A recent news article has been bothering me: Mother kills child for interrupting Farmville. Its easy to see a headline like that and shrug it off, forgetting it, because this could never be you, or someone you know. The truth is, she didn’t kill her child because of Farmville. She killed him because he was crying, she got frustrated, and shook the life out of him. While visiting Colorardo we heard frequent PSAs over the radio that shaken babies are the leading cause of death amongst infants in the state. Its tragic. It happens. And its not because of Farmville.
Why then? It could be drugs, lack of support. Or maybe postpartum depression. Studies have shown that one in four babies are born to mothers struggling with depression. I’m glad to hear that pediatricians are now urged to ask new moms about depression because checking for that can not only help a mother going through mental hell, but also help her child. Motherhood is an adjustment. Writers like Anne Lamott have demystified it to some extent- but I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a mother who has a beautiful newborn whom she loves but also has to struggle with overwhelming depression and admit that while everyone else is oohing and awing over her child she wants to curl up in a corner and cry. To do so seems to imply you’re a bad mother- and we mothers are so afraid of the judgments that could be tossed our way. But not reaching out only makes things worse, leading to psychosis and the headlines we read and gasp at.
That’s why sensationalized headlines like this bug me. They mask the everyday serious issues at the root of the situation. It wasn’t farmville. It was frustration. It was depression. It was a host of things- but blaming it on a facebook game only removes us from the situation. Something was wrong in that house before that game turned on and that’s what we should be talking about. If we took stories like this to remind ourselves to keep our eyes out and our compassion open towards new mothers so they have a safe person they can talk to if they feel frustrated or feel like they’re getting depressed- we could avoid these stories, one person at a time. I know beautiful, intelligent, smart, funny women who love their children just as fiercely as the next mama bear but who had to battle postpartum depression. It doesn’t just happen to farmville playing folks who are nothing like us. Headlines like these do everything to get attention but nothing to solve the root societal issue which truly needs to be addressed.