For woman who blogged about fake pregnancy, one lie led to another
by Kim Janssen - Jun. 11, 2009 05:51 PM
CHICAGO - The unmarried mother's story about giving birth to a child diagnosed as terminally ill in the womb hit a major nerve on the Internet.
Every night for the past two months, thousands of pro-life moms across the nation logged on to a blog run by the suburban Chicago woman who identified herself only as "B" or "April's Mom."
People said they prayed that God would save her pregnancy. They e-mailed her photos of their children dressed in pink, bought campaign T-shirts, shared tales of personal heartache and redemption, and sent letters and gifts to an Oak Lawn P.O. Box in support.
As more and more people were drawn to her compelling tale, eager advertisers were queuing up, and established pro-life parenting Web sites were promoting her blog - which included biblical quotes, anti-abortion messages and a soundtrack of inspirational Christian pop songs.
By Sunday night, when "April's Mom" claimed to have given birth to her "miracle baby" - blogging that April Rose had survived a home birth only to die hours later - her Web site had nearly a million hits.
There was only one problem with the unfolding tragedy: None of it was true.
Not the pregnancy, and not the photos posted on the blog of the supposed mother and Baby April Rose, swaddled in white blankets. The baby was actually a lifelike doll, which immediately raised the suspicion of loyal blog-followers.
"I have that exact doll in my house," said Elizabeth Russell, a doll maker from Buffalo, N.Y., who had been following the blog. "As soon as I saw that picture, I knew it was a scam."
By Monday, outraged followers on dozens of Christian parenting Web sites unmasked "April's Mom" as a hoaxer, and hundreds more vented their anger.
"She needs to be exposed and held accountable," Russell said.
Sensing people were close to establishing her identity, "April's Mom" on Monday raced in vain to delete her Web site, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
But it was too late. The online community found out her true identity: Beccah Beushausen, a 26-year-old social worker from Mokena, Ill.
When reached by the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Beushausen admitted to the hoax.
"I know what I did was wrong," she said. "I've been getting hate mail. I'm sorry because people were so emotionally involved."
There's no evidence that Beushausen benefited financially in any significant way, or committed any crime.
Still, Russell said she doesn't understand how anyone could create such a convincing tale that preyed on other women's emotions.
Beushausen says she really did lose a son shortly after birth in 2005. She started her blog in March to help deal with that loss and to express her strong pro-life views, she said.
She had only expected a handful of friends to read it, but when her first post got 50 comments, she was hooked.
"I've always liked writing. It was addictive to find out I had a voice that people wanted to hear," she said.
"Soon I was getting 100,000 hits a week, and it just got out of hand. I didn't know how to stop ... one lie led to another."
Though Beushausen said she used her real-life experiences and deeply held beliefs as a basis for her fictionalized account, her devoted fans didn't read it that way.
"I feel emotionally exploited," said Jennifer McKinney, a Minnesota mom who runs the widely read Christian parenting blog mycharmingkids.net and nearly lost her fourth child during pregnancy. She said Beushausen sought her out to help promote her site.
In retrospect, McKinney says, Beushausen pursued her support "more aggressively than anyone else ever has," adding that Beushausen seemed more interested in attracting viewers than in her unborn child.
"I have 11,000 Twitter followers, and I drove most of the traffic to her blog," McKinney said.
"My readers were praying for her, and I feel guilty about that," she said.
"But I have to admit her stuff was beautifully written."
Raechel Myers, a friend of Beushausen's from college, heard from someone earlier this year that Beushausen was going through a difficult pregnancy. Myers and her husband, Ryan, had a daughter who died at birth, so they did more than most to support Beushausen.
"When I heard that she was pregnant I called her and said if she needed anything, I was there for her," said Raechel Myers, now living in Nashville, Tenn. She said she spoke to Beushausen almost every day for the last few weeks.
Myers sold T-shirts online to benefit Beushausen and Pass, a Tinley Park, Ill., pro-life pregnancy clinic Beushausen asked them to donate to. The couple said they also sent her a few hundred dollars.
Even after learning of the hoax, Raechel Myers said she and her husband don't regret their involvement.
"She's someone who needed love and attention and we gave her that," Raechel Myers said.
Beushausen and her father said the stress of being exposed caused her to spend two nights recuperating in Palos Community Hospital.
"I couldn't handle it anymore," she said, adding that she plans to write one final blog post, coming clean and apologizing to her fans.
Her father said he only learned of his daughter's double-life Wednesday morning.
"She's a very talented young lady who hit some hot buttons," he said.
"She knows she made a big mistake."