This week we are running a five day series in honor of Child Abuse Awareness month. Today is the second part of the story shared by a woman named Tami Revering. She is going to tell you her story of severe postpartum depression and how it led her to abuse a child; an infant. She will share from her perspective how she tragically shook a crying infant and nearly killed him. It is a hard story for many to read and understand, and even harder not to judge Tami harshly for her terrible actions. But for me, it is the story of a woman who could have been me or any other of my mom friends. You see Tami was just like many of us. A young mother, college educated, staying home with her children, and afraid to ask for help. What Tami did in the depths of anxiety-riddled depression is something that I believe many of us are capable of doing without help and treatment. You may wish to read the Introduction here, and you can find Part I here.
The beginning of rock bottom…
This is Elliot’s first photo. He didn’t cry at first, and I only got to see him for a few seconds before he was whisked away. Breastfeeding was difficult, as at first he had several tubes and wires hooked up to him. But, I pushed through. Overall, he was a healthy baby. What right did I have to complain otherwise?
It didn’t take long to figure out Elliot wasn’t a happy baby. I blamed myself. If my body wasn’t so broken, he would have been born easier, I thought to myself. If I would have just been strong enough, I could have gotten him through the birth canal quicker. Those precious minutes without oxygen became my fault in my mind. Those thoughts were reinforced when a doctor doing his rounds (mind you, just hours after I had given birth) stepped into my room, took the mask off his face and sternly said, “You need to write your doctor a letter thanking her for saving your baby’s life.” He then went on to ask, “Are you planning on having more children? If you are, you can only have c-sections because the outcome for your baby could have been much worse.”
I remained silent. The guilt set in. Now it was completely reinforced that I was incapable of giving birth. Then came the feelings of being so detached from Elliot. Little did I realize the depression was slowly sucking me in, covering me in its dark cloak, squeezing the life out of me.
But still, I remained silent of these thoughts, of the thoughts that I had that I did not love this baby, this baby who cried inconsolably for hours on end. I didn’t love him. Not at first at least. I couldn’t sing him the lullaby that I faithfully sang to Emmitt every night. I felt so detached from him. And yet I was silent. I tried everything; I stopped consuming any form of dairy, thinking he was sensitive to that. I thought it worked…a little. But he still cried, and I continued to blame myself. And no one knew, but me. I hid it so well from the world. Not even my doctor saw anything, or cared enough to say that he did. I remember him having me fill out a 10 point questionnaire at my 6 week check-up. The question that sticks out the most: 1. Do you continue to do daily activities you used to do? A. Uh, no I have a newborn, but I guess, technically, for the past 14 months I am still doing what I used to do. (I answered yes.) Okay, nothing must be wrong with me. The doctor didn’t seem alarmed by the questionnaire results. I guessed it was time to suck it up and get over it, and so that’s what I did.
Besides, I had bigger things to worry about. I haven’t even mentioned what was going on financially. I don’t want to stray too far off topic, but to summarize Bill had been dealt a rough round of layoffs. When Emmitt was five months old, and I was two months pregnant with Elliot, his first layoff happened. Luckily, I was still working full time and was able to carry insurance. When Elliot was born, Bill was commuting to a new job an hour and a half away. If it snowed, which it does often in the Minnesota winters, it was easily a 3 hour drive one way. I was home alone with the little guys a lot. We made the decision for me to stay home. Financially it made sense. Bill now had a decent salary, and I had recently started watching a good friend’s toddler. There was no time for a pity party and no time for me to even process any thoughts of depression. After another layoff, Bill quickly found a job in nearer to home. The commute was awesome, but it was a small company, and they laid him off too. Then the big lapse came for him. It took one full year before he found work again. In September 2010, he finally started a great job where he still works today.
By this time that “mom clock” started ticking inside me again. (Or maybe it was the nagging that something was wrong. Looking back it is clear I was compensating for my emotions). We decided it would be a great time to add to our young family. So, in October of 2010 we found out we were pregnant with our third child I can’t even remember how old Emmitt and Elliot were at this point. My head was spinning and I felt excited; though not for the reasons I should have been excited. I think I was more focused on how this birth was going to be different. I had become obsessed researching how to have a better birth. This time, I told myself, I was going to get it right. It was also in early October that my friend was finishing her maternity leave for her second child and I had agreed to watch her toddler and now newborn son. I could handle it, I said to myself.
This is where my story turns even more downhill, that slippery slope I had been sliding down for two years now suddenly slides further and further into the darkness. The kind of darkness so dark I had convinced myself that this person I was becoming, that this was who I had always been. It convinced me that I have always been an angry, irritable person. Becoming a mother just made my true personality come out. And so I remained silent.
– Tami Revering
Part III of Tami’s 5-part story will be published tomorrow, April 27th.
Update: To continue to read Tami’s story, see the links below: