Paula M. Fitzgibbons

Freelance Writer

United States

I write to generate insight, compassion, and action — always through the lenses of chronic illness, social justice, parenthood, transracial adoption, liberation theology, and alternative education. An award-winning essayist, I am published at The New York Times, New York Magazine, and Scary Mommy. I blog at

Today's Parent
How to advocate for a child with an invisible illness

"I think our daughter might be a bit of a lemon," I joked to my husband one winter afternoon. After a six week stint with a nasty case of shingles and three more weeks struggling through pneumonia, she awoke that morning complaining of pain and stiffness in her left knee.

The Cut
Watching My Daughter Develop the Same Anxiety I Struggle With

It is relatively early on a summer evening, just after sunset. From my bed, I notice a shadow of a spindly branch dancing across the corner of the bedroom wall. I get up and close the curtains tightly to make it disappear, careful not to step on my daughter, who's camped on my bedroom floor, lying stiffly under the weighted anxiety blanket I'd made her.

Opinion | 10 Things My Chronic Illness Taught My Children

Autoimmune diseases are unpredictable. There are days when I am unsteady on my feet. This means nobody can leave anything on the floor, lest I trip. There are days when opening a door is a challenge. My children notice such moments and jump ahead to help.

The Establishment
How My Abusive Father Helped Me Understand Trump Supporters

I am struggling to even speak to Trump supporters right now. I am not, however, struggling to feel compassion for them. I was raised by a man like Trump, albeit without the money and political power. I understand what it is like to seek the love of an abusive father-like figure.

Mommy Means It
Pushing Children: Lessons From Chronic Pain

"Mom," my youngest daughter, Isabel, whines, her copper hair sweeping across her freckled cheek. "My knee is killing me. It's seriously the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. Can we please be done?" I take a deep breath and assess the situation.

Scary Mommy
Medical Marijuana Manages My Chronic Illness (And Makes Me A Better Mom)

I started using weed to control the chronic pain from my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) after the night I scared the living hell out of my kids. "Sprinkle Butt!" I repeatedly called out to my youngest daughter, my lips puckered in exaggeration. "Come here and give Mommy a big kiss, Sprinkle Butt!"

Mommy Means It
Parenting After Abuse

"My mother once told me that she had the urge to throw my brother, who had been crying for a long time, out the window," my new friend told me, as we sat on her fading yellow couch nursing our four...

The Establishment
The Day My Father Shot My Mother - The Establishment

My mother was a hero, someone I admired. And I could never become her, this part of her at least. I had a quirky childhood habit of sitting sideways on the toilet. It began, I surmise, in our Southeast San Diego house on Manos Drive, sometime after I turned five.

Mommy Means It
The Lesson I Learned That Time I Mooned the AME Church

We attended a local African Methodist Episcopal Church. I wore my new yoga pants. I mooned the congregation. Let me start from the beginning. Here's the longer version of the church part of the story: We've been searching for a place of worship since we moved to California.

Scary Mommy
How A Stranger At Target Kept Me From Coming Undone

The day a stranger saved me at Target, I was wearing an oversized, peach tank top. It was one of the few shirts that fit over my already large, fully engorged breasts. I walked through Target, shopping while nursing. It was a skill I'd acquired when I became a mom for a third time in less than a year.