This week we are running a five day series in honor of Child Abuse Awareness month. Today is the third 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. If you have not been following along, you may wish to read the Introduction, Part I, and Part II.
The dark time….
I have had a hard time writing this post. It is incredibly painful, and stirs up a lot of emotions. But, it is a really big part in why I decided to start writing. My intention of this is not to hurt anyone any further than I already have. My intention is mainly to shed some light on the dangers of depression and what can go wrong if it’s ignored. Depression is real. A lot of people live with depression, and it is very debilitating. I suffered from postpartum depression. I ignored all of the signs and it manifested itself into something even more terrible. It convinced me that this person I was becoming was always me. It had me convinced that my true personality was an angry and agitated person. That old me, the Tami before kids, that wasn’t really me at all. This was who I always was. Becoming a mother just brought out my real personality, or so I had convinced myself.
So, where did I last leave off? I believe Bill and I had just found out that we were newly pregnant. I already had a few weeks of watching my friend’s two children (ages 2 and 4 months) and my own two (Emmitt was 2 1/2 and Elliot was 18 months). Bill had been working his new job. I was struggling with many things at the time, one being getting used to being home alone with the kids again. Up until this point, with Bill being laid off, he had been home with me, helping. It was now solely up to me to get the kids fed, changed, keep the house clean, and deal with my morning sickness. Elliot hadn’t been sleeping well, actually Elliot never slept well really, but lately he had been consistently waking around 5 am or so. Needless to say, I was exhausted. Looking back, I wish I would have just told my friend how done I was. But I was afraid. I couldn’t let anyone know what kind of failure I felt like. After all, I had chosen to become a stay at home mom. Who was I to complain? I had chosen to get pregnant with our third child; I had no right to complain. I had so many friends who were so successful career wise, and I was blind to see how successful I was in raising my children. I saw myself as a complete failure. But I was too afraid to tell anyone.
We were still playing catch up financially, and we had been trying to figure out what to do with our house. On November 9th, 2010, I had received a phone call from a realtor we were working with. She basically said that she could not sell our house in the range we wanted to because we we so underwater with it. I just remember holding back my sobs as I ended my phone call with her. As I type this now, remembering those feelings, I should have known there was something far greater wrong with me given how I reacted. I mean, yes, being under water with your house sucks, but in the scheme of things, it isn’t as terrible as my reaction had been. When Bill came home that night and I told him of our misfortune, he was not nearly as upset about it as I was and we argued. (Bill and I rarely argue – so it was kind of a big deal that we did.) I remember telling him that he wasn’t there for me, and he didn’t understand. He had no idea what I was talking about and didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t sleep at all that night. Not even an hour.
On November 10, 2010 I dragged myself out of bed at 6 am (Bill kindly went to take care of Elliot’s 5 am screams) and got myself and the kids ready for the day. My friend brought her kids around 7 am and we went about our day. That morning, it was a Wednesday, I brought the kids to an ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) play time. I have always loved ECFE classes, and it was a good way to get myself out of the house. When the class ended, I remember one of the educators asking me if I wanted help bringing the 4 children out to my van. “No thank you, I can handle it” I lied, while smiling at her and appearing cheerful. Really, I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to tell her that I was exhausted and needed a nap. I wanted to tell her how I had been feeling. I wanted to ask her if it was normal to be so sad every day. Is this how motherhood is supposed to feel? But I was too afraid. So I brought the four young children out to the van. Alone.
When we got back home, I fed the older three lunch and laid them down for their naps. I then fed the baby his bottle and laid him down for his nap. I remember just wanting to get a few minutes rest, just enough to carry me through the rest of the day.
But the baby started to cry.
I went into the room and tried rocking him, but that didn’t seem to help. I laid him back down and went to sit on the couch. He was still crying, and I remember telling myself not to go back in there. The best way I can describe what was going on in my head sounds strange, but it is really the way I remember it. It was like I had a white light on one shoulder telling me to stay on the couch; the baby will be fine. I had a dark light on the other shoulder telling me to go to the baby and make it stop crying. Back and forth, I don’t remember how long I sat on the couch. Eventually the dark light won, and I got up, walked to the crib, picked up the baby, and shook him.
His eyes rolled in the back of his head, and he started having a seizure.
I cradled him, and kept saying his name over and over and over. I ran to get my phone and I dialed 9-1-1.
I remember looking at him, so tiny. What had I done…I remember screaming.
The police were the first to arrive, not because they knew what I had done, but because they were the closest first responders. Not many seconds later, the paramedics arrived. They operated under the impression that he was my baby and maybe he was sick. I must have been in hysterics, because someone clapped their hands in my face to snap me out of it. It was then that I yelled “I shook him!” I then continued to plead with them to “just shoot me.”
It then became criminal. They rushed the baby to the hospital and I was escorted to the back of a squad car. I gave them every last detail of what I did. I prayed to God over and over, “Take my life but don’t take the baby. Take my life but don’t take the baby.”
I have no idea how many hours it had been before I first heard news of how the baby was doing. I had no idea that they interviewed my husband after calling him at work. I knew when they had called my friend, because I handed them my cell phone to call her. I had no idea that the other three children were brought to the hospital by a social worker to check for signs of abuse. What I did know, was that I wished I was dead. My heart was no longer in me. What was left of where my heart was supposed to be felt like someone had cemented a wall of brick in its place. I must have vocalized something of the sort, because they stripped searched me and put me in solitary confinement. For three days I stayed in a tiny cement room. There was a camera in the ceiling and a toilet in the corner. No one ever told me the camera was pointed away from the toilet so I could eliminate privately. I had a thin mat to lie on, and the fluorescent lights were always on. Those details really don’t matter as much to me though. What I remember the most vividly, was crying for hours on end. I cried so long and so hard, my eyes were stinging from the salt of my tears. My eyes were so puffy I could barely close them. I remember hearing the guard’s keys, every 15 minutes; they’d walk down the long hallway to check on the solitary rooms. One time the door opened, and it was one of the detectives.
He had news of the baby. The baby was critical, but he was alive! My heart skipped a beat, and it was like a tiny ray of hope emerged out of me. I had never prayed as hard as I did that day.
Part IV will be published tomorrow, on April 28th.
Update: To continue to read Tami’s story, please click the links below.