Fishing for hate mail

I was out running a couple of errands this morning, by myself since BabyO’s mom offered to stay with all the kids for a little while, and I turned on a news radio station.  The Andrea Yates jury was filing into the courtroom with a verdict while I was parking the van, so I sat and listened.  As you probably know, they decided that she was not guilty by reason of insanity.  I was, well, certainly not happy to hear that, but I was relieved. 

It’s hard to explain, but I have hoped from the start,
when I first heard some of the details of her life, that this would be
the outcome.  I absolutely do not condone her behavior.  Obviously.  A
couple of days ago I was listening to a news report of the trial while
I was driving to the doctor and I could hardly see the road for all the
tears.  It took me months of bathing my own children to not immediately think of how she killed hers.  The story struck me and stayed with me. 

There is just a part of me that understands her.  That understands many of the women who hurt their children.  But, not all of them.  I wish I could say that I’ve never been at all abusive toward my kids.  I can’t.  I’ve yelled and spanked.  I’ve picked them up or set them down harder than necessary.  I’ve forcibly buckled them into car seats and on one occasion, held a favorite toy over the garbage can, threatening to throw it out unless the behavior stopped.  Maybe that all sounds pretty mild to you, or maybe it sounds awful and you think I’m an unfit parent.  There are so many ways to interpret what is abuse and what isn’t. 

The part of me that understands women who harm their children is the same part of me that has been so blinded by anger toward my own kids that I’ve thought, briefly, how satisfying it would feel to punch them.  Or kick them.  Or toss them out the front door. 

Awful.  I know.  I feel terrible for ever thinking those things.  But, I imagine that I’m pretty normal for thinking them and even more normal for never doing them.  And that’s the thing; I’m basically normal, mentally, so I have adequate tools and filters in place that make me realize a millisecond into thinking about hurting my kids that I need to walk away, get a grip, and calm down. 

I don’t think that Andrea Yates killed her children out of anger.  I probably don’t even know enough about what happened and why to be writing about it.  However, I believe that she was mentally ill in a way that negated her primal instinct to protect her kids.  I think she was totally detached from, well, from herself, if you know what I mean.  And I feel sorry for her and more sorry for her children.  I do not think she should be put to death or sent to prison.  I think she should be institutionalized, probably permanently, and I also think instead of calling for her punishment and death, people should be reaching out to overwhelmed and depressed mothers and offering help.  A mother of one can be overwhelmed as justifiably as a mother of seven, and every mother needs people to assist her.   I know I sure as hell do. 

11 thoughts on “Fishing for hate mail

  1. capello

    I could never comprehend how someone would want to hurt thier children or themselves, until I had horrible postpardom for the year after my second child.

    I never wanted to hurt them, but I wanted to hurt myself. And having that understanding helped me realize how much people need help.

    (And for the record, I’ve filled a garbage bag with toys and threw it “out”. Then when the kids went to bed, I put it in the basement. It’s still there. I’m evil.)

  2. menoblog

    No hate mail here.
    This is a tough one. I was not on the jury, and i don’t know all the facts. All i know for myself is that it’s really really sad. And i think i know that her ex-husband is a creep.
    I think she must have been psychotic in order to kill all her kids. You know, i can’t really even think about it too much because i get too upset.
    One time i slapped my daughter. I still feel terrible about it. She forgave me and said that it was okay, but it’s not.

  3. FishyGirl

    My DH and I have been discussing this quite a bit, actually, because I am quite sympathetic to Andrea Yates, and he doesn’t get it. But I do. With 3 kids under 7 and one more on the way, I’ve been there. I just had the mental faculty and health and supports in place where I could recognize I NEEDED A TIME OUT, and could take it. I know what a fine line it is of there but for the grace of God go I. And I don’t blame Andrea, I blame those around her and the system that failed her. Horribly tragic in all accounts, but she will be where she needs to be. It was the right verdict.

  4. rachel

    Well said. I’ve had discussions with my husband about this too. I’ve been in chronic pain for 8 months, and my normally easygoing self has become very, very edgy.

    We drive past a boat ramp into the river, and there are days when it looks a little appealing (NO, I’d never do it, and I’d never do it to my kids, but if I was childless it might be raised as an option).

    I was sympathetic before to people with PPD and other problems, but it wasn’t until I got sick that I could really understand.

  5. Marsha

    Well said Jen, I couldn’t have said it better. I have always been very shaken by this tradgety.

    I have also been very upset that that husband was not prosecuted. I feel that if I lost my mind and my husband knew it that I would never forgive him if he left me alone with our children. I am not saying that he should have known this would happen, but that he shouldn’t have abandoned her in her time of need.

  6. Dixie

    I say I know exactly how overwhelmed mothers feel but I can somewhat relate to it as a sometimes overwhelmed caregiver. Sometimes you just snap but you have to keep yourself reigned in. You know where that line is that you can’t cross.

    Andrea Yates didn’t know where the line was. She didn’t know a line exsisted. The woman was/is/maybe always will be psychotic and she had no more ability to stop herself from harming her children than I have the ability to fly.

    The deaths of those children breaks my heart and what compounds it is the idea that their mother thought in her twisted way that she was doing something good for them. It’s just heartbreaking.

  7. Angela

    Very thoughtful post, and I agree…it wasn’t anger. Your conclusion is right on. I have often wondered, though–where the hell was her husband while she slipped down this dark spiral to hell? Did he, like, *not notice* or something?

  8. michele

    It’s like you are in my own head. Been there, done that, and feel the same way. I, however, would add one thing. I wish the husband could have been charged with something. Because her doctor told him before she got pregnant with the last baby, not to get her pregnant again – she couldn’t handle it. Huh. I just wish he had some culpability to the role he played in the detriment of mental stability.


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