives you’ve touched helps cancel it out.

  97. Jenn says:

    One thing I immensely enjoy about your writing is that you don’t take the easy way out and declare One Thing the Ultimate Solution. I love that you can see so many facets of this issue and hold them all without declaring one the only true angle. Hang in there and thanks for sharing.

  98. Mama Fuss says:

    People are sick and stupid. Even if Simone was a drain on society (as she obviously isn’t to anyone who actually READS your blog) that doesn’t give anyone the right to declare that she doesn’t deserve to live. How moronic can these people be?

    That being said, I think that you and Simone are inspiring. My children were both born full-term and healthy and yet, I get a lot of encouragement from reading your story, from following the story of your pregnancies (I’ve been reading for nearly 6 years) to the joyful triumph of Simone going to pre-school.

    And who on earth thinks she’s ugly? Goodness gracious, she’s beautiful and I’m not simply saying that to be nice or whatever. She’s adorable.

  99. Torrey says:

    Yipes. I am terrified that there are people like that in the world. You and Simone are beautiful and hilarious and bring joy and happiness.

    So sorry you had to see such a horrific thing.

  100. ml says:

    I wish I had something so profound to say back. But all I can do is just nod my head yes with a big, huge lump in my throat.

    Thank you for writing.

  101. Karen M says:

    It continues to amaze me how people can be so mean to each other. We have too little time on this earth for this kind of nonsense. I’m so sorry that you and Simone have had this kind of treatment.

    That being said, this person obviously knows nothing about preemies, and what tough individuals they can be. I’m sure my 23 year old daughter, a 25 week preemie, would like to drop her nueroscience textbook on his head. And she wouldn’t get a spot of dirt on her fancy glasses while doing it.

    Good luck to you and Simone, however you choose to proceed.

  102. Chickenpig says:

    As a historian, all I can say is, that it ALL matters. Every word bloggers write matters. This is an amazing time. I have spent countless hours reading and sorting through material desperately trying to find even the slightest bit of truth from the past. There is so little that exists. We know soooo much about White Men, what they thought, what they did, and who with, why they felt the way we did. But History is about all of us. Two hundred years from now no one will know what a NICU is (we can hope!) or what it means to want a child and not be able to have one. The daily lives of most women through the centuries has been lost. Hopefully, with all the blogs out there some of these words will survive.

  103. Leah says:

    That guy who sent you the email? I want to kick his ass. I want to kick his ass so hard and for so long that his teeth rattle in his head and he shits himself. Too much? Sorry, I got a little carried away. The only good thing to come from his outrageous display of loser-ness is a deliciously lengthy post from my favorite, favorite blogger.

    I too read every word, and did plenty of nodding. But by the end of it, I had the sense of being somewhat battered, slapped about the face and head. I think I was distracted by the idea that at any given moment (paragraph) you might say you were closing up shop at Flotsam. So I read most of the post while holding my breath. I am a fast reader, but even at a mighty clip, that was still a loooooong time to go without glorious air. [Please note that I have reworded that last sentence a couple of times to ensure that it is not offensive to those among us who were born prematurely and required enormous amounts of assistance breathing.] Anyway, I agree with what you wrote, and the Marco! Polo! analogy resonated with me deeply. That is EXCATLY what it felt like when I discovered the infertility blogging community.

    As for middle/high school tormet? My teenage years were sort of a blur. If they had been sponsored, it would have gone something like, “Brought to you by CANNABIS and SOUTHERN COMFORT!” I have always been somewhat of a chamelion as evidenced by my credentials in high school: co-captain of the cheerleading squad, vice president of the student council, and the biggest drug dealer in the school. I don’t remember being particularly battered, but I certainly wasn’t part of The In Crowd. I think I was more part of an In Crowd auxillary or something. I also don’t remember being particularly mean to people, but since I’m wickedly sarcastic and love to run my mouth, I assumed that I insulted a few people here and there. Flash forward 10 years to my high school reunion (no, I have NO IDEA why I actually attended) and it turns out that I was incredibly nice to everyone. Go figure. Bonus for me because the dweeby guy that no one befriended (except me) turned out to be excruciatingly HOT a decade later. Neveryoumind that we all figured out a few years after the reunion that he’s gay, all I know is that for the entire reunion, he was glued to my side and I was lapping it up. Go me!

    Thank you for the time and care you put into this post. I hunger for your astoundingly intelligent take on these sorts of topics. I hope to see many more posts from you and I will keep my digits crossed that at least some of them will contain odes to Simone’s awesomeness.

  104. Mel says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for over 3 years now, I’ve loved reading your thoughts and watching your beautiful daughter grow up. Don’t let the nutters get to you, the rest of us appreciate your witty interlect xx

  105. GingerB says:

    This post floored me, in fact, I was dumbstruck, which is why I said nothing. I only came back to say this: you are brave, and strong, a delightful writer, and the reason I started reading and now writing blogs, which means you have enriched my life immensely. I love Simone. I cannot comprehend the behavior of your evil commenters, but I think you already know this and if not, I want to remind you, Simone has far more love and positive energy flowing her direction from the whole of the internet than she has negative and nasty hatemongers who spend any time thinking about her. The balance sheet is very much in her favor.

  106. Kelsey says:

    I like the Marco Polo metaphor because that’s it, isn’t it – we’d all like to feel a little less alone. With all its flaws there is still a sense of community in sharing our stories online. I don’t have nearly the exposure you do so I don’t get the same level of feedback (positive or negative) but I have to believe I am a better mother and person for what I’ve shared and I hate to think about stopping.

  107. jadine says:

    I clicked on your blog to see if you’d posted again, and had a mini-heart-attack when my browser wouldn’t connect me. I tried again, and there you were. Whew!

    I think your previous post is beautifully written, and I completely understand your dilemma and concern. When I thought your blog might be gone earlier, I realized how much I’d miss you and Simone if you were to choose to make things private, for example. I don’t *know* you, but think you’re a wonderful writer, and I’ve come to care about you and your family (in a friendly way, not in a creepy way). I’ve been rooting for you and following you since Simone was born, having linked to you via someone’s blog.

    I won’t repeat what others have written, but wanted you to know I’d understand whichever way you decide to go, and hope to be able to continue to follow and support you via your blog.

    Simone is a lovely, lovely girl…who is also smart and funny and well-loved by her Mama. So there.

  108. tree town gal says:

    Alexa – You are brilliance and beauty. You do what few achieve though many try. You give word and poetry and resonance to the unimaginable and to the every day. You are our voice. You are our extraordinary friend, wise well beyond her years and Simone, our dearest girl. Thank you. Your echo has been received, many times over, with gratitude.

  109. Wiley says:

    I’ve put off finishing reading this. I was actually pumping or feeding my son or something when it was published and I started reading it, but I must confess I fell asleep. I read it today and I don’t have an answer or a feedback yet.

    But I did want to take a moment and thank you for the part of your story that you have written. I read half-baked sitting in the NICU. I lost a twin at 24 weeks and then delivered her brother at 30 weeks. My main image of reading the book is sitting in a rocker by the window (our NICU has bays) and laughing. It was a nice connection, because so much of the time I felt like I didn’t fit into any of the possible “boxes”.

    So, this is a long way to say thank you for improving my life during a hard time. It may not have been interactive, but I felt the connection of someone saying Polo even though my eyes were still shut.

  110. (another) karen says:

    I am, for the most part, still rendered so totally and completely speechless by the e-mail subject line that I honestly don’t think I can add (or even state) anything remotely substantive on the topics/issued raised. But I’ll tell you this much: I think Simone AND you are BEAUTIFUL. Both of you – inside and out!

    karen

  111. Shannon says:

    How bizarre-there must be something in the water. Or the air. Nuclear air. Air that makes people use the veneer of anonymity and think “Heck, anonymous is good, anonymous means I can take out my issues on people who happened to (from an internet perspective) be just walking by!” There’s a plug that gets pulled on people’s civility when they open their laptop. It’s not an excuse (unless it’s an excuse for taking away their broadband). My three year old twins were attacked this week, too, and I had a knee jerk reaction to take my toys and go home! Home now! Only like you said, it feels like letting the bad guys win. I’m with you in wanting to listen to my gut about writing about my kids (or not). I just feel insecure doing so.

  112. Valarie says:

    Oh Alexa….. I am so sorry that you have been hurt by that awful person who sent that completely outrageous email. Truthfully – some people do completely suck.
    You are a beautiful person and a brilliant writer. As part of your “following”, I completely understand if you choose to stop writing about your precious Simone. I would also completely understand if you choose to stop blogging all together.
    It is my belief that as mothers, our primary responsibilty is to protect our children. If you believe in your heart that not writing about Simone or not blogging at all is the best way to protect her – then that is what you need to do.
    I love your writing and I love you and your family in a non-stalker, non-creepy kind of way.
    Many of us will miss your pics and stories about Simone, but most of us will totally and completely understand. Besides, you need to do what is best for you and yours – you absolutely do not need to worry about pleasing a bunch of internet followers!
    Love,
    Valarie

  113. Katy says:

    I just found your blog after my mom sent Half-Baked to me. Let me assure you, it was my Polo. My daughter is a 25/0 weeker and doing great. We celebrated her 1st birthday on January 3 and will be having a huge celebration to celebrate her 1st anniversary at home on April 27. I read this posting and am outraged and agree with what the other outraged posters have said. I just want to thank you for Half-Baked– it was so refreshing to read a book about having a Micro-preemie that was so on par with my own feelings and beliefs. I laughed right out loud at parts (being thankful for NOT having contractions) and nodded with the parts that I connected with so clearly (being friends with the parking garage attendant) and was so relieved that there is someone else out there that believes the miracle is the doctors, nurses, therapists, machines, medicine and science that is keeping these babies alive. Anyway, I loved it and have sent it to my best friend who wants to understand but with 4 beautiful healthy full term pregnancies just can’t and I think this book will explain it to her just a little bit. So, thank you for putting all of the raw truth out there, you made it a little easier for me because I read your book and felt a little less alone.

  114. Golly. This is my first visit to your blog – seems I picked a busy day… I am appalled that anyone would wish misfortune / hurt / death (seriously?? death?? it just… beggars belief) on a child, and impressed and amazed by your composure and measured response. It’s so sad that no matter where we are in life, there continue to be bullies everywhere. Spineless gutless cowards, who hide behind the anonymity of the internet, to abuse and taunt and tease. Is there any comfort in knowing that this person is clearly deeply, profoundly unhappy? Not really. It’s actually just sad, that this is how a person would expend their energy. Sigh. But on to better things: a pot of tea and earlier postings – yay! (Oh bugger, it’s 5pm. The chaos of tea-time, and subsequent carnage of bath- and bed-time, is upon me. The cuppa and archives will both have to wait). Lovely writing btw. I can’t wait to get stuck into more.

  115. I adore your writing style – your digressions, bouncing from point to point, your humor (cerebral humor, my favorite kind), and your intelligence. Self-disclosure rounds it all out.

    I did have to read this post in two sittings. It felt like a good, long feature story from Vanity Fair, but of course I’m not disregarding or minimizing the most disturbing comment you shared about your beautiful child.

    I get it. I have faith in your internal whim too. And I’d dearly miss your blog if you ever went away. I read so few blogs that rise to the level of entertaining, literary excellence.

    But I am sorry that you received such a dreadful comment (and more, I know). Oh, how I’d love to do a doctoral dissertation on human dynamics in online communities if I ever intended to get a PhD, which I don’t. That ship sailed back in the ’90s, and I was to afraid to get on it.

    (Isn’t THAT sad? No more. Older, wiser.)

    Haven’t read your book but I intend to. Am going on vacation in two weeks. Think I’ll get it then and take it along with my stack.

  116. nicole says:

    Wow–I teach literature, and have often had to curb snarky remarks about my utter disinterest in whether a particular book if “relatable,” but your Marco Polo analogy just left me speechless (I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to convey how moving and insightful it seems). Yes–that’s what we want writing to do, and your writing does it so well. Thank you.

  117. loveyoualready.wordpress.com says:

    Wow. I think I have to read this again – okay, I admit it I got lost near the middle – but I can tell you I’m furious for you. Can’t the police just track this idiot by an I.P. address? Why can’t criminal charges be laid?

  118. roo says:

    I’m torn between wanting to read all the 150 comments ahead of me or simply shouting “Polo! Polo!”

    And according to stated Marco credentials, Polo isn’t even accurate. But I feel it, anyway. So how’s that for making your writing worthwhile?

    As someone who’s survived a childhood of being unwittingly brave while socially retarded, I like to think I’ve learned from my past. But there are considerations about the line between public and private that you address in this post, that, as a mother-to-be who believes in a well-examined life (i.e.– I reflect on my life in useful ways by writing about it), well–

    you’ve brought up some serious points I really should be considering, that I might not have, if I’d continued in my traditional, somewhat oblivious, not-quite-consigned-to-childhood socially retarded way.

    I’m grateful for it. Thank you.

  119. no matter how plain a woman may be if truth & loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her….” and “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
    From the always amazing… Eleanor Roosevelt

    I still want to throw something but you and your daughter are amazing…

  120. kirsten says:

    First, the obvious. What a terrible thing he did in sending that. But as you and Scott are clearly aware, it has zip to do with you and Simone and everything to do with that person, and who he is or isn’t.
    People are more nasty on the internet than in person, having a veil to hide behind. But I also think that same veil allows some people to be nicer too. You don’t see people dishing out as much support and compliments IRL as they do in comments on the net. I think that is because sometimes in person paying a compliment or offering hugs to people you don’t really know is, well, awkward. Shouldn’t be that way perhaps, but it is. At least to me. I find it far less weird to reach out to strangers kindly on the net than in person.

  121. Flicka says:

    I read the whole thing too. (My greek yogurt was delicious and sustaining.) I laughed admiringly at Scott’s perspective; it was so like something my own husband would say. And since I’m a few entries behind, I enjoyed a really satisfying chuckle over your troll’s misunderstanding of the word “rime.” Ignorant fuck, indeed.

    Although no one has told me via internet that my child should die, I wrestle with the idea of Sam’s privacy on the web too. I wonder when he gets older if he will feel resentful that so much of his story is out there for others to know and whether he will want to keep all of that private. I have family that blog about their children regularly and can’t understand why I don’t do the same about mine. It’s just different for us. In the end, you do the best you can and hope your decisions are right.

  122. Jenn says:

    The best thing I took from that is that you wore sequins to school. The rest pertinent and important obviously, but for me, sequins win.

    I fail miserably at all of the other insightful stuff, so have come to the conclusion that blogging should be whatever you want it to be.

  123. Becca says:

    I’ve been reading The Blog for over three years, and I always love it. And, with the wisdom that only a Seven Sisters college can impart to her devoted handmaidens: people suck, yo.

  124. Dana says:

    I have been wanting to write to you for well over a year. Your pregnancy mirrored my own in many ways. We had to go through three rounds of fertility treatments before two of our embryos “took” and we suddenly found ourselves expecting twins. I was on pins and needles for most of my pregnancy. In March of last year, we went in for our genetics testing results and to find out the gender(s) of our babies. Everything was going well until the doctor got a look at our Baby B. We would not know the gender of our son until his birth because he had no room to move. We were devastated to learn that Benjamin was diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome and Ebstein’s Anomaly and we were told by the specialists who saw us that he would not survive to term.

    It will be almost a year (May 4th, actually) when I went in for my glucose screening and my doctor wanted to do a routine check to see how everything was going, based on the fact that I had informed the office that I had a small dime-sized spot of discharge the week before and it felt like my daughter was stepping on my cervix. Suddenly, I found myself being checked into the hospital for pre-term labor and a shorted cervix at 24 weeks. I managed to stay pregnant for 3 more, then our babies were born on May 25th.

    I’ve been wanting to write to you because I feel a connection to you more than any other blog that I have read. I sincerely hope it doesn’t sound creepy or strange… other than the women who I talk to at a support group for infant/pregnancy loss, I don’t think anyone else understands what it’s like to carry a baby and know that he’s not going to live.

    I started my website in the hopes to write about what it’s like to be a mother to a preemie. I find myself writing epic posts in my head, but when I sit down to write, I stare at the screen. I’m afraid to write about my daughter because of privacy issues. I’m afraid to write about my experiences because I know there are internet bullies out there and I really don’t know how much of it I would be able to take. I, too, was teased incessantly as a child.

    Anyway… I just wanted to tell you thank you so very much for writing what you write. It definitely is an inspiration to me to write more about what it’s like to truly be a mom and to look down at my daughter’s smiling face and see not only myself, but my son’s memory in her shining eyes.

    Thank you, Alexa. <3

  125. Clemma says:

    Your daughter is fabulous. I loved your book and I am continually impressed by your phrasing when you write about difficult subjects. I am sorry about the knuckleheads. Simone is lucky to have you and Scott for her parents, and the world is lucky to have Simone living on it.

  126. Janine says:

    I’m sorry that this happened to you. This is going to bother me for a long time. Not (just) that some weirdo decided to send you an email like that, but that there’s no good answer to it. When someone throws a rock at the back of your head when you are neither a rock thrower nor a rock receptacle, I think it stuns you a bit.

    All I can offer is that on a flat screen, our children are names and 2D snapshots. They are symbols of what they represent (i.e. actual living, breathing children), but not the actual living, breathing person herself. And hate focused toward a symbol is the strongest hate imaginable. But it is also the weakest–there is no foresight, no plan of action, no actual mission, just empty hate toward a disembodied symbol. It’s as empty as wishing on a star (in a horrible, polar-opposite, Bizarro World kind of way). What a silly little man.

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