I saw this outrageous story today about a young mother who killed her 3-month-old son because he was crying while she played the popular Facebook timesuck game, Farmville. The mother, 22-year-old Alexandra V. Tobias, told the police that she shook the baby, left to smoke a cigarette to compose herself, and then returned and shook him again. She offers that he may have hit his head when she shook him and has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder carrying a possible sentence of 25 to 50 years in jail.
There is no doubt that this story is absolutely appalling and quite sad. The natural reaction is to ask how a mother could be so evil to kill her baby over a video game? But it can’t be just that simple. While I do not condone her behavior, what jumped out at me was that this woman must have been experiencing some severe postpartum depression. I am not excusing her actions but postpartum depression is real and often underestimated.
Women are expected to be all exuberant and glowing with the birth of their new baby but sometimes reality come crashing down on new moms. While they truly love their babies, sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, or painful breastfeeding can trigger unpleasant feelings and hopelessness.
Tobias is a young woman and I wonder what type of support she had in raising her baby. There is no mention of the baby’s father or family in the story, only that she pleaded guilty to spare her family the pain of a trial. I also wonder what type of access she had to doctors and/or therapists, and if she had information or resources about postpartum depression. Was there anyone she could talk to about her feelings? Was she predisposed to depression anyway? Maybe her cries for help were dismissed as “baby blues.” My point here is that situations like this may be preventable when women are given support in childrearing and accurate information before the baby is born.
I don’t have children but new mothers have told me that they have experienced that feeling of being pushed to the edge. Not that they don’t love their child but something hormonal is making them feel angered and frustrated to the point where they could hurt the baby or themselves. It is a chemical reaction and deserves to be more seriously addressed so that these situations are less of a reality.
I’d love to hear thoughts from mothers. Did you experience postpartum depression and if so, how did you handle it? Is 25 to 50 years in jail an appropriate punishment? I get a feeling there’s more to this story than what’s reported in 4 paragraphs.