Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How Could She?

This past Monday, in a town less than an hour from me, a mother, Allyson Meager, killed her two babies, ages 2.5yrs & 10 mos.

I have no words for the sadness & tragedy of this. 2 babies have lost their lives, a father and mothers' lives are destroyed. Very little of what has happened is known right now, so I do not want this post to be speculative. It is obvious, though, that an otherwise loving, caregiving mother who kills her babies is/was mentally ill.

When things like this happen, mamas everywhere cry, hug their babies a little tighter & ask things like "How could she?". It seems impossible to comprehend. I am, by nature, a do-er. I cannot sit quietly with my difficult emotions; I need to channel them into something tangible. So tonight I am writing.

We all know a mama that could do this. It could be me. Or you. Or my best friend. Or your friend from playgroup.

Postpartum depression is rampant- statistics vary, but in North America right now, 1 in 10 to 1 in 5 women who give birth will develop PPD. Of those, a very tiny percent will develop Postpartum Psychosis. PPP is a medical emergency that places the mother & sometimes her children at great risk. Many of the devastating stories of mamas murdering their babies are stories of mamas, of families, suffering from PPP.

Depression & psychosis are complicated illnesses with numerous causes, risk factors & triggers. Much is related to genetics & personal history of depression. Some are hormonal- the cascade of hormones produced by giving birth, or by stopping breastfeeding, are known triggers. Some are social- lack of support systems, financial stress, relationship breakdown. Divorce.

Do you see yourself in that list? I see me. I see Allyson Meager too. Most of the women I know, myself included, are only steps away from being in a similar situation to hers. Your spouse loses his job. Or you decide to leave your relationship. You live far away from your family. You don't have friends you can lean on. You're broke. You are completely sleep deprived. You have a history of depression. Your birth was traumatic. You quit nursing. You are parenting full time. You snap. You snap. You snap. She snapped.

When you read this, be moved to action. Talk to your husband, your best friends, your family. Show them this checklist for PPD and PPS. Let them know that if you are exhibiting symptoms, you want them to get help.

It is difficult for friends & family to know when or how to help someone who might be mentally ill. By giving them your permission to help you, by telling them who to contact (mental health helplines, public health units, your family doctor, the ER, whatever is appropriate to your community & the situation), you will be helping them to help you if you are ever in that situation. By doing this, you might be saving your own life. Or the life of your babies.


  1. Asking for help saved my life. My love to the family. I'm so sorry for their loss.

  2. I think awareness is huge...I know we say we are doing it, but I don't know if the medical community gets it.

    When I took my first babe in for her 2month shots I was given a checklist to complete to see if I had symptoms of PPD. While I completed this checklist the nurse completely ignored me and went about her work on the computer. She didn't look at me once, or ask me how I was doing.

    In reality, I was a first time mom. I still had no idea that my daughter was sensitive to lactose and needed the lactose free formula. So I was dealing with a screaming baby all day I couldn't put down. I was still dealing with feeling like a failure for not breastfeeding.

  3. Thank you for a thoughtful post that brings to light the fact that *it could be any of us*. I'm a Bipolar Momma, and it gets really old to hear "People like you" instead of "All of us" in reference to who is a potential victim of this often crippling, socially stigmatic event in motherhood.

  4. I have four kids, and had Postpartum Psychosis, horrifying is the desciption I would use. The checklist was useless, because I did not have voluntary 'thoughts of harming my baby, but involuntary dreamlike flashes....the checklist does not address psychosis. After my second, I realized what I had, and outed myself to friends and family. I was afraid to have more children, but decided to anyway. I was six weeks postpartum the third time before it returned. The moment happened, and I phoned my mom. She dropped what she was doing instantly, and rushed to my home, took me to the doctor. After finding out what medicine could be offered, I decided to begin a natural therapy instead, and have my mom stay with me everyday until we were certain I was out of the dangerzone. I was certain after much research that it was quite literally a chemical missfire, and that it could be fixed. My openness, lack of isolation, and confidence that I was taking charge of my own mental/physical health, gave me the ability to concure this illness. When I decided to have my fourth, I began a regiment of natural therapy while pregnant, and to this point, continue to take the combination of things that keep me mentally strong. After our fourth, I did not experience psychosis at all, and truly believe it is because I was no longer hiding my predisposition to it, took all necessary precautions, and trusted that if it did occur, I would have the tools necassary to combat it. It was a fight from deep with in, and a confidence that I was not a bad mom, but a human one, and I would use whatever means I could to be the best I was able to be. Your statement of it could be any one of us is true. And my heart breaks for that family, because no doubt, they all saw the signs, and just didn't know until it was too late. More awareness, and more mothers telling the truth about these illnesses is one of the keys to fighting it so these tradegies do not happen.

  5. Really well written post. Thank you for your non-judgment, for your inclusiveness.

  6. Thank you for your post. I think that is does open a door of communication when we all agree, it could be any one of us. We are human, we have needs, too. When these needs are met, we endanger not only ourselves, but those around us.

    Let's put our words into action and help each other. Open that door of communication with your moms, sisters and friends. Listen to them, really listen to them

  7. Thank you Arie for your post. I offer my deepest condolences to the Meager family

    I experienced sever postpartum depression with my most recent pregnancy - my fourth. It turned out that in addition to ppd I also had postpartum thyroiditis. In fact the symptoms of thyroiditis and ppd can be so similar that the underlying thyroiditis can be missed. I felt almost immediate relief for my psychological symptoms when the thyroid issues were addressed.

    I don't mean to suggest that thyroiditis causes PPP. I only wanted to offer yet another reason why it is important to get to a doctor asap when ppd/ppp is suspected.

  8. Which leads to the question, why aren't the dads, grandparents, friends, etc who show up at the hospital to welcome a new baby given a PPD checklist? Seems so easy and obvious.