Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hate mail, non-anonymous blogging and a favourite comment

I started my personal blog in October 2007, when I was working part-time and mother to a one-, three- and six-year-old. It made perfect sense to me that I take up blogging during the very busiest time of my life: blog posts were tidy, tangible, creative packages I could set afloat on the Internet, when everything else in my life felt messy and abstract.

I knew that if my blog attracted any kind of readership, I could expect hate mail. I prepared myself by deciding that when the first nasty comment arrived, I would see it as an accomplishment, a marker of an ever-widening circle of readers. Then someone called my kids f***ing ugly and interpreting that as a mark of success proved more difficult than I had anticipated.

All posts are vetted by Pete. On more than one occasion he's responded with, "I'd actually file that in the Who Cares Department." I post those ones anyway and invariably they're particularly well-received.

I've never blogged anonymously. For one, I wanted to take responsibility for what I wrote. I also wanted full credit for it. When I write, I consider that anyone could be reading: patients, employers, ex-boyfriends, my mother, my child's teacher. This keeps me cautious, and keeps blogging from landing me in any sort of real trouble. That also means that out of respect for family, friends and even institutions, most of the very best fodder for writing is off-limits.

For example, I won't write about:
  • being actively discouraged from pursuing medicine by family
  • being raised in a small, religiously and ethnically homogeneous community wherein women pursuing careers was rare and having a child in formal daycare was unheard of
  • the refining of my Christian views as medicine affords me glimpses into human hearts, lives and suffering
  • the complexities of relationships with friends who home birth, don't vaccinate and seek medical advice through Facebook status updates
Though I no longer blog at for reasons detailed here, I continue to blog at Mothers in Medicine for several reasons. For one, writing is a good exercise in putting one's thoughts in order. I agree with Emily Carr:
It seems to me that it helps to write thoughts and things down. It makes the unworthy ones look more shame-faced and helps to place the better ones for sure in our minds.
For another, I value having records of events. I am certain I would not remember the small details of my son's radial/ulnar fracture had I not documented it. I'm grateful I made the effort to describe what my typical day looks like. For me, writing captures memories far better than photography does. It also feels like the most authentic me; my writing represents me much more accurately then my CV, or my wardrobe, or my library.

But what I enjoy most about blogging is having others derive pleasure from my writing. The best blog comment I ever received was from someone who wrote:
When I saw that you were gonna describe each of your morning patients I got so excited I actually got a bowl of chips and some coke to thoroughly enjoy the read.
When I tell a story face-to-face, the response is immediate. When a piece is published in a journal, that very fact is affirmation enough. But a blog audience, for the most part, reads in silence, and that inscrutability can be unnerving. Learning that someone out there is settling in with a snack to enjoy a post is a huge incentive to continue.


  1. I, for one, am very glad you continue to write in some capacity. You are very gifted at it!

    And I'm sorry for the hate comment you received. I couldn't disagree more!

  2. I miss your blog, Martina. When I first discovered it, I was like your chips and coke reader. I got myself a coffee, ignored the world (and kids trailing in and out of the office) and read for a couple hours all the past blog posts I could find. Write on, in any capacity you will! And the hate mail commenter was insane: your kids are just as yummy as you were at that age!

  3. I too miss your old blog. I'm not a doctor, but I am a mom, and I always looked forward to your posts. Your insights as a doctor AND a parent were very interesting to me.

    Best wishes always!

  4. I'm glad you still write here. I used to read your personal blog, and while you don't write there anymore and I understand, I miss it.

    I actually wish that you would write about the things you say you stay away from. I have such similar experiences, I would love to know how others have managed those issues.

  5. Wow well I feel rather special seeing as my comment falls under one of your favourites=) And I agree with one of your other readers comments...your piece of "hate mail" could not be further from the truth! Obviously coming from someone with great jealousy. Your children are beautiful!

  6. Thanks for your comments!

    The comment about my ugly kids didn't bother me in the sense that I second-guessed whether my kids were cute. I was just taken aback that someone would be so mean.

    There were other hateful comments that I took much more personally, but I included that one as it was the very first.

    Katherine - I wish I could write about those things, too. It would be easier if there weren't so many people in those groups who are dear to me. I would be so cautious about not being misunderstood or offensive or hurtful that it would be really lousy writing.

    Also - I want to clarify that I have many very supportive family members. The discouragement came from a select number.

  7. I still miss Fresh MD. I was mentioning you to a friend as a doctor friend that also used to have a blog, and she turned to me excitedly and said, "Fresh MD"?? You definitely have a gift for writing!

  8. Just to let you know that I love reading your blog posts. I still have FreshMD in my RSS feed reader, just in case you decide to start blogging there again.

  9. What a great blog! One of my colleagues just shared it with me. I have also recently blogged about hate male and totally "get it." And please don't hold this against me -- I'm a lawyer!


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