Are you rushing to judgment?

  • Are you rushing to judgment?

    Let me start by saying anytime a parent kills his or her children it is horrible. It is heart-breaking, sad, tragic and devastating. But I was saddened by the deluge of hurtful comments I read on a Facebook post today regarding whether Andrea Yates should be allowed to leave the mental hospital two hours a week to attend church.


    I’m sure you remember Yates’ case. She drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, saying she thought Satan was telling her to kill her children to spare them from going to hell and that by killing them she was sending them to heaven. Her initial insanity defense was rejected and she was sentenced to a life in prison. In 2006, on an appeal, a jury found her guilty by reason of insanity and she was sent to a mental institution.


    I recently read this article about how Yates lives with herself a decade after killing her babies and I began thinking about how we are so quick to condemn women in this situation without knowing all the facts and without understanding the significant consequences of illnesses like postpartum depression and the much more severe postpartum psychosis.


    Just this week in nearby Orangeburg, S.C., a mother pleaded guilty to charges of murdering her 2-year-old son and 18-month-old son and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Did this mother suffer from postpartum depression?


    It’s easy to rush to judgment and vilify these women as horrible human beings because “a real mother would never harm her children.” But what if that mother is suffering from a horrible illness that causes her to think thoughts and behave in ways she never would have before having children.


    Yes, in the decade since those five Yates children died, more attention has been given to PPD but it still remains in the shadows. And why wouldn’t it? What mother would want to come forward and admit she’s had similar thoughts knowing how she’ll be shamed by a general public that just doesn’t understand?


    On all levels these situations are horrific. Tiny lives are lost, families are destroyed and women are sentenced to a life of guilt. But rather than focus our energies on throwing rocks at these women, let’s look around at the new mothers in our lives. Could they be suffering from PPD? Have you created an environment that would allow a woman to come to you with her problems? Because that’s the only way to bring good from these tragedies.


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    Comments (4)

    • Holly, thank you for this. I think it is fear. What we fear, we reject. We have to make monsters of these women because otherwise, they are just like us. There for the Grace of our brain chemistry, go we. And that is terrifying.

      Reach out to each other. Please, please, please, tell someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. A “good” mother takes care of herself so she can take care of her children.

      • Janet, thanks for you excellent comment. Why does our society expect women – especially mothers – to take care of everyone else and put themselves last? You are so right in that a “good” mother needs to take care of herself.

    • To answer the question in the subject line: In a word, yes. We (as a society) rush to judgment, not just with situations like these but with *everything*, sometimes with the encouragement of public officials. (Even the President of the United States has picked a side in the Trayon Martin/George Zimmerman, which has not gone to trial nor gone through a full investigation yet.)

      Possibly this is one more symptom of our microwave-need-it-now culture. It takes so very very long to actually sit down and put on those shoes we should walk in before judging, doesn’t it?

      And to your specific point of creating an environment that would allow women to be more open about PPD: Yes, we must find a way to do that. Prevention is always better than cure. And tending to PPD could prevent a tragedy that would have no cure.

      • Shelia – great comment! Thank you! You are right in that people rarely put themselves in someone else’s shoes before judging.