There is something that has been weighing on my mind for about a week now. This is not a funny topic, so I apologize to those who are reading for a laugh, but I just can't get this out of my head. Last week, in a quiet suburb, a mom of a 6-month old baby killed her child. It is such a tragedy for everyone involved. Unfortunately, a very young, little man lost his life. The husband must be devastated, after all, he just lost his entire family. The woman's parents and her in-laws are most likely fraught with grief for numerous reasons. But, it is the mother in particular that I just can't stop thinking about.
You see, in everything that I have been reading, the mother has said she has been severely depressed. She told the detective who was investigating the call that she was depressed. Her husband admitted that she had been talking about committing suicide for quite sometime. Her in-laws even stated that she called them for help at one point, saying she felt suicidal. They dismissed her.
Please, do not get me wrong. What this woman did was wrong. I am not making any excuses for her. But, what is tormenting me, is that this woman reached out to people for help, and NO ONE listened. This poor mother sought her family and told them how she was feeling. In return, they ignored her cries and told her she was just tired.
I strongly feel, that if anyone had listened to this woman, that her child would be alive today. Unfortunately, as a new mom, we are expected to be completely joyous about our new arrival. While all mothers love their children, not every moment is wonderful. And for some of these women, it is an extremely vulnerable time, when the ugly monster called Post-Partum Depression can take up residence in your soul.
I know this, because I suffered from PPD myself. Ecstatic as I was about my newborn son, there were (and still are!) times when it is all too overwhelming. I cried a lot. I would whisper in my baby's ear that he deserved so much better than me as his mother. I would tell my husband that they would be better off without me messing up their lives. I couldn't do any housework. There were mornings I could barely get out of bed. I was paralyzed by this sad and anxious feeling that had taken over my entire being. Luckily, I had a husband and a doctor that listened to me. My husband urged me to get help. My doctor worked with me to find a medication to help me through. And, slowly, I came back.
Reaching out for help, though, was the hardest thing I ever did. No one likes to admit they are "weak." And admitting that you are not happy during what is supposed to be the "happiest" time of your life, is even worse. Not to mention the pressure, ALL the pressure, to be perfect...perfect baby, perfect house, perfect look, perfect attitude... If it isn't all perfect, then aren't you failing? A rational person knows that of course you are not failing, you are just living. For a person struggling with depression, however, it feels like nothing but failure. And admitting failure...well, it just plain old isn't easy.
Yet, the mother in this story DID reach out! Her "village" let her down. Because, the truth is, it does take a village to raise a child. One woman can not do it alone. That is why we have mothers and grandmothers and sisters and aunts and friends that do little things to help us along the way. My heart is shedding tears for this mother who was so alone in her struggle. Her husband told police that she admitted to him, the night before the crime, that she felt he would be better off without her and their son and that she had researched ways to commit suicide and take the baby with her. Sir, I must ask you, why did you not help your wife? Why didn't you turn your car around and take her to the hospital?
And now, this woman sits in a jail cell, wearing a suicide smock. She is being held without bond. She had to be separated from other inmates because of the threat of retaliation against her crime. She is alone with her thoughts. And for those of you seeking death penalty, please, for just a moment, I ask you to put yourself into this woman's thoughts. Do you think that there is any, ANY, worse punishment for her than what she is already putting herself through? Her already tormented mind is only getting worse. She is beating herself up mentally over what she has done. Her mind alone will sentence her in ways that our justice system could never even begin to touch.
A friend of mine lives in this woman's neighborhood. A happy, family neighborhood. Friends have said they were a nice, happy family. I add this point in to make it clear that this can happen to anyone! Depression does not follow any patterns. It can strike anyone...young, old, rich, poor, black, white, man, woman. And Post-Partum Depression can be even sneakier. It can take seemingly happy women, and turn them into something they don't recognize in the mirror anymore. Even worse is when psychosis joins depression. We have heard these stories before. This isn't a new thing.
I urge you to watch out for the Moms in your life. Whether she is a friend or a family member. No matter how "with it" she may seem on the outside. Ask how she is doing. Offer help and encouragement. And please, if a new mom ever tells you she is not handling things well, or feels really down, PLEASE help her find help. It is time that we break down the Laws of Society that say Moms have to do it all and do it alone. We need to depend on each other without feeling shame or guilt.
And to the woman I am speaking of...I know that you will never find peace for yourself again. But, know that there is at least one woman out there praying for you. There is at least one person that is crying for you. And there is one woman out there, that will do her damn best to get the word out, so that hopefully another mother can be spared from the same pain you are feeling, and so hopefully no more children have to die this way.
My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this tragedy.