I was brought to tears by the story of a 37 year old woman in America who drowned her 4 year old autistic son in the bath in late December last year. There is very little information available online about this case, other than the newsworthy facts. She held him underwater in the bath until he died, she may or may not have tried to kill herself, she got in her car and drove to the police station.
There are disturbingly insidious statements to be found in most online articles. She wanted more time to herself. She was sick of caring for her autistic son. Her husband saw no signs of mental illness. All her time was taken up with this high needs boy. All of this to suggest that she was selfish, a monster, heartless.
When she appeared in court for her sentencing, it was reported that she was so emotionally distraught that court proceedings had to be stopped so that she could compose herself enough to hear the judgement. I’m quite sure that this is not the first time she has been a complete emotional wreck.
I wanted to know so much more about her. I wanted to know her family history, her education level, her support networks (or lack of). I wanted to know what she knew about parenting and who taught her. I wanted to know what she knew about autism and who taught her. I wanted to know who, out of her and the father of the child, shouldered the lion’s share of the work. I wanted to know how much time in a day, a week, a month did she have just for herself. There is so much more I want to know about her.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that this woman will live every moment of every day for the rest of her life. I don’t hate her, blame her, pity her or judge her. I’m not her but I too have had dark thoughts in very dark moments. It’s only a matter of degrees. It’s only a matter of one or two slight differences in circumstance, support, resilience…who knows which? I’m not her because I have something she didn’t, a resource of some kind, material, personal, spiritual, environmental, something that held me back from the awful black that she slipped hopelessly into. Another mother, in pain, afraid to talk about her true feelings. Another festering secret of not coping with being a mother. It is an unspeakable tragedy.