The woman’s story about giving birth to a child diagnosed while in the womb as terminally ill hit a nerve.
Every night for the last two months, thousands of abortion foes from across the nation logged onto a blog run by the woman who said she was unmarried, pregnant and 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, shared tales of heartache and redemption and sent letters of support and gifts to an Oak Lawn, Ill., post office box.
As more people were drawn to the blog -- which included biblical quotes, antiabortion messages and a soundtrack of inspirational Christian pop songs -- advertisers were queuing up. By the evening of June 7, when the woman blogged that April Rose had survived a home birth only to die hours later, her website had nearly 1 million hits.
There was only one problem with the unfolding tragedy: None of it was true.
The baby in the photos, swaddled in white blankets, was a doll.
“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.”
The following day, people vented their anger on dozens of Christian parenting websites.
“She needs to be exposed and held accountable,” Russell said.
Sensing that people were close to establishing her identity, “April’s Mom” raced to delete her website and Twitter and Facebook accounts. But the online community already had identified her: Beccah Beushausen, a 26-year-old social worker from Mokena, Ill.
Reached by the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Beus- hausen 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 does not understand why anyone would create such a tale and prey on people’s emotions.
Beushausen said 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 antiabortion views, she said.
She had ony expected only 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.”
Although Beushausen said she used her real-life experiences 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 mother who runs the widely read Christian parenting blog mycharmingkids.net and nearly lost her fourth child during pregnancy. She said Beus- hausen sought her out to help promote her site and, in retrospect, had 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. But I have to admit her stuff was beautifully written.”
Raechel Myers, a friend of Beushausen’s from college, heard from someone this year that Beushausen was going through a difficult pregnancy. Myers and her husband 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 Myers, who lives in Nashville.
Myers sold T-shirts online to benefit both her friend and an antiabortion pregnancy clinic that Beushausen sought support for.
The couple said they sent her a few hundred dollars. Even after learning of the hoax, Myers said, she and her husband did not regret their involvement.
“She’s someone who needed love and attention, and we gave her that,” Myers said.
Beushausen said she planned to write one final blog post, coming clean and apologizing to her fans.