Tragic End to a New Life

I read a story online at CNN this morning about a baby who died from being shaken.  Normally I try to avoid these tragic tales because I empathize so deeply that it colors my whole day a dark depressing shade of gloomy.

But in this case I feel the need to give testimony from my own life that I wish would prevent this from happening to anyone else.

I remember among my life lessons with my first baby, stuck at home all day with this little being that depended completely upon my good will, the first time I got violently angry when she wouldn’t stop crying.  I remember there came a point when an clear image popped into my head of me throwing her against a wall.  I was just at the edge of losing control.

I wish I could tell new parents, this is okay.  This moment does not make you a bad human.  You are probably going to feel this angry, these feelings are normal, they happen, don’t freak out.

Somehow I knew to do the right thing.  As soon as I saw that image, I put her down where she was safe and I went in the other room.  She was still crying, but I knew she was safe, so I just sat by myself for a minute and tried not to be scared at how mad I was.  When I felt a little calmer a couple of minutes later, I went back in to her and I tried again to soothe her.  

I don’t feel proud of myself that I’ve never shaken or otherwise injured a baby, I just feel lucky.  I  know how strong the feelings of anger and frustration are, and I know how hard it is to be alone for extended periods with a baby.  To the people who have succumbed to the violent feelings, I feel the deepest sympathy.  I feel like it could have been me.

But no one ever talks about this.  No one ever admits to young parents how there might arise violent feelings, and how to just let them pass, which is not easy.  No one ever talks about how unnatural it is for a parent to be isolated with a young one; we are supposed to live in a tribe, are we not, with people all around to help us when life threatens to be too much to handle?  But too often we are separated in our own little box, expected to be independent and deal with things on our own.  

I am so sorry that this ever happens.  I cannot express that strongly enough.  I don’t feel like an ad campaign by the Department of Social Services is going to do the trick (I’ve seen the posters), though it might get the ball rolling.  I feel like we all have to talk about it, give genuine support to new parents and tell them the truth.  Not laugh and say, “Well, you’ll never get any sleep now!  ha ha” but tell them about the real frustrations, and let them know that we can offer advice and support if they’d like.  

I can’t stand to see this sort of tragedy happen and know in my heart that, if we behaved as if we were all in this together, we might prevent it.

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6 Comments

Filed under family, society

6 responses to “Tragic End to a New Life

  1. el burro

    I’m with you on this one. Whenever I read about a case of shaken baby syndrome, my heart goes out to the perpetrator. My own memories of my colicky first baby are still vivid, along with the feelings of anger, frustration, and panic that I sometimes felt, (and I was a pediatrics resident at the time!)

    I felt alone and inadequate and overwhelmed, as I’m sure many, many new parents are. I remember the wife of a surgical resident paging him out of a surgical case one time, telling him that if he didn’t get home immediately, she was afraid that she’d throw the baby out the window. Hearing that made me feel better, at the time, and I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to open up about those experiences so that new parents will know that they’re not abnormal, that the feelings are to be expected, and what to do in those situations.

    I applaud you for your courage in telling your own story.

  2. Wow, interesting story and you exhibit a good sense of self-awareness. Thanks for sharing this.
    We waited until we were in our mid-late thirties to have kids and I think it mellowed us a bit.

  3. Joy

    I really agree with you on this. I also remember feeling very alone and very frustrated a few times and I also remember I did what you did and just stepped back, took a deep breath and went to sooth him. It really does happen though most of us chose the other path and don’t shake or become violent. There should be more said about it because this is just sadder than I can say but these feelings are so normal.

    Great Post!

  4. stacybuckeye

    Thanks you so much for sharing your personal story. If more people took the time to share these scary thoughts it would help others realize that they are not alone. Hopefully you helped someone feel comfort with your post.

  5. I know those feelings as well. I remember praying with everything I had that I wouldn’t hurt my baby. Thanks for being so open about it. You just may have helped others with this post.

  6. Excellent post, and very true. It’s hard to explain to glowing, pregnant first-time Moms the intense frustration of dealing with a colicky child while in a state of exhaustion. But you’re absolutely right–those of us who’ve done it should be honest with the newbies. Well done!

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