Sunday, July 28, 2013

Catfishing, infant loss style

I have only recently learned of the term "catfishing", thanks to the popular reality show. I've been familiar with the term "lying" for a long time, though. Catfishing involves making up a persona in an attempt to fool others into believing you're something you're not. Online that can mean a different gender, a different income bracket, or (in extreme cases) someone with a debilitating illness. In the past, it's been discovered that some bloggers who claimed to have cancer and fertility problems were not really who they said they were. Unfortunately, this has caused a great many people stress, especially since they became emotionally, and sometimes financially, involved in the person's trials.

I had my first experience, that I am aware of, with this when I joined a site dedicated to helping people with medical issues. In my pregnancy group, a young woman came on and talked about hew newborn. She then began complaining of pain, about three weeks after giving birth. We were all concerned.

Later in the day she got back online and claimed to have given birth a second time, this time in her bathtub. (This was three weeks after giving birth the first time.) Some people were suspicious. Others were not. She continued to get sympathy and well wishes.

A little search, however, showed that while she was supposedly giving birth she was also in other groups making random updates about something else. In addition, in other groups she claimed to not have any children at all. Someone finally called her out on this. She admitted to making the whole thing up.

What was difficult was that there were many people in the pregnancy group who had suffered pregnancy losses. I'm sure her made-up story triggered something in them that was painful. I know that listening to her talk about being in the bathtub and bleeding was hard for me to hear. To find that she made it up was deflating. And yet, not altogether shocking.

You can be anyone you want to be online.

It has now happened again.

In another infant loss group I belong to, a member has started posting some questionable updates. Less than a month ago they talked about how much they missed their infant who had passed away. They also claimed that they would never be able to have another biological child.

A few days ago, however, they claimed to be 29 weeks pregnant and in the hospital for problems. They continued to make updates throughout the day. They were in labor. They didn't know if the baby would make it. Their water broke. They were getting steroids. The baby was born. The baby wasn't doing well. There were complications. Then their "brother" got online to update for them (under their name). Mother was okay but the baby was sick.

She couldn't take any pictures and post them because her phone wouldn't allow it. She said she had kept the pregnancy quiet from family and friends. She also claimed to have nobody in her life but her brother.

A few days later, the baby died.

Of course, she got tons of support from the group. People were saddened and shocked. She got online and talked about how horrible she felt, how she wanted to die. Someone offered her a suicide prevention phone number and website. She asked for advice on planning a funeral. People offered stories of their own babies' funerals.

I was suspicious. Something just wasn't setting right.

A quick Google search showed me the person's real name. They are transgender and have been going through hormone therapy to become male for several months. They have a blog about their adventure and have posted You Tube videos about it. They're also engaged to a woman. I found their wedding registry and wedding page. (Despite the fact that they claimed to not have anyone in their life for support, other than their brother.)

No doctor is going to offer hormone therapy to a woman who is that far along in their pregnancy. She/he is obviously lying about something. My guess is that it's the pregnancy and infant loss, especially given the fact that less than a month ago they were claiming that they wouldn't have any children and, despite the fact that they've made multiple posts, only alluded to being pregnant in the past week.

This bothered me on many levels.

For one thing, they claimed to have had a placental abruption. As everyone knows, I had two myself: a partial and a complete. That's nothing to joke around about.

Then there's the fact that they continued to seek support from other infant loss mothers, bringing up painful memories of funerals and burial arrangements-when I am almost certain that their own loss is made up.

I could be wrong, of course.

The woman COULD be going through hormone therapy and on her way to becoming a man while she is also in her third trimester. She COULD have kept the pregnancy a secret and just decided to reveal it at the very end. And maybe she feels like she doesn't have anyone else in her life except for her brother. (Who knows what happened to the financee.)

I could be wrong about her.

But I don't think I am.

Since losing my own child my tolerance for bullshit is at an all time low. My bullshit radar, however, is at an all time high.


Leslie said...

I would imagine this person has some very serious mental/personality issues. It must be terrible to be in her/his life.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

I agree. And I do have sympathy for the people who do these things because there is obviously something else going on there. It's difficult, though, when they do it in a group full of people who suffer from depression and PTSD. Infant loss groups are full of those of us who have engaged in self-harm or had suicidal thoughts. Certain triggers can be like throwing in a bomb in such groups. My sympathy, therefore, lies mainly in the other members of the group who are suffering a legitimate infant loss.