NEW YORK – Pattie Mallette was 18, living in a home for pregnant girls after years of unrelenting sex abuse and depression when she gave birth to a boy she thought she'd name Jesse, a boy whose first cry sounded like a song.
Well, the baby seemed more like a Justin after he popped out. And his last name isn't Mallette.
You'd have to be firmly under a rock not to know at least a little bit about Justin Bieber's YouTube-to-riches story, his loyal fan base of Beliebers, 28 million Twitter followers or the hordes of screaming girls who pack his tours.
What you probably don't know are his mother's struggles, starting with the painful divorce of her parents, through years of emotional turmoil and hard partying that made school a blur, and her eventual turn to God after a suicide attempt about six months before Justin was conceived.
Mallette, 37, has laid bare her past in a new book, "Nowhere but Up: The story of Justin Bieber's Mom," out recently from the inspirational publisher Revell. It's a powerful, plainspoken story, written in collaboration with A.J. Gregory, a mother herself. A portion of proceeds have been promised to shelters like the one that harbored Mallette in Canada when her mother kicked her out of the house after she got pregnant.
Her troubles began well before that, however, and Mallette has forgotten little.
"Writing the book was part of my healing process," she said in an interview. "Just having to relive things as I'm writing it down. There are parts that are still painful to go over."
She was 2 when she watched her alcoholic, abusive father walk out the door and about 3 when she was first sexually abused by someone she knew. Mallette doesn't identify her numerous molesters, including a male baby sitter and the grandfather of a friend, but the last words of her book's acknowledgments speak volumes. "To my abusers: I forgive you."
"I was sexually violated so many times that as the years went by it began to feel normal," wrote the petite Mallette. "It's a strange marriage — knowing something is wrong yet at the same time finding it familiar and commonplace."
Fear, shame and the notion that she was an unlovable, "dirty girl" stretched through her life. She said the "void of having a father in my heart" led her down rough paths, including drinking and drugging to oblivion, beginning at age 14.
There was pot smoking and LSD. She left home at 16. To support herself and pay for her destructive habits, she turned to petty crime and pot dealing — and the toxic, on-again-off-again, four-year relationship she had with Justin's father, Jeremy Bieber, that began when she was 15. At 17, she threw herself in front of a truck and landed in a mental ward.
It was there that she was led to a Christian life, though her faith faltered soon after and she fell back in with her old friends. Sex with Jeremy left her pregnant. She resisted intense pressure from those around her to have an abortion: "I knew that I had to do what it took. I just couldn't abort him."
There was no returning home and she went on government assistance after Justin was born. She worked part-time jobs for diapers and rent, wondering how to proceed without a high school diploma, wondering how she could go back to school with no one to care for Justin.
With the help of a neighbor who paid for a year's worth of daycare, Mallette slowly earned her degree, followed by college training in website design on scholarship.
Meanwhile, her son's perfect rhythm on the drums, his guitar playing and singing talent, surfaced early, along with a hyperactive nature and love of soccer and hockey.
He earned extra cash as a busker on guitar and a djembe drum he had received as a gift. Singing on the streets for money is something Mallette said she never forced him to do but earned them thousands of dollars after the first time he tried for fun at age 6.
Success snowballed when Justin was 12 on the strength of YouTube videos Mallette posted for faraway relatives that were quickly discovered by young people and exploded with millions of views. Along came Scooter Braun, a persistent manager who launched Justin's career at barely 13, fresh out of junior high.
He's 18 now, his mother's age when she had him. Mallette said he's pushing for his independence, moving alone into a house he bought in Calabasas, California. Mom wasn't invited to join him but lives nearby.
"He doesn't want me in his space so much but he's doing really well for himself," said Mallette, who once traveled with him everywhere.
Justin has a fancy sports car that was a gift from Braun and earned him a speeding ticket in July as he was chased by paparazzi. He also has a girlfriend, Selena Gomez, whom Mallette adores.
"She's just a sweetheart. She's kind and generous and loving," said mom, who's often called just that by fans on Twitter.
Mallette first told Justin about her past when he was about 12, after she began sharing at small-group meetings.
"I felt like he was old enough, mature enough to hear my story, and, you know, talk about it," Mallette said. "I feel like it's really important for us to talk, and I've always asked him a lot of questions and always tried to protect him from going through the same sort of thing."
At 21, Mallette made a choice to abstain from sex outside of marriage. Still never married and holding strong, she IS ready let go of another promise, this one to Justin when they first moved to the states that she wouldn't date until he was 18.
"It's time to start dating," she smiled.
Will Justin have a say over suitors?
"I think he's going to be a tough one to please," Mallette said. "He's pretty protective, but yeah, definitely, he would have to approve."
Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie