Thursday, July 27, 2006

Copping the Insanity

Andrea Yates is not guilty of drowning her five children, despite having systematically coaxed each one into the bathroom only to drown them in the bathtub. Number one was undoubtedly duped. But what about number two? And three and four and five? Did they not scream and cry and beg for their life, seeing their siblings lying still and lifeless in a tub full of water?

Andrea Yates was consumed with delusions about one son growing up to be a homosexual prostitute and the media bugging her home to catch her being a bad mother. Tops on the list? Not home schooling well enough. Hey, wouldn't any concerned parent drown their children after facing such horrific thoughts?

It is not that I don't feel that she is a sick woman. It would take an incredibly sick person to systematically destroy each child born of her womb one by one. And I have experienced first hand the mental distortions extreme religion can bring. Heck, I even got a little distorted myself once upon a time. I can relate to having deeply-rooted fears about the consequences of my rotten parenting. I've imagined the future counseling sessions where my daughters tearfully relate my early-morning rantings as I attempted to pry them out of bed or maybe they'll relate the time I threw their little tea table for no good reason. I can just see the counselor sadly shaking his head and making incriminating notes in the margins of his notepad about how I undermined my children's chances for happiness. And I've imagined my daughters growing up to become tragically involved with men who beat them or exploit them or get them hooked on drugs. I've played through hundreds of scenarios where their lives end in some self-destructive act because of the pain I inflicted on them as a parent. Oh, yeah, I have felt Andrea Yates' pain.

But here's the distinction: I honestly believe that there is hope as long as they are alive. As long as they are alive, I have a chance to do it right today. I can't take back the mistakes I've made in the past, but I can admit when I had been wrong and make an honest effort to do better. And I can show them that I love them, I can make better choices as a parent, and I can hopefully make a difference in their life.

With life, there is always hope. With death, the question of whether we could have ever worked it out is done. Finis. Exterminated. I feel for Andrea Yates and for her five children and for her husband and all the family and friends who will never be able to explore the possibilities for making a good life for those children.

But even as my heart goes out to Andrea, a part of me holds back. In my heart, it is perhaps too much of a leap for me to completely absolve her. But one thing is for sure: as long as she lives, so does the hope that somehow in some way, her life can count for more than the media hype of a juicy story. If anything can be drawn from the deaths of those children, it would be a better understanding of the devastating effects of postpartum depression and the desperate need these mothers have for professional intervention (not religious persecution).

Five innocent children died, but hopefully more will live because of what she has done. And countless loved ones will be spared the devastating grief and guilt and horror of living with the aftermath. No, I can't completely absolve Andrea Yates, but I can hope for a better tomorrow for the millions of women and children who are at risk, and hope that their lives, too, will go on.

13 comments:

V J.D. said...

Well, welcome back BJ.

bunnyjo georg said...

Well, thank you, VJD! ;)

It's good to be back in the ol' saddle agaaaaain.

DaveM said...

You have just written a piece that is a case for you not to giving up the blog. Thanks.

Veeflower said...

It seems "not guilty" does in fact mean that although Andrea Yates IS guilty...she is not legally culpable. Big difference. This episode is so tragic that I don't even want to think about it. But I do have to say, many a mother has been put away for less, even though equally demonstrably mentally ill. I also think our society is cold and unfeeling when it comes to single mothers and that causes despair and extreme anxiety, which can put marginal personalities over the edge. While society professes to care about vulnerable children, there is little or no real help for the mothers who are raising them. Whole new subject.

bunnyjo georg said...

I think this case also brings to light the very real pressures that parents feel in today's society to be super-parents. The connotations of parental mistakes seems to be amplified in the wakes of horrific events like the Columbine shootings, where society and the media stand back and say, "Where were the parents? Did they beat their kids? What was wrong with them?" Not to mention every parent's ill-begotten fantasies of the future shrink sessions their children will be attending on their account. The high level of focus on parenting and the microscopic looks at the consequences of even slight parental mistakes is a huge pressure that parents must somehow bear up under. With the pitfalls within a half-step of our children's feet, we must be ever more diligent to keep them safe and help them stay on the straight and narrow path. It's a wonder more parents don't drown themselves!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Mental illness is so difficult to understand. We can't see it, so I guess it's hard for us to know exactly what happened to Andrea Yates.

I agree, there should be more work done on post partum depression, I know someone who suffered from it for 2 years before she realised what was happening to her.

DCveR said...

Assuming the mental illness scenario, Andrea is not the only murderer of her kids. Her doctors, Rusty, the whole family and their close friends are to blame too. You simply can't let someone mentally ill take care of five kids without permanent supervision. At least that is how I see it.

DCveR said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
VeeFlower said...

Yes! dcver is absolutely right. Her attorney and others wanted it to be known how insane she acted before she drowned her children, so it would therefore show she was insane when she did it. And that makes us all wonder, if she was so insane and everyone could testify to that, then what was she doing being responsible for their safety and welfare? Those who can't plead not guilty by reason of insanity are guilty by reason of sanity.

grandlar said...

humans can be so cruel...moms killing their kids...omg......killers using women and children for shields....what a world we live in...thank god for those of us that are not weird or have a religion that wants to kill everyone that is not of their faith....

Chill Daddy said...

Good article Bunnyjo.

For some reason my blogroller didn't show you updating, so I didn't realize you were back (nice to see you).

bunnyjo georg said...

Guyana-Gyal: Wow, how horrible for your friend! I agree with you, it is hard to understand mental illness because we can't see it; it is not tanglible - only the devestating effects.

Well said, DCvR, and right on point. A caretaker with Alzheimers would never be left in the care of young children. How is it different with Andrea and her delusions? I think the knee-jerk assumption most of us would make is that no matter how depressed a mother got, she wouldn't hurt her children. However, in my own acquaintance, I've known a number of women who had to stave off thoughts that they wanted to harm their children. Perhaps it is not as uncommon as we would like to believe.

Vee: Good point! But it seems gauche somehow to point fingers at her husband and others for not doing more. They were laboring under the same ignorance that the rest of us labor under: mother's don't hurt their children. They just don't. If only it were true!

Grandma: One thing is for sure, we live in an incredibly violent world. The interesting thing is that the world has always been this violent; we are just more aware of it now because of the vastly efficient world-wide media web. Honestly, I am very careful about the news I let in my brain. So much of it is just disturbing and outside my realm of control. It only upsets me to know. In that moment, I just turn the dang channel.

Chill: Oh, yeah, baby! I'm back!

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