A Peculiar Thing

The below is an excerpt from Ramshackle Glam. I wanted to share it on the site because it explores a topic that I’ve touched upon a lot here – the anxiety that I felt during my pregnancy, and in the weeks after giving birth – but that I felt like I never really got to the bottom of until I wrote this essay.

(Read the full book on your Kindle here.)

Early on in my pregnancy, when I was busy tying myself up in knots about things like strollers and closets and finding room for bottle drying racks on our nonexistent countertop, one of the things I actually didn’t worry a ton about, oddly enough, was . . . the baby. I just kind of figured he’d be okay. I mean, of course I went to all my doctor’s appointments, ate decently well, and avoided the stuff you’re supposed to avoid, but mostly I just sort of got on with it and trusted that everything would turn out fine. He’d be born, and be loved and happy and ours, and our little family would roll on into wherever it was we were headed.

And then the strangest thing happened: a couple of months before my due date my husband and I settled on a name for our son, and I started thinking about how I might want to share it on Ramshackle Glam. On my blog, I share pretty much everything: career struggles, marital challenges, what eye cream I used last night, that time in seventh grade when I wore a brand-new outfit to school and then spilled a Snapple all over it and felt stupid . . . everything. I know lots of the people who read my site by their first names; they’re my friends, and they’re a real presence in my life—one that matters a lot. I’d already gone on and on (and on) about the fact that we were having a baby, and had even made a gender reveal video in which I cut into a blue cake while wearing way too much jewelry and sort of shrieking and hopping around. I had been writing about imminent motherhood for months, and talking about the process of selecting a name for our child felt like a natural part of that.

So I sat down, started typing out a “We Picked a Name!” post, and the strange thing happened:

I panicked.

I use the word panic a lot because . . . well, I panic a lot, I guess, but this time I mean panicked, italics and intense physical reaction and all: I got flushed and dizzy, my heart started ping-ponging around in my chest, and I thought, “You know what? Let’s step away from the computer and chill out for a second.”

So that’s what I did. I figured sooner or later I’d work out whatever was putting me into such a state, but in the meantime I’d just keep on referring to our unborn son as “Indy”—the pseudonym we’d picked out a few months earlier, when we still hadn’t been sure what we were going to call our child.

But I didn’t work out why even the thought of sharing my son’s name made me so upset. Not for a long time.

On the morning that our son came into the world, I put up a “He’s here!” photo on my Facebook page accompanied by his first name, went back to my bed to lie down . . . and boom, it happened again: the panic thing. I shot up out of a dead sleep and raced (or, more accurately, shuffled) over to my computer and edited the caption out of the post, hoping that I’d moved quickly enough that nobody had seen it. For whatever reason deleting his name made me feel better, and back to sleep I went.

Now, people’s feelings about social media and sharing certainly run the gamut, and it’s definitely not out-of-the-ordinary (or without reason) for a new parent to think twice about sharing any information whatsoever about their child in a public forum, be it Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or any other outlet that can be viewed by more than the most immediate friends and family…but the fact is that my anxiety was very much out-of-character for me. I’m a person who sifts through my life as source material as a matter of course, both because I enjoy the process and because it’s simply what I do. I genuinely believe in the value of sharing personal experiences with others, and being open even with people I don’t know is something that I am nearly always comfortable with. Beyond that, my husband and I had revisited the idea of having me include the experience of parenthood in my writing time and again, and had jointly decided that we were secure in this decision.

Given all this, the amount of distress I was feeling about sharing my son’s name—such a small thing, in the scheme of the things that I share—seemed…if not “unfounded,” at the very least “peculiar.”

Peculiar, that is, until much later on, when I finally understood what was going on in my head, and what was going on was this: something about sharing my son’s name made him real. He wasn’t going to stay safely tucked away forever; he was going to be there, a person in the world, and a person who the world could hurt in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to see coming.

In the years since my son has arrived I have posted countless photos and videos that include my family…and yet I continue to use a pseudonym for my son on my website. And although of course my husband and I are entitled to make whatever decisions we feel are appropriate for our family, I understand why this may be a confusing choice…mostly because it’s one that I’ve had a great deal of trouble understanding myself. So let me explain.

For my generation, at least, the Internet can sometimes feel like the place where your story is written. And while I write every day about my life and about my experiences as a mother, I do not want to write my son’s story for him.

I am a person who has made certain choices, for better or for worse, and one of those choices was to make my life—and to some extent my family’s life—something that is out there for people who want to read about it to see, debate, even judge, but still: my son’s tale—the goings-on of his mind and heart and self—is his to reveal if and how he sees fit. The truth is that I do sometimes question my choice to share my family—of course I do—and so I want to take care that this single small thing, this silly matter of a website, doesn’t pepper itself too densely over a world that my son will one day claim for himself, in his own way.

I share photos of my son and tell stories about him because the space that he consumes in my mind and my heart is too big for me to secret away; for me, to write without writing of my child would be to dance circles around the truth. But who I see, who I write about…that is a different person than who he is. It can be difficult for a person – for everyone – to remember that what people say about you and what you are is not one and the same…and so it was important to me that I not write my son’s name hundreds, perhaps thousands of times in a public space before he has the opportunity to learn how to form those letters himself.

In the beginning, of course, my choice – if you could even call it that – wasn’t this reasoned. And it wasn’t even about a name. It was about my desire to wrap my son up in my arms and run with him far away to where no one could ever make him cry.

I wanted to control it all, you see. Everything.

I didn’t know how I would handle all the bad things in the world that might harm my baby boy, and so I gathered them up into this one small fear: the fear that someone on the Internet might say something mean about my child, and that he might one day search for his name and read that mean thing and be hurt by it. I couldn’t take the idea of him being hurt at all. Ever. I wanted to hide him from the all the things in the world that I feared would wound him beyond repair and turn him inward, to a place where I wouldn’t be able to reach him anymore.

What I was scared of more than anything were the wounds that I might not be able to see, and so I picked one that I could.

My son is barely into toddlerhood now, and the things that hurt him are a skinned knee, or a dog that’s licked him too enthusiastically, or a toy that’s been taken away. These are small injuries, and they are ones that I can see right in front of me, that I can at least try to shield him from. I can kiss a cut, push away a dog, explain why sharing is often better than having. But I know that there are days right around the corner when my son will come home from school in tears over someone’s words, something he heard or read or suspected was said. The chances are excellent that people are going to say mean things to him, about him. Of course they are, because this is the kind of thing that happens. To everyone. Because their parent has a website; because of a picture posted on Facebook; because of a rumor, a whisper, a grudge; because of none or all of these things. And my job is not to pretend that such things do not happen, but to help him learn how to handle them if – when – they do.

I made a choice early on in parenthood that was a reaction to fear, not a thoughtful decision. Even so, it’s one that I continue to maintain, albeit for a different reason. Not because my son’s name is a secret – it’s not, it’s right there in the acknowledgements in the back of this book, where I thank him alongside many of the other people I love most in the world – but rather to remind him that his mother may write of him, but she does not tell his story.

And neither does anyone else, no matter how many words they may use.

I want my son to know that he can exist right alongside the enormous variety of opinions in this world, all those beliefs and ideas and thoughts that run from the thoughtful and kind all the way to the illogical and terrifying. More than that, I want him to know that he can hear all these thoughts, let them in, open himself up even to conflict and differences and sadness and anger…and still decide for himself what path he will take. I want him to know that those voices that can hurt are out there, but that his voice is louder. And most of all, I want to teach him to look his fears straight in the eye, figure out for himself what is true and what is not, and then climb right on over all those countless things that people may say, leaving their words way back there in the dust and the weeds, where they belong.

{Ramshackle Glam is available on}

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